Law Enforcers, Not Private Guards

0

The use of law enforcement officers for menial duties is demeaning, just as it is costly to the nation

Hardly a week passes without some photographs of policemen and other security agents performing one form of menial duties or another: from carrying bags for some political office holders or businessmen to shining their shoes. It is almost as if many of these law enforcement agents have become errand boys.

Against the background that this is not only demeaning to these officers but also the institutions they represent, we call on the authorities to streamline the list of public officials entitled to such police/security protection as well as come up with a code of conduct for those personnel when at their duty posts.
In the past, the mere mention of the Mobile Police Force (MOPOL) filled many Nigerians with dread.

With their distinct uniform -a beret, black shirt khaki trousers and canvas boots, they cut a mean and menacing figure and were both respected and feared. That was then. Unfortunately, it is at a time the nation actually needs them the most that these officers – who in the past used to quell civil disturbances while managing emergency situations—are being deployed to act as personal security guards and handbag carriers to spouses of political office holders.

To the extent that the very idea of using our security and police personnel as private army undermines their integrity, we need to put an end to the current abuse while restoring some measure of respect and dignity to the institutions concerned. At a period of national security emergency, such as we have in Nigeria today, this misuse of men and officers of the police and other security outfits should not be allowed to continue.

The case of the police is particularly pathetic. In recent years, on assumption of office, almost every Inspector General of Police (IGP) would order the immediate withdrawal of all unauthorised police guards from private individuals and corporate bodies across the country. But it has been to no effect because such directives were never really obeyed.

The affected personnel usually include those given by the special protection unit, the mobile police unit and conventional policemen that were sent out as guards to companies and influential citizens. “I have directed the commissioner of police in-charge of the airports that if they find any of you carrying boxes and dragging them all over the place, they should arrest you and you will be punished,” said Mr. Solomon Arase, the IGP recently.

“Those of you who are posted to VIPs, on no account should you carry their bags and on no account should you act as domestic servants to them. You are police officers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and they must respect you as such. Your uniform must be respected, anybody who wants to hire a domestic help should not use our policemen who are sent to protect them as domestic help”. Hardly anybody paid attention to him.

Statutorily, only the president, vice-president, governors, local council chairmen, legislative principal officers in the states and at federal level, magistrates and judges are entitled to police protection. But for some curious reasons, this privilege has over the years been abused by senior officers in charge of police commands and formations who assign most of their men to undeserving politicians and businessmen, leaving ever fewer numbers of personnel for real police work. The level of degeneration is such that all manner of characters now go about with policemen who carry bags and umbrella for them.

The United Nations estimation is that the average police force should have three police persons for every one thousand citizens. Nigeria falls far short of this requirement given that the total strength of our police force is still less than 400,000. But the real challenge is that a good number of the existing force serves just a few people more or less as guardsmen. When this is juxtaposed with inadequate remunerations and low morale which pervade the police force and other agencies that are saddled with keeping the nation safe and secure, it is easy to understand why the nation is currently in a security bind.

Quote: Statutorily, only the president, vice-president, governors, local council chairmen, legislative principal officers in the states and at federal level, magistrates and judges are entitled to police protection. But for some curious reasons, this privilege has over the years been abused by senior officers in charge of police commands and formations who assign most of their men to undeserving politicians and businessmen, leaving ever fewer numbers of personnel for real police work