In an apparent move to secure his job and prevent a possible sack, following the brouhaha that trailed the revelation that he had flouted the President’s order to him on the heels of the farmers/herders crisis in Benue; the Inspector General of Police, Mr Ibrahim Idris, has ordered the immediate withdrawal of all police orderlies attached to private individuals and companies in the country. Exempted from this order are all private financial institutions across the country. Mr Idris, shot himself in the foot and sabotaged the effective implementation of his directive, when he gave state commissioners of police discretionary powers to determine who qualifies for police protection in their respective states. He also said he has submitted a memo to the President asking him to approve the categories of public officials who would be entitled to police orderlies. As soon as the President complies, the Police Chief would commence immediate implementation of the directive against public officials who have no presidential approval for police protection.
Going down memory lane, this order is not novel. Former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo, Goodluck Jonathan, Late President Umar Musa Yar’adua, and even President Muhammadu Buhari have at various times given the police orders to withdraw their men from guarding VIP’s. Also, Idris’ predecessors in office, Ogbonnaya Onovo, Hafiz Ringim, Mohammed Abubakar, and Solomon Arase, have given such orders in times past and nothing came out of it.
Truth is, deploying policemen on VIP protection duties is a huge racket that yields billions of naira annually to the Nigerian Police. Most of these monies usually end up in the private pockets of senior officers in the force. An average MOPOL on guard duties gets N150,000 monthly. But that is not what the big man who enjoys the protection really pays. The big man pays far more than that to the senior officer in the force usually a commissioner or an AIG, who takes out his own cut and gives N150,000 to the boys per head. There are currently 150,000 policemen on guard duties and if you do the maths, you will discover that this is a cash cow for the Nigerian Police. Mike Okiro, Former Inspector General of Police and Chairman of the Police Service Commission, was euphemistic when he declared that the Police lacked the resources to withdraw personnel from private actors. On the other hand, Senator Isa Misau, a former Policeman, was succinct when he accused the IGP of illegally pocketing billions of naira derived from posting policemen on guard duties to private individuals and private companies last year. He is currently undergoing prosecution by the police for blowing the whistle.
Our policemen who are constitutionally entrusted with the task of maintaining law and order in the society have been reduced to errand boys by VIP’S just because of their desire to make ends meet. It is not unusual these days to see policemen carrying the handbags of wives and girlfriends of these VIP’S. Some are sent to the market to buy foodstuffs, others are guarding filling stations, the children of the big men, or foreigners who do not enjoy such priviledge in their home countries.
I do not begrudge VIP’S for seeking police protection. It is the norm all over the world for those who are successful to seek for some form of protection against fiendish elements in the society. The Nigerian situation does not help matters as only government security agencies are licensed to bear arms. How effective can a private bodyguard be without arms? At best, he is a toothless bulldog who can only bark but not bite.
The solution is to grant private security firms the right to bear arms so they can provide protection for private citizens who desire it, thus freeing up policemen to perform their statutory duties. Government should also look closely into the issue of providing police protection for government officials. Last year, we were informed by the police that over 200 policemen are currently attached to the Governor of Rivers State, Chief Nyesom Wike. Multiply that figure by 36, including those attached to their deputies, commissioners, special advisers, judges, legislators (both state and federal), ministers, then we are talking of tens of thousands of policemen guarding people whose failed policies are responsible for the rising wave of insecurity in the land that they are trying to protect themselves from. It is my firm belief that if the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) is assigned the task of protecting government officials nationwide, it would perform creditably well.
My bet is that nothing would come out of this order by the IGP. If the IGP can openly disobey his boss, the President, what makes him think his subordinates would not act in a similar fashion towards him?