It is official. Police officers volunteered to wealthy politicians and businessmen (also referred to as Very Important Persons) will be withdrawn. This long awaited policy decision was announced by Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, after a meeting he held with commissioners of police and other senior officers, Monday, in Abuja. The action taken also affects corporate organisations. Idris said the withdrawal of “special protection” for such privileged individuals and organisations was in response to increasing security challenges facng the country. “In view of the current security challenges in the country”, he explained, “it has become expedient for the Nigeria Police Force to streamline the deployment of its personnel attached to political and public officers, aimed at enhancing effective and efficient policing of the country”.
To implement the decision a task force has been created at Force Headquarters in Abuja, headed by an assistant commissioner of police, Mr. Mohammed Dankwara. In the states, commissioners of police are in charge.
We note that the withdrawal of this special privilege for VIPs is not forever. NO, it is not. It only serves as a breathing space or a window for the authorities to sanitize the way and manner in which this privilege is given. Idris said, “a memo will be forwarded to the President (Muhammadu Buhari) for approval which will serve as a guideline or template for deployment of (police officers) to VIPs, political and public office holders”. He said henceforth, businessmen, corporate organisations and individuals who “are found worthy” of special protection would have their “application for revalidation” vetted by a Special Protection Unit at Headquarters. At the state level, commissioners of police will be responsible for that. “I am charging the commissioners of police with the responsibility of supervising such official deployment, and, thereby holding them accountable”, the IGP said.
We applaud the police authorities for finally mustering the will power to do the needul. At its current strength of 370,000 in a country of supposedly 170 million people, the police force is too small and, therefore, not well placed to detect and fight crime. This gives us a ratio of 50 policemen to 100,000, whereas what is recommended by the United Nations is 222 policemen to 100,000 persons. A rising national crime rate, including the insurgency in the northeast, have exposed the soft underbelly of the police. Now this has been worsened by deadly herder-farmer clashes in all the 36 states.
It is because the nation is underpoliced that Nigerians have, for long, asked that officers who have been ‘offerred’ to VIPs not entitled to them, be withdrawn and deployed where the nation needs them. Besides, we have observed the disdain police officers receive at the hands of the so called VIPs. Some policemen are known to hold the handbags of the wives of these ‘ogas’. Others have been captured in videos holding umbrellas over the heads of white expartriates in the rain. This shabby treatment of our policemen must stop.
The announcemt of the withdrawal of police officers from the homes of wealthy men and premises of corporate organisations is the first step towards halting this debasement of our policemen and women. The second and most important is to implement the decision to the letter. We do not see why the withdrawal should not be permanent. It may be reopened only at a time that we believe the police force is better placed to secure the nation and its citizens.