Written by the Editorial board of The Guardian Newspaper
When the new Acting Inspector General of Police (AIGP), Ibrahim Idris, vowed to withdraw mobile policemen serving as personal guards, he did not say anything new. He merely followed the same path as every police chief before him of making that promise but without redeeming it. However, since Idris has gone a step further to say “this time we mean it,” Nigerians will hold him down to his words and cannot wait to see him do it!
Similar failure repeatedly hit the vow by previous Inspectors-general to remove checkpoints from the roads. And now that Idris has commendably reiterated his determination to enforce that rule too, Nigerians eagerly await the day when such barricades, legally or illegally mounted, would disappear from the country’s roads.
Idris spoke in Abuja during his maiden meeting with senior police officers. He said men of the Police Mobile Force (PMF) and the Counter-terrorism Unit would be withdrawn from individuals and replaced with those from the Special Protection Unit (SPU).
Nigeria certainly has enormous, serious security challenges and as such cannot continue to deploy highly trained mobile policemen as guards. The Police Mobile Force is a specially trained elite response unit to take care of fundamental security breaches.
The order against road blocks and the use of policemen as personal guards was first issued by the Federal Government in March 2009 when the Federal Executive Council directed that policemen attached to Nigerians not entitled to such protection service be withdrawn. But till date, that directive has not been enforced.
The job of enforcing the directive should be that of the heads of commands and formations across the country. But such is the level of indiscipline and corruption in the force that instructions are issued and passed down the line, yet no obedience! It is even more tragic that those officers who failed have not been held accountable and there is nothing to show that the police high command has punished any officer for such non-compliance.
Indeed, there are insinuations that the rot goes all the way to the very top and that with the announcement of determination to enforce the rule, police chiefs merely play to the gallery.
From a comprehensive security point of view, Idris’ latest announcement was even unnecessary. The withdrawal could be done silently, administratively, using the usual police channels of communication.
It is wrong to publicly announce that security details attached to some VIPs would be withdrawn, thereby exposing those concerned to avoidable danger. No doubt, some people really need to be provided with police security and this category of people should be separated from those who are using police security illegally.
It is, however, commendable that there is a Special Protection Unit, specially trained for guard duties in the police just as the army is known to train an elite corps of men to protect VIPs. For greater efficiency and better results, all the wings of the armed forces may wish to collaborate and have a joint training faculty for this corps.
The plan to recruit 10,000 policemen is also commendable as the country needs more men to combat the rising wave of crime. Not long ago, the former Inspector General of Police (IGP), and current chairman of the Police Service Commission, Mike Okiro, disclosed that there were only 377,000 policemen in the country.
It was also once disclosed that over 100,000 policemen are on illegal duty nationwide. When this number is removed from what is thought to be the number of policemen in the country, the actual number of policemen on active duty comes to a little over 200,000 for a country of about 150 million people!
Like many institutions in Nigeria, the police have also been stripped of their dignity and essence. Instead of maintaining law and order and ensuring the security of the citizenry, men of the Nigeria Police have been reduced to bodyguards for politicians and businessmen who can afford to pay the price.
For the avoidance of doubt, the people entitled to police protection include the President, Vice President, state governors and their deputies, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, and a few others. It is scandalous that some top police officers do take advantage of their positions to illegally deploy policemen to un-authorised or undeserving persons for fees. The Nigeria Police uniform carries with it the nation’s pride and should never be compromised for any reason or traded for any amount of money.
The insecurity in the country is currently alarming. Armed robbers are on the prowl. Kidnappers, ritual killers and fraudsters have become bolder in perpetrating crime. More policemen are, therefore, needed to tackle these problems so that Nigerians can live in peace.