The continued deployment of police as personal guards and househelps is unsettling

No case has brought home the illegal use to which many of our policemen are now deployed than the recent shooting at a political rally in Ekiti State by a policeman “attached to 20 PMF, Ikeja, Lagos State, where he was posted on guard duties”. Although the politician who conspired and removed the said policeman from where he was posted by his squadron commander was said to have been arrested by the police, the fact that nobody has been brought to trial over the incident suggests a deliberate attempt at cover up.

This is against the background that despite repeated promises to withdraw guards from VIPs, many of them still retain this undue privilege. This has led to the glaring misuse of the police whose men and officers are being reduced to carrying out menial duties by political office holders at the expense of national security. This poor treatment, with the attendant outcomes that diminish the pride, dignity and professionalism of the police, is a development that requires the urgent intervention of the federal government.

We condemn, in very strong term, this damming and demeaning practice, where policemen, posted as escorts and orderlies are subjected to domestic chores by government officials, council chairmen, traditional rulers, renowned politicians, celebrities or high networth individuals. We also find it utterly disturbing that police orderlies deviate from official term of reference by hopping about with files, umbrellas and briefcases belonging to the civilian principals they are detailed to protect. These serial abuses have become the norm rather than the exception in clear breach of the code of conduct, ethics and professional standards for officers of the Nigeria Police.

Some of the general duties that the police are mandated to carry out include maintenance of law and order, preservation of the peace, prevention and detection of crime, investigation of crimes and arrest of offenders and maintenance of law and order. These are some of the constitutional duties they have jettisoned to practically become ‘maiguards’ to prominent citizens in both the private and public sectors as well as questionable characters with no visible means of livelihood who can pay. Government cannot continue to feign ignorance that these infractions that are committed in connivance with the police echelon on the payroll of some political figures and business magnates are indeed real.

We are also alarmed that all the many pronouncements by successive Inspector – Generals of Police promising to withdraw police orderlies from highly placed and non-essential public figures have never been implemented. We recall that in February this year, the incumbent IGP, Ibrahim Idris, ordered an immediate withdrawal of police personnel attached to some political office holders and VIPs in the country. He cited the security challenges facing Nigeria as reason. The streamlining directive was also to affect private businessmen, multi-nationals and other corporate organisations enjoying special police protection. But just a few days after reeling out a plan to forward a memo to the president for approval on guideline or template for the decision, the same IGP chickened out and suspended the directive apparently pandering to pressure by the same high political office holders.

With a crime rate considered to be the highest in Africa, the withdrawal of serving police personnel attached to VIPs will enhance security across the country. For a nation of over 170 million people, the citizen/police ratio stands at one police officer for every 555 citizen, or about 180 police officers per 100,000 people. This falls short of the global average, which according to the United Nations, should be about 340 police officers per 100,000 people. But the real scandal is that roughly 50 per cent of those policemen are running private errands.