Insecurity: Worries over growing number of police escorts attached to VIPs
Nigerians have expressed worries over the growing number of orderlies and escorts attached to private businessmen, political appointees, actresses and even their children for security protection at expense of citizens.
In traffic situations, ‘the big man or woman’, or their children and nannies, could be seen seated in the vehicles behind. Trucks in quasi-military motorcade trail them. Inside are police officers, on secondment to these Very Important Persons (VIPs). At traffic bottlenecks, these officers, armed with AK-47 rifles slap bonnets of nearby cars, dishing orders to other road users: “Move. Clear. Give way”.
But Nigerians are lamenting these extra protections of VIPs, while other citizens are left to fend for themselves.
Apart from violating the dignity of ordinary men, citizens are lamenting the appropriation of available manpower needed for general country policing by a few, especially with the low ratio of policemen to citizens.
According to the United Nations, there ought to be one police officer for every 450 persons for effective policing. Nigeria, with a population estimated at 206,139,589, will therefore require about 458,087 policemen to adequately police the nation.
Unfortunately, the practice of attaching large numbers of security officers to the affluent, VIPs, and private businessmen continues, despite the current manpower of the Nigerian police, estimated to be about 400,000 men and women, which is still insufficient compared to the numbers recommended by the UN.
Recall that former Chairman of the Police Service Commission (PSC) and former Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mike Okiro, had recently lamented that about 150,000 out of the 400,000 police personnel are attached to private individuals.
Also, former IGP, Mohammed Adamu, had in a move to curb the menace before his retirement, ordered the withdrawal of policemen attached to VIPs across the nation.
Adamu’s directive was contained in a wireless message sent virtually to zonal AIGs and command CPs with signal number DTO 210900/19/2020.
The signal was copied to all police formations across the country, with warning that any commander who violated this order will face the consequences.
However, that directive and others before it, till date, didn’t see the light of the day.
Nigerians, who spoke to The Guardian criticised the practice of indiscriminate use of police escort by private businessmen, describing it as unfair to the ordinary Nigerians.
They stated that it is unfair to put such pressure on the state force, and that such energy when deployed to general policing will reduce the level of Insecurity in the country.
They argued that it could further portray the VIPs as the only class of people worthy of protection by police; the implication, they said, is that the ordinary Nigerian may resort to self-help and that ordinary Nigerians need to be given a sense of policing.
An Abuja based lawyer, Akamihe Ephraim, said the use of police by VIPs has drastically reduced the strength of police towards protecting citizens.
According to him, a situation where one VIP is allocated about 15 to 20 officers when Nigerians are left to themselves cannot be justified in any way.
He said: “ To make matters worse even the tight security carried by the VIPs has not also prevented them from attacks because several VIPs have at different times been attacked notwithstanding the retinue of security personnel attached to them. So the best thing to do is to recruit the requisite number of security personnel needed to protect citizens and their assets.”
An Abuja based journalist Eric Ikhilae said the job of providing security for VIPs should be ceded to former security personnel, who should set up private companies to do the job as obtainable in developed countries and allow the police to provide general security for the country.
He said since the rich can afford to hire security operatives, they should be allowed to pay for the services of security, instead of the country funding their security services.
He called for the withdrawal of security services attached to VIP and the budget should be reinvested into provision of security to the poor.
He explained this would serve a dual purpose of providing income for the retirees and allows the police to face its core mandates.
An educationalist, Ogweche Adogwuche Nicholas, said the issue could lead to security breaches.
According to him, the ordinary Nigerian needs to be protected as well. He said if the energy of the police force is too much tilted to protecting the rich, the poor will suffer lack of protection and insecurity will persist.
Angela Balong, an operator of a Point of Sale (POS) machine in a suburb of Abuja, said the implications of continued use of police protection and the large detachment of police to VIPs and top politicians could lead to loss of confidence in the police.
A stylist, Emmanuel Saawua, lamented that VIP’s protection is given too much attention by the police, thereby reducing their concentration on the general policing of ordinary Nigerians.
He stressed that providing security to only the rich would send a wrong message to the ordinary Nigerian that lives of ordinary people don’t matter.
Reacting, spokesperson for the Police Service Commission (PSC), Mr. Ikechukwu Ani, said, he would not comment on the issue given the recent insecurity challenges in the country.
But police spokesman, CSP Muyiwa Adejobi said: “We have those VIPs that are entitled to police orderlies and escort or guards, so we are duty-bound to provide for them, statutorily.
“Then we have certain VIPs who are vulnerable and could be exposed to attacks or dangers, in demand and after due assessment, we provide for them. We have been conscious of the fact that some individuals might want to have police men around them, even when they are not entitled to them, so we screen applications before deployment.
“However, we are looking at how we can still reduce further the number of our men attached to individuals. We are working on this. The audit is on and we will act as and when due. In the same vein, we make sure that such deployment doesn’t affect our statutory operational engagements. So, such attachments to VIPs are not at the detriment of our constitutional duties at all.”