The Chairman of the Police Service Commission (PSC), Mr. Mike Okiro, recently disclosed in Abuja that more than 150,000 of the nation’s policemen are attached to certain highly placed officials and some unauthorised persons in the country. The PSC boss lamented that the commission could not afford to have a half of the policemen in the country in private hands. He assured that the commission had, in conjunction with the Nigeria Police, commenced the implementation of the withdrawal of policemen attached to these classes of Nigerians but regretted that the exercise was hampered by lack of funds. Okiro also frowned at the way persons who had served as ministers over 10 to 15 years ago still move about with police security. He stressed that the nation cannot be battling a shortage of manpower in the force while a majority of its officers are allocated for private guard duties to a few privileged individuals. He also hinted that the number of policemen in the country is inadequate for our population, while the force is underfunded.
This is not the first time this matter is being broached. We recall that President Muhammadu Buhari had, in 2015, directed that police personnel attached to unauthorised persons be withdrawn and deployed to confront the country’s rising security challenges.
Available data show that the numerical strength of the Nigeria Police Force is 308,000. The Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, has also affirmed that the force loses about 9000 of its personnel to death, retirement and dismissal every year. The United Nations’ recommended ratio for policing is 1:400. But the 308, 000 policemen guarding over 180 million Nigerians fall far short of that recommendation. Having about 150,000 of our policemen serving certain Very Important Personalities (VIPs) and some unauthorised persons is an unhealthy practice.
Police authorities should withdraw all policemen attached to unauthorised persons. The Federal Government should also quickly address the twin issues of underfunding and understaffing of the police. This is important because only adequate funding and staffing of the police can holistically address the nation’s worsening security situation. Government should also consider the introduction of state policing, irrespective of the fears of abuse expressed by some Nigerians.
Although those fears are genuine, they should not stop the adoption of this idea which has served other countries very well. Those arguing against abuse of state police should note that even the current Federal Police is also open to abuse. There is no perfect system in the world so we must keep changing the ones that are not serving us well until we get what we want. Besides, the police personnel posted to individuals are often abused. Some are made to carry handbags and umbrellas for the spouses of their principals. Some even assist those spouses in shopping and other demeaning duties, while we lack personnel for core policing duties.
The government should encourage private security companies to provide security services for the unauthorised persons currently using Nigeria police officials. The authorities should reorganise our policing so that the force can provide security for all Nigerians, instead of focusing on selected Nigerians who can afford to pay for police services, as is now the case. The crux of the matter is that Nigeria needs, and should recruit more policemen. But, until that is done, the ones available should be judiciously deployed to serve the best interest of all Nigerians.
President Buhari has approved the annual recruitment of 10,000 personnel into the force. This should be done to boost the numerical strength of the force. It is glaring that we cannot get the kind of policing we require until the government adequately funds, staffs and equips the Nigeria Police Force. Delaying these necessities will worsen the nation’s security challenges.