The chairman of the Police Service C o m m i s s i o n (PSC), Mr Mike Okiro, a retired Inspector General of Police, recently raised the alarm on the impropriety of a small group of those he described as Very Important Personalities (VIPs) and others not so important but unauthorised persons cornering for themselves the services of 150,000 policemen. He also said that the nation cannot afford to have more than half of the population of the Police in private hands. This was just as he lamented that the Police has not been able to sustain the enforcement of the order on the withdrawal of policemen attached to unqualified persons in the country because of lack of fund.
The problem of Nigeria Police Force is as complex as that of the country itself. Even more is its peculiar situation that relates to not just underfunding but also the inadequacy of manpower to enable it actualise its mandate of policing the country effectively. The issue of funding is regarded as very strategic. It is often said that for the Police to operate as a force the way it should the entire budget of Nigeria cannot be enough for that. Police is an organization put together by an act of law to ensure that there is preservation of order in the society as well as enforce laws in the society.
Nigeria Police, as one of the law enforcement agencies in the country, should place its priority in the prevention and detection of crime, not to have more than half of its personnel protecting a privileged few. As a law enforcement agency, the Nigeria Police Force is saddled with the responsibility of ensuring that lives and properties of Nigerians are protected within their individual domain. They do this by deploying men and other resources to strategic places and locations and institutions. It is also the duty of the Police to provide security to top government functionaries and other important personalities. This is understandable within the context of ensuring that such state protected persons receive assurances of their personal safety in the course of their duties.
However, discerning Nigerians are beginning to worry that what ought to be a privilege is being abused as it has come to be seen as a status symbol available only to the rich and famous. A situation in which a whopping 150,000 men and women of the Police Force are tied down in people’s homes and offices is, indeed, not acceptable. To rectify this obvious anomaly, the commission and the Force decided to redeploy those men and women to areas of public security needs. They had actually commenced the implementation of that decision but the exercise was stalled due to lack of fund.
The practice whereby any affluent person of unknown pedigree just because he can afford to pay, are granted lavish police protection. Even more disappointing is the reality that people who served as ministers for over 10 to 15 years ago still enjoy police protection. This, in our view, is an abuse given the fact that the Police is already understaffed. President Muhammadu Buhari, in the early days of his administration, made moves to address this issue that is wearing down the operational efficiency of the Force. He directed that police personnel attached to unauthorised persons and VIPs in the country be withdrawn and deployed to confront the security challenges in the country.
That directive was adhered to more in the breach. It is our opinion that policemen should be withdrawn from those who are not government officials. And even for those category of persons, the number of policemen attached to them should be minimal. A situation where more than five policemen are attached to a serving government officials is not acceptable. The nation cannot be battling with shortage of manpower in the Force while majority of these officers are floating around as body guards. To meet the national security challenges, we urge the Federal Government to, as a matter of urgency, recruit more policemen for enhanced service delivery and ensure that they are serving the nation not individuals.
Similarly, this newspaper believes that it in the nation’s best interest for the Police to be adequately funded. It is from this standpoint that we appeal to the National Assembly to grant expeditious attention to the Police Trust Fund bill before it. This bill when passed into law will significantly address the issue of funding for the Police