By Clement Oluwole
The Assistant Inspector-General of Police (AIG), Zone 5, located in Benin, Mr. Rasheed Akintunde, on Thursday, compounded my fears when he declared that only 20 per cent of the nation’s police strength of 350,000 is engaged in core police duties of protecting lives/properties and ensuring peace in the country. The remaining 80 per cent, representing the lion’s share, in his words “are just busy providing personal security to some prominent people on guard duties”.
Akintunde decried the situation where every very important person (VIP) in the society seeks more than 30 policemen to protect him/her at the expense of the masses.
He hit the bull’s eye when he further said: “Every big man wants personal security; they want a number of policemen to come and secure them and their family members, instead of supporting the police to work and ensure a safer environment.
“Honorable members want security; even Reverend Fathers, Bishops now want police security; so, the remaining 20 per cent police the whole country.
“If we can redistribute the policemen from some government formations and deploy them to work on their core duty, it will yield a positive result.”
Yes, the lion’s share goes to secure the big men, especially those in government whose misgovernance throws up all manner of criminalities now overwhelming the policemen.
Unfortunately, when the lion comes for its share, the police are there to secure the big guns! That is if you get my funny drift.
I have written several epistles in my column lamenting the insecurity pervading the country on the account of shortage of police personnel. The ideal situation as recommended by the United Nations is that there should be a policeman to every 400 citizens. But in Nigeria where its population hovers around 180m, the ratio is 1:900.
A recent report revealed that no fewer than 200 policemen on the average are attached to each of the 36 state governors, totaling 7,200. The 36 ministers are protected by five policemen each, bringing the number to 180.
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation and Head of Service and their counterparts at the state level have security details. Special advisers, senior special assistants, directors-general, permanent secretaries and other political appointees also have security details to watch over them.
The Senate president and his deputy have between them about 150 police personnel for personal protection. Each of the 106 senators has at least a policeman to ensure their safety.
The speaker of the House of Representatives is guarded by 30 policemen. His deputy and other principal officers have at least two each, while each of the remaining 360 floor members has one policeman in tow.
The speakers of the various Houses of Assembly, legislators, state commissioners, and local government chairmen all have their security details attached to them. Justices and judges at all levels are also provided with security personnel. High profile traditional rulers and the lower ones are not unprotected.
They have a large chunk of the depleted police strength to watch over them.
Then, there are numerous police chiefs, ranging from the inspector general of police to the state commissioners of police and other senior police officers who are supposed to protect us but that also need to be protected.
If we are to go by Akintunde’s calculation of 20 per cent, then there are only 140,000 policemen to secure about 170m people. However, the most shocking aspect of this scenario is that of the remainder of 210,000 cops, about 100,000 are serving illegally as orderlies to private high profile individuals.
Several attempts to wean police personnel from the succulent milk of the big shots they are assigned to illegally have always met stonewalls.
Successive inspectors general of police (IGPs), including the current Chairman of the Police Service Commission (PSC), Mr.Mike Okiro, have not been able to stop the illegal practice. Something must be wrong with the system. Many believe that the successive police leaderships are profiting from the illegality.
Even the directive President Muhammadu Buhari issued to the police authorities shortly on assuming office in 2015 to withdraw police personnel attached to individuals not deserving of them has been spurned. And no one has been sanctioned accordingly. The IGP at the time, Mr. Solomon Arase, was specifically ordered to ensure compliance, delist the errant police personnel and prosecute those they were protecting illegally.
But the police personnel are ever so reluctant to heed orders from their superiors to return to their normal duties, preferring to stick to private citizens. The answer is at the fingertips. Serving high profile individuals as their personal security details comes with a lot of pecuniary benefits.
Because the police personnel are not well paid, most of them even lobby to be sent on attachment to top politicians and business tycoons. Many police personnel might have laughed off the ultimatums issued to them, preferring to quit the Force that pays what they considered as peanuts.
The much talked about reform aimed at improving the service conditions of the police personnel appears to be a mirage. The system’s rating has also dipped in recent years. To the average Nigerian, the policeman epitomises brutality, corruption and dishonesty.
It is public knowledge that most of the policemen attached to high profile Nigerians are used as instruments of intimidation of real or perceived enemies. Some run errands for oga madams or are used as pimps. Others use them to massage their ego.
To say that the country is grossly under-policed is not an exaggeration. The recruitment of 10,000 additional personnel to strengthen the Force patters into insignificance when viewed against the fact that the system had lost about 12,000 personnel in the past two or so years to deaths, desertions, dismissals, etc.
Small wonder, the country is seething with all manner of security challenges like kidnapping, armed robbery, murder, terrorism, communal clashes, farmer/herder clashes, cattle-rustling, trans-border and other organised crimes.
It is because of this frightening state of affairs that I have been advocating the establishment of state police… a call that appears to have found favour with the committee on restructuring set up by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) headed by the Governor of Kaduna state, Nasir el-Rufai.
Imagine each of the 36 states boasting of a minimum of 50,000 policemen complemented by 5,000 others run by each of the 744 local government councils! Wouldn’t that go a long way in defusing the unemployment time-bomb ticking all over the place? Please, get hold of your calculator because we are talking about providing jobs for close to 6m Nigerians that have been sucked into criminalities. Anyone who opposes this idea must be an ally of these criminal elements.