Nigeria presently has about 400,000 police officers and men to take care of the security needs of 180 million people. Yet 150,000 of them are attached to VIPs and unauthorised persons in the country, according to the Police Service Commission, PSC. The commission’s chairman, retired Police Inspector General Mike Okiro recently said, “We cannot have more than half of the police population I private hands.” He said that the commission in conjunction with the Nigeria Police Force had commenced withdrawal of police officers attached to unauthorised persons but that the exercise stalled due to lack of funds.
Okiro also lamented at the practice where persons who served as ministers ten or fifteen years ago still go about with police escorts. While decrying the inadequacy of the ratio of police men to the population, Okiro requested for the recruitment of more policemen. He said the issue of paucity of funds had been one of the problems hampering the recruitment of more policemen. The chairman said that the Police Trust Fund bill before the National Assembly, if passed into law, would go a long way to address the issue of funding for the police.
What Mike Okiro said about many police officers attached to VIPs and unauthorised persons is nothing new but coming from the chairman of Police Service Commission underlies its importance. We are however surprised by his seeming frustration because back in 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari directed that policemen attached to unauthorised persons and VIPs should be withdrawn and deployed to confront security challenges in the country. The presidential order was not carried out apparently due to lack of funds as Okiro said. Trouble is, top government officials attribute inaction to lack of funds so commonly that Nigerians are now tired of hearing that excuse. The police force in particular is not famous for its management of financial resources. Giving more money to it is akin to throwing money into a bottomless pit.
Since the presidential order was given two years ago, police officers and men attached to VIPs and former officials should be recalled as soon as possible. The only exceptions should be sensitive places and persons such as banks, embassies and judges. This is imperative with the security challenges facing the country. Kidnapping, farmers/herders clash, cultism and rural banditry among others need the attention of police officers, instead of them to protect the privileged few. And they are public officers, paid by the government, yet they are cornered to private use by those that don’t merit it. The general public is pathetically left to device a means of policing themselves through cobbling of youth groups as vigilante to protect them.
This practice also has a ruinous impact on the profession since those policemen don’t want to be re-posted because of the money they get from the people they are attached to, or indirectly through them. Some go to the extent of declining promotion and conniving with principals to continue to stay with VIPs. This is detrimental and demeaning to the work of police officers to prefer to work as ‘errand boys’ and even virtually as domestic servants by escorting ‘madam’ to the market. Those cops attached to politicians can be used to harass political opponents or to unduly bully motorists on the road.
Many policemen have been seen in the ‘convoy’ of people of questionable character, giving citizens the impression that police ‘protection’ is for the highest bidder only. This terrible arrangement that ignores police protection for the whole and instead gives police protection to a few should come to an end as soon as possible. Policing is too important to be neglected by so-called lack of funds.
The human and capital loss due to inadequate policemen to police places is more than the funds that would be used to recruit more. There is no alternative to making people live in peace, feeling secured and protected by the state. Any other thing such as self-help would lead to anarchy.