Such statements come in different forms and styles, all in a bid by some private security operatives to solicit tips from anyone who passes around them.
One can easily decipher someone who is always tipping the security operatives by the quality of time and energy they dedicate to compliments. “Morn Sir”, “Welcome Ma” are part of the vocabulary.
It is now commonplace to find security operatives carrying the luggage of persons who usually give them tips; to the detriment of their work which also entails searching anyone coming into the premises of an organisation.
These security operatives are hired to man gates, receptions, restricted areas and even checkpoints.
The operatives work at airports, government and private establishments, banks, churches and residential areas and they choose their prospective customers by means of the kind of attire they wear or the type of cars they drive.
The development is now becoming a source of concern to several people, compelling observers to complain about the veiled manner in which the security operatives solicit inducements with reckless abandon.
“Nowadays, I hardly go to any public place where there are security men without thinking of how to evade them and their demands,’’ Mr. Ahmed Omowale, a civil servant in the FCT, said.
The Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), the regulator of private security agencies, says that only 850 out of the 1,360 registered private security outfits in the country are functional.
However, experts insist that the attitudinal problem of the private security operatives is very much counterproductive to their work.
They note that the “begging’’ posture of some private security personnel portends danger to the lives and property of the people they are hired to protect.
“The security operatives are often carried away by their quest for tips to such an extent that they lose focus of their prime responsibility of securing the place,’’ Omowale said.
Therefore, many Nigerians, including Omowale, tend to wonder if there are any guidelines or rules governing the operations of private security operatives, particularly with regard to soliciting and receiving tips or sometimes bribes.
Mr. Nwinyi Nnamdi, the Assistant Commandant General, Private Guard Department of the NSCDC, said that there were extant rules outlawing such behaviour.
“There are regulations; we have what we call the Private Guards Act which guides the operations of practitioners in the field; the ethics of the profession.
“Private guards trying to be `unusually friendly’ with strangers in their place of duty is a common menace that cuts across.
“It is something that we don’t take kindly to because first of all, once someone mortgages himself by soliciting inducements; it goes against the ethics of the profession.
“We definitely frown at it because it goes against the provisions of the Act and there are sanctions which include the dismissal of the affected security guard.
“We are the regulator, if we discover that the practice is common among the security guards of a particular company, we have no other choice than to invite the company down here
“We have field officers and if our monitoring activity confirms that the officers of a particular company have the penchant to compromise, we would withdraw the company’s licence,” he said.
Although he did not disclose the specific number of the companies whose licences had been withdrawn, Nnamdi said that none of the licence withdrawals was anchored on the actions of “unusually friendly’’ personnel.
However, he stressed that the issue of inducement-soliciting guards was a major theme of discussion when the NSCDC licenced 31 private security outfits recently.
He urged the citizens to always endeavour to report any mischievous guard to his employer or the NSCDC.
In spite of the regulations governing the profession, observers wonder if the security companies are aware of the waywardness of some of their staff or they just tend to shy away from sanctioning aberrant workers.
All the same, Mr. Austin Udoh, the Operations Manager of Austria Security Limited, Abuja, said that the punishment for soliciting tips in the company was outright sack
He, however, stressed that the officials of the agency were seriously sensitised to the dangers of soliciting inducements during their training.
“We give them physical training, we teach them how to engage in physical combat, we tell them the dos and don’ts of the profession, and we also caution them to desist from soliciting tips.
“We pay our staff better than so many other outfits in the country; that is why we insist that they must be well behaved anywhere they are stationed,” he said.
It is, however, pertinent to note that the Nigeria Police Force sternly frowns at all forms of inducement, as it outlaws bribery, which attracts grave penalties such as outright dismissal from service.
But observers insist that the measure has not proved to be a pragmatic disincentive to some corrupt officers who still collect bribes.
A school of thought is, however, of the opinion that the tendency of private security operatives and others on similar assignment to collect tips could be blamed on their poor remuneration.
Others reject the notion, saying that poor remuneration cannot be cited as an excuse for dereliction of duty.
On the issue of remuneration, Nnamdi said that the NSCDC was currently looking into how to standardise and improve the remuneration of private security operatives.
“That is why when we are going through the records of the security outfits, we always take note of issues like how much they pay their employees and how much they charge your clients.
“When we look at the records and we see that the company cannot guarantee the payment of a living wage to its staff, we sanction it.
“Our field men are on ground to give us information and even the guards themselves have a complaints unit where they can lodge complaints about the company,” he said.
Besides, Nnamdi said that the NSCDC was now mandating the private security outfits to take insurance policies that could improve the lives and health of their personnel in the event of job-related accidents or even deaths.
All in all, the general consensus of opinion is that the private security business has become a flourishing business in the country.
Observers, nonetheless, underscore the need to make concerted efforts to stem perceptible aberrations in the industry, particularly those relating to the habit of some private security operatives who routinely harass people for tips. (Source: NAN)