GhanaNaija| August 20| Campaigns: Nigerian Politicians bombard police with special protection requests
As political campaigns and the 2023 general elections draw near in the face of festering insecurity in most parts of the country, the police have confirmed that there is a surge in the request for protection by politicians.
With campaigns for presidential and National Assembly elections commencing on September 28 and the general elections starting on February 25, the police noted that more applications were being received and more still were being expected but pointed out that not every application would be granted.
The Force Public Relations Officer, CSP Muyiwa Adejobi, in an interview with Saturday PUNCH, explained that certain persons were by virtue of their statuses and personalities entitled to police protection, but that despite the spike in the requests, the police would consider each application on its merit and continuously work towards general security for public safety.
There have been public anxieties and apprehension over the rising kidnapping for ransom and killings in different parts of the country, fuelling the demand for special police protection by politicians and the elite. In the ensuing insecurity, many policemen and soldiers, including officers, have been killed by terrorists and other criminals.
Prior to the commencement of their recess, some senators, including some in the ruling All Progressives Congress, gave the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), six weeks to address the insecurity or face impeachment when the National Assembly reconvenes in September.
The Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, Ndudi Elumelu, also urged his colleagues to stay away from the Federal Capital Territory during their holiday because of insecurity, saying, “I want to beg members; Abuja is no longer safe; please, if possible, go back to your constituencies. This place is so insecure.”
These came after notorious Boko Haram terrorists and other criminals were freed during an attack by terrorists on the Kuje Medium Correctional Centre. Gunmen had also attacked some personnel of the Nigerian Army Presidential Guards Brigade, killing some officers in the process.
The Force PRO said it might be difficult to state the number of requests for police protection received so far but that the surge might not be unconnected with the upcoming campaigns and the 2023 elections.
“I don’t have the statistics for now because the requests will continue to come from various angles to the office of the IG, but generally there is an increase because most of the new candidates would want to have police protection. I know there is an increase, especially now that they will commence their campaigns very soon,” Adejobi stated.
‘Approval not automatic’
Asked if every presidential and governorship candidate would be entitled to police protection, Adejobi said, “It is not automatic. It depends on your personality, your status and the threat analysis conducted on you and if you are prone to any attack. It’s not for every Tom, Dick and Harry. It is not statutory that every candidate must get police protection.
“There are some individuals who are officially entitled to police protection and this is not negotiable. However, we still have some VIPs, who are to be protected by virtue of their personalities and statuses, which make them vulnerable or prone to attacks. Hence, we are duty-bound to provide security around them.
“Be reminded that this security arrangement is indirectly a sort of general security for them, people around them and their communities. So, the protection around them doesn’t affect our efficiency and quality service delivery in any way.”
When asked the number of policemen currently on special protection duty, Adejobi said, “No specific number of applications or men detailed to politicians. We have been receiving applications for police escort and guard on a regular basis even before we commenced the electioneering, and we will continue to receive applications, but we will be attending to them on their merit. No automatic approvals for applications or applicants as the case may be.
“We definitely expect to have more applications from politicians since the election activities have commenced, but we tend to intensify our security networking in terms of general security and public safety rather than individual protection. Hence, we are working towards the general security and public safety of Nigeria and Nigerians.”
Deployment unsustainable – Ex-DIG
Meanwhile, a retired Deputy Inspector-General of Police, Adedayo Adeoye, has said the country is currently under-policed and there is a need for the government to recruit more policemen. He added that policemen protecting VIPs were too many and that the practice was unsustainable.
He told one of our correspondents in an interview, “The policemen deployed to protect the VIPs are sometimes more than the policemen on the streets. So, what are they doing in VIP houses instead of being on the streets and police stations where they are needed to protect the people?
“Some policemen have spent about five years with private individuals and this is not supposed to be so. The police are meant for the public; private individuals should employ private security personnel and equip them with walkie-talkies that they can use in contacting the police whenever the need arises unlike what we have today where they go about with sirens and policemen, disturbing the public. In my opinion, they are cheating the public who are supposed to be well-protected and policed.”
