The Governors And Police Security
It is certainly incongruous and unacceptable for a Nigeria ravaged by crime to allow the deployment of police personnel in large numbers to guard political office holders at the expense of their core professional duties. This long-existing incongruity has appropriately compelled the Inspector General of Police, Solomon Arase to reduce the number of police personnel attached to state governors from 150 to 62.
But since the number of policemen at the nation’s disposal is grossly inadequate for the citizens, even this number that the IG has recommended for governors is too high. To avoid over-stretching the limited capacity of the police, only 15 policemen, a quarter of the number recommended by the IG, should be attached to a governor.
Currently, the nation has 370,000 police personnel to a population of 170 million. This is a sad development in the light of the United Nations’ recommendation of 222 policemen to 100,000 citizens or one police personnel to 400 citizens.
It is indeed a surprise that the nation’s insecurity has not deteriorated beyond its current scary level since security operatives are so distracted from doing their core duties. Apart from the police personnel who are attached to governors, thousands of members of other security agencies like the Department of State Services (DSS) are attached to the same governors and other political office holders. Besides, the wives and aides of these political office holders, lawmakers, ministers and even local government chairmen have police personnel attached to them. Even former political office holders retain their police orderlies. Worse still, there are police officers attached to government’s agencies and their officials as well as some private individuals. It is only in the rare instances of such people’s lives being threatened that they should be given police protection for a period.
The entire scheme reeks of corruption. These postings are usually done by senior police officers in a bid to gain pecuniary benefits and policemen often jostle, even bribe, in order to be posted in this regard. Some of these police officers and men deployed outside their core duties are also known to bribe their ways into remaining in those postings for unduly long years. Sadly, some of these officers find it impossible to adjust to their normal responsibilities after they are redeployed from those non-core assignments and this phenomenon of deployment for non-core duties corrupts the system and destroys professionalism.
It is one practice that must be checked if the nation’s police are to be effective in protecting lives and property. The way governors and other political office holders are known to appropriate the wealth of the nation is how they also appropriate the nation’s security men as personal guards.
In the first place, a logical question to ask is: what is a governor afraid of to warrant such a regime of many police units to guard him? If he is in genuine service of his people, would an automatic armour not be built around him as a result of the people’s love for him? And if a governor is so afraid of his own shadows, it should be assumed that ordinary citizens are even more endangered and it is his duty to provide security for all. More importantly, the more the appurtenances of an office are advertised, the less likely a judicious use of that office. True servants of the people should be satisfied with less public show of their station or power but if a governor needs more persons in addition to the number of policemen proposed here to protect him, he should hire from his pocket the services of private security firms to do this.
While the on-going attempts at police operational reforms by Inspector General Arase are good, it must be noted that previous IGs equally attempted the same but nothing came out of such exercises. Thus it is incumbent on Arase to make good his word. He should immediately withdraw the police personnel from those who should not have them, reduce the number of those who are entitled to police protection and reduce the number of men attached to those who are even entitled to security cover.
It is good that the realisation that the police lack enough personnel to carry out their responsibilities has made the Federal Government order the recruitment of additional police officers and men. But the addition of more police personnel may only partially solve the problems of the police. For one, the poor welfare of the police personnel is a demoralizing factor that is to a large extent responsible for their poor performance. And this is because the Federal Government has many responsibilities that compete for the insufficient funds at its disposal.
Thus the only way Nigeria can be best policed is for the nation to decentralise the Police Force in the letter and spirit of a true federation. This would ensure that a state or community is allowed to have and appropriately deploy in communal fashion the requisite number of police personnel to ensure security. Money would be spent and noise would be made but no true progress would come to Nigeria if it remains federal only in name but not in truth.