There must be commitment to enforce this new order: If for nothing, at least to stop this trend whereby known criminals have been known to go about with police escorts
The recent disclosure by the InspectorGeneral of Police, Solomon Arase that the Police have cut governors security details from 150 to 62 is commendable. But the announcement appears to have conveyed the wrong picture of things in the light of his commitment to withdraw police officers guarding Very Important Persons (VIPs).
The 150 figure appears grossly incorrect. A national newspaper reported a few weeks ago that a “South-South governor is reportedly taking care of about 170 policemen provided for him by the Federal Government”.
Even the IGP was also quoted in the report to have hinted that some governors control more than 150 policemen before he assumed office. In fact, it was an alarmed Arase who was also quoted as saying that “if the trend was allowed to continue, the police force would be left with less than 150,000 men and women excluding professional service officers—lawyers, doctors, engineers…who are not active in conventional policing.”
Clearly, police security details for VIPs have been subjected to misuse and abuse for too long. Just like many institutions or privileges that have been debased and relegated by the elite class as to warrant their immediate salvation, police security for VIPs should be stopped, except in rare cases.
Indeed the many policemen deployed to secure VIPs perform functions other than policing; some go shopping with the wives and children of their civilian bosses, carrying their bags behind while others assist their drivers to violate traffic rules. Ironically many policemen prefer, if not plot, to be assigned to such jobs most times because of the perquisites attached or just for the assurance of regular intake of a good meal.
Even the mere fact of identifying with a VIP by his posting seems to confer on an officer a status that makes him feel more important than his counterparts in the regular force. Such attitude breeds indiscipline and corrupts the values that make and sustain the call to professional duty.
Such attitude, condemnable for its lack of professionalism, is regrettably understandable. The institutional failure to cater for the welfare, training and equipping of the police has conspired to make the rank and file resort to self-help. The result is the prevailing unprofessional conduct among the rank and file, which has earned them the general mistrust and suspicion, if not outright hatred of the citizenry.
Even so, things appear to be looking up for the police. The new insurance policy that caters to their needs even at death is encouraging. At least there has been a recent attempt by the police authority to live up to the dictates of the police insurance under which bereaved families are been adequately compensated.
There is also the ungoing massive reconstruction of barracks nationwide, as well as the proper staffing and funding of police colleges. Against this coming improved condition, therefore, there is no gainsaying that IGP Arase’s order on the withdrawal of police guarding VIPs should succeed. We say this because we are aware that a similar order was given by his predecessor some years ago but the status quo remained.
There must be commitment to enforce this new order: If for nothing, at least to stop this trend whereby known criminals have been known to go about with police escorts. Nonetheless, there are persons with genuine reasons for whom police security details should not be denied. As identified by Arase himself, religious leaders of big churches with problems of crowd control and suchlike need the assistance.
In addition, some community leaders faced with potential breakdown of law and order in their domains or any Nigerian under threat of grievous harm to his or her person and family should be accorded specified security assistance, but for a specified period.
With time however and more inward looking policies, the current situation should be reviewed regularly. Beyond regular policing, particularly with the growing number of officially regulated security outfits in the country such as the National Security and Defense Commission and vigilantes, coupled with the concept of community policing being pursued by the police, the need for police as personal escorts should drastically reduce, if not die with time.
With 305,000 personnel in the Nigerian Police, the country is grossly under-policed if the prevailing global standard of 222 policemen to 100,000 persons is adopted for Nigeria, a country with an approximately 140 million persons.
This scandalous figure for the police paints a worrisome picture for the country whose increasing insecurity, rising criminality and general uncertainty Commissioners of Police often attest to during their regular public parade of suspected criminals. In the midst of this short supply, the IGP should enforce his order on withdrawal of VIPs without fear or favour.