Also, a retired Assistant Inspector-General of Police, Ade Shinaba, said it was unsustainable to keep deploying policemen to politically-exposed persons, adding that the police were already over-stretched with the over 200 million population.
He said in an interview with Saturday PUNCH, “Deploying police officers to politically-exposed individuals is not sustainable for the Nigeria Police. This is because when you check the number of policemen vis-à-vis the population of the country, we are far from the United Nations standard of one policeman to 400 residents.
“What is the population of the police? These men are being killed every day by various terrorist groups and Nigeria is not recruiting every day. How can we have more policemen in big men’s homes rather than being on the streets? This is not how it is in developed countries. Policemen are supposed to be on patrol.
“Their presence alone is a deterrent to would-be criminals. What do we find out? You will see one politician with an array of policemen following him everywhere he goes.”
Shinaba stressed that policemen should be pushed to the streets to do their job and not deployed for a select few.
Speaking on the request for police protection by candidates in the forthcoming elections, the retired AIG said, “Those candidates asking for police protection should go back to their constituencies and do the right thing. Who is the cause of all these problems we are facing in this country? Are they not the ones? Some of them sit in comfort at the National Assembly to make laws that favour them and not the people. Some of their laws even enable this gangsterism.”
He also agreed that private guards, and not the police, should be protecting private individuals, adding,“Private guards should be employed because they are established for the purpose of commercial interests, but they cannot do much.”
A retired Assistant Superintendent of Police, Olufemi Ajisafe, also said instead of policemen, politicians should engage private security personnel for their private security.
“There is no way the police can protect everybody because the Force as it is now is overstretched. How do you think the police will be able to cater to the security needs of everyone? Can the police even secure themselves? This idea of requesting special protection is not sustainable at all. The influential people using police for their personal protection are part of the problems, not ordinary Nigerians,” he stated.
PSC on recruitment
Similarly, the commissioner representing Human Rights in the Police Service Commission, Rommy Mom, said there was a huge deficit in police deployment in the country given that a number of them had been killed, many had retired and some were dismissed for misconduct.
Mom stated, “For this reason, we have just about 300,000 of them, and many of those are attached to politicians and other public figures for special duties. In reality, there is an average of one policeman to about 900 Nigerians, which is below the global standard that requires one police officer to about 150 citizens.
“There is a huge gap and that is why we can’t enjoy internal security now, especially as there is an increase in banditry, kidnapping and terrorism. Even the global standard was proposed for a calm and safe territory, but when a territory is as unsecured as Nigeria today, there is a need to add to the stipulated number. Unfortunately, even in peacetime, Nigeria didn’t have adequate police personnel, and it has got worse now that the country is under terror attacks.”
He also stated that the country should be recruiting 40,000 personnel annually given current realities.
Mom added, “A few years ago, President Muhammadu Buhari gave the Police Service Commission the task of employing at least 10,000 police officers annually for five years.
“The task was given to us then because there was a huge police personnel deficit.
“Between that time and today, so much has changed. Insecurity has worsened as the security of lives and properties keeps getting low. So, if the President could ask the commission to employ 10,000 personnel annually at that time, I believe that at the moment, we need to employ at least 40,000 police personnel annually for the next five years, as the issue of insecurity has got worse.”
‘IGP’s order enforceable’
More reactions have greeted the directive of the Inspector-General of Police, Usman Baba, that there should be the deployment of water-tight security arrangements to cover all schools, hospitals, health facilities and critical national infrastructure around the country.
“The IG has equally ordered regular patrols, stop-and-search, raids and show of force by tactical commanders to clamp down on pockets of crime and criminality recorded in some states of the federation,” the Force PRO had said in a statement.
