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Politicians’ quest for police protection

By Editorial Board
13 November 2022   |   3:55 am
Amidst pockets of violence and trading of blames that have featured regularly in ongoing political campaigns towards 2023 general elections, the rising demand for police protection, bullet-proof vehicles and other security gadgets by politicians is not surprising.

(Photo by Yasuyoshi CHIBA / AFP)

Amidst pockets of violence and trading of blames that have featured regularly in ongoing political campaigns towards 2023 general elections, the rising demand for police protection, bullet-proof vehicles and other security gadgets by politicians is not surprising. Many of the major presidential candidates have complained about violent disruptions of their campaigns allegedly orchestrated by their opponents. Indeed, some incidents have resulted in shootings and injury to persons. In one of the latest incidents, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) claimed that as many as 70 of its members were hospitalized, and dozens of the party’s campaign vehicles vandalized following alleged attack on its presidential candidate’s campaign convoy in Maiduguri.

The police have confirmed a surge in the request for protection by politicians who now feel unsafe. The Force PRO has said it might be difficult to state the number of requests for police protection received so far.

The development underscores the precarious insecurity situation in the country, and the failure of law enforcements agencies to contain the situation. While it is not abnormal for politicians to seek police cover during campaigns and other public events, the hype has definitely increased drastically in correspondence with the rising risks. It will be tragic however if the security agencies succumb to the pressure and deploy their resources only to politicians who are starkly negligible in number. Police protection is the right of every Nigerian; and no section of the police should be favoured for such protection merely because it can “afford” it while the rest cannot.

Truth is there are not enough police to ensure effective security. The about 370,000 police officers in a country of about 200 million people are grossly inadequate. The security personnel are being killed indiscriminately, which is dangerous for the country. The Inspector General of Police (IGP) should know the dangers involved.

Consequently, the deployment of police to private persons should not be based on the highest bidder, because that will shut out official protection to the masses. Incidentally, the politicians are directly or otherwise using public funds to secure themselves. Yet, insecurity is caused by the politicians, being a direct fallout of their corruption, ineptitude and greedy practices at the expense of doing public good. Yet, the few available police are being attached to the politicians. And by so doing, the police and the masses of Nigerians are unduly exposed to danger.

The resort to security vehicles and police protection by virtually every politician is unbecoming and worrisome. It simply underscores the fact that all is not well with the country. The violence attending to campaigns removes excitement on the elections and ultimately destroys democracy and the freedom of thought and associations attached to it. In the absence of peace and general security in the country, the question is to what extent can bullet-proof vehicles and police protection guarantee the safety of anyone? To what extent can these acquired instruments be used for protection on campaign grounds, at home, and even on the road? Relying on security gadgets is akin to playing the ostrich.

In view of the inadequacy of bullet-proof vehicles and vests in ensuring round the clock protection, the way out is to ensure that the country is peaceful, safe and secure for everyone. It is unfortunate that the available police have been hijacked by politicians and the wealthy in the society while the rest of the people are left to their fate. Reports also indicate that the rich, top chieftains and candidates of political parties have been procuring customised bullet-proof vehicles that offer special protection in the run-up to the campaigns and elections. This followed public anxieties and apprehension over the rising kidnapping for ransom and killings in different parts of the country. Many policemen and soldiers, including officers, have been killed by terrorists, bandits and other criminals.

Some weeks ago, there was an attempted assassination of the lawmaker representing Anambra South Senatorial District, Senator Ifeanyi Ubah. Four persons, including police aides, were killed by the gunmen who opened fire on the senator’s convoy at the Enugwu-Ukwu junction in Njikoka Local Government Area of Anambra State while returning to his country home in Nnewi. The Young Progressives Party (YPP) senator, who is seeking re-election to the Senate in the 2023 general elections, however, escaped unhurt as he was riding in a bullet-proof SUV.

A couple of months ago, notorious Boko Haram terrorists and other criminals were freed during an attack by dare-devil gunmen on the Kuje Medium Correctional Centre. Gunmen have also attacked personnel of the Nigerian Army Presidential Guards Brigade, killing some officers in the process. The Federal Capital Territory of Abuja is equally threatened despite assurances on its safety by the authorities. The Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, Ndudi Elumelu, underscored this when he reportedly urged his colleagues to stay away from the Federal Capital Territory during their holiday because of insecurity, saying, “I want to beg members, Abuja is no longer safe; please, if possible, go back to your constituencies. This place is so insecure.”

Prior to the commencement of their recess, some senators, including some in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) gave the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), six weeks to address the insecurity or face impeachment when the National Assembly reconvenes in September.

Clearly the country is not safe. But the way out is not for politicians and those who could afford it to “buy” all the available police and gadgets for private use. The way out, instead, is for President Muhammadu Buhari and the federal lawmakers to instill good governance that puts the interest of the people first, and thereby fulfill their constitutional mandate to put the security and welfare of Nigerians as their primary purpose in government.