Following the interpretation in some places that the IG wanted policemen deployed in every school across the country, Adejobi in an interview with one of our correspondents clarified that the deployment was not in all schools but for policemen to protect every facility around them.
He said, “The order by the IG was to put officers and men of the Force on their toes. It’s a fact that we do not have the number of men to be posted to every school or hospital in Nigeria, but the operational strategy and deployment is to form buffers around strategic and vulnerable places and facilities.
“One positioning can take care of almost 10 schools and so many facilities in that vicinity, so it’s not about being in charge of a particular infrastructure and it will involve motorised patrol or foot patrol to make sure that every infrastructure is secured. The directive on intensified patrol, stop-and-search, raid on black spots, etc, was to support the strategic deployment that we have done with thorough supervision by supervisory officers.
“We will need a large number of men to police Nigeria effectively considering the United Nation’s ratio and the large population of Nigeria. However, we have commenced massive recruitment into the NPF with the approved 10,000 intakes annually for five years as initiated by the President, which I am sure will still be extended as and when due.”
Adeoye, the retired DIG, said the order by the IG was enforceable, noting that patrol teams nationwide could cover as many places as possible.
He added, “What is therefore needed to achieve such is more patrol vehicles and enough fuel to run around and respond to distress calls on time. Also, citizens need to be educated on working with and providing information to the police whenever they sight an unusual event or persons around them.
“There is also a need to employ more officers to meet up with the actual number needed. I will suggest that we have recruitment twice or thrice annually because there is a limit to the number of personnel that the training school can accommodate at a time.”
‘Quarterly recruitment needed’
Also, a retired Assistant Inspector-General of Police, Ali Amodu, stated that the IG’s directive must have been based on intelligence and because something needed to be done to secure the lives and property.
He said, “We have not attained the global policing standard. Everyone knows that the country is under-policed and some of us have been saying for so long that we need more officers to deal with the issue of insecurity. We are not even talking about the UN standard of one policeman to about 400 citizens yet.
“Although the government and the Force are now making efforts to recruit more officers, the recruitment should be done on a quarterly basis; 10,000 policemen per recruitment thrice annually.
“The truth is that we all cannot run away from the impending doom if we do not proffer solutions to it and keep our people and country safe.”
A retired Commissioner of Police and security consultant, Lawrence Alobi, also noted that the police were grossly under-staffed, especially with the growing population.
Alobi, who is also a lawyer, said, “In reality we cannot cope; the police do not have the manpower to cope based on the challenges, lack of enough equipment, the topography and the motivation from the leaders.
“Today, the government is paying more attention to the military, while neglecting and understaffing the police, which are the pillar of national security. It is unfortunate, and so long as the police are not being taken care of and well-equipped, Nigeria may continue to suffer from insecurity until the right thing is done.
“The government should have the political will to protect the people. I will suggest that they recruit at least 20,000 policemen and officers annually based on the needs of the society. By recruiting more police officers, funding the police properly and equipping them properly, the government is not doing the police a favour, it is doing the society a great favour. People feel safer with police officers around.”
A security expert, Mr Chidi Omeje, argued that the IG’s order was not realistic, considering the number of policemen in relation to the country’s population.
He added, “The Nigeria Police Force has not shown enough seriousness in the fight against terrorism. It is a fact that terrorism is beyond the police because terrorists employ military grade weapons, but the police ought to be the first respondent to internal security issues.
“It is only when the situation is beyond the capacity of the police that the military is expected to come in. The police have left almost every issue – kidnapping, banditry, cultism and armed robbery – to the military, while they (police) are deploying a large number of police to protect VIPs and politicians. That is why our streets are under-policed and that idea is unimpressive.
“There is a need to employ more policemen and officers and we need state police to enable the police to get deeper into the communities rather than staying in offices or going on patrol once in a while. We need about two million police on the ground to protect our population, which is over 200 million. In the United States and other developed countries, states have their police and it is working for them. Every region of this country has its own security challenge. Insecurity is local and security should be localised too.”