• Friday, June 14, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

Withdrawal of Police from VIPs: Good policy, but ill-timed — Experts

Arrests, collection of looted items, a continuous process – Egbetokun

The Acting Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Olukayode Egbetokun’s recent announcement to withdraw personnel of the Police Mobile Force (PMF) from VIPs escort and guard duties has been described as “good policy, but ill-timed.”

In the policy which has continued to elicit reactions from the public, Egbetokun said at a meeting with the Police Tactical Commanders, in Abuja, that the withdrawal of Mobile Policeman from VIPs was to check abuse of Police personnel.

The announcement came amid public outcry over a viral video that showed a man being escorted by seven Mobil Policemen, as he moved to slaughter cows for the Sallah festivities.

The IGP’s decision has received mixed reactions from public sector analyst who said they were adopting a “wait and see” posture over the issue.

Recall that the President Bola Ahmed Tinubu had promised to reform the Nigeria Police, during his presidential campaign.

In his 80-page manifesto, the President stated that he would start by reforming the Police personnel, by freeing them from extraneous duties such as VIP security and guard duties.

According to him, “VIP Security and provision of security for government buildings, installations and other critical assets will be transferred to The Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps. The NSCDC shall be evaluated and reformed to be better integrated with our internal security apparatus.”

In Nigeria, statistics show that, by the annual ranking in 2016, 2017, and 2018, the Federal Capital Territory ( FCT), is reported to have the greatest police-to-population ratios of 1:121, 1:90, and 1:181, respectively. In contrast however, Bauchi had the lowest police-to-citizen ratio in 2016, with 1:1,188; Abia had 1:1,309 in 2017, and Sokoto had 1:1,511 in 2018.

In comparison, in the United States, cities’ police officer per capita rates vary depending on a range of factors. In 2016, police departments serving cities with populations exceeding 25,000 employed an average of 16.8 officers and 21.4 total personnel for every 10,000 residents.
Washington, D.C., and Chicago recorded the highest tallies of officers per capita among big cities reporting data to the FBI. In general, the largest U.S. cities tend to employ more police officers per capita than mid-sized and smaller jurisdictions, according to statistics obtained online.
Perhaps, disturbed by this trend, the President had, during s campaigns, promised to reform the Nigeria Police Force, during his presidential campaign.

But the Executive Director of Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) Auwal Ibrahim (Rafsanjani), in his assessment of the policy, agreed with the Acting IGP, saying it is the best policy initiative, coming under the current administration, if properly implemented.

“If they are able to implement it, it will be one of the best coming out of this administration,” he said.

Read also: Now that we have a new police chief in Nigeria

Ibrahim, who runs a non-governmental, non-profit, advocacy, information sharing, research, and capacity building organisation, queried why Nigeria should, according to him, “squander millions of tax payers money, protecting a few citizens, at the expense of majority, who are in need of security.
“We have seen situations in which we had as many as seven Mobile Policemen, armed with AK-47 bought with the tax payers money guarding one man. Some have been seen providing security for yahoo, yahoo boys, while the country is generally under-policed.”

He appealed to the acting IGP not to “allow himself to be intimidated by anyone into changing the policy.”

Former FCT Police Commissioner, Lawrence Alobi, while also throwing his weight behind the policy, said that it was “long overdue.”
According to him, “We believe that the welfare of the Police Officers should be on top of the agenda of this administration. I also think that the policy should be pursued with vigour.

Alobi, while commending the courage of the acting IGP for the initiative, urged President Tinubu to support him so that a success can be made out of the policy.

“The Mobile Force Unit was created to quell crises, not to supply personal protection for politicians and even criminals who use them to cover up their crimes.
He noted that the professional capacity of the unit had dwindled over time, because, according to him, “the politicians often refused to release them for the necessary trainings.

“They are either supposed to be on standby, at training or on active duties. But what we now find is that the politicians often don’t allow them to go for such trainings. So, I want the President to support the acting IGP, by talking to his politician friends to free these policemen for the jobs they were employed to do,” he said.

Alobi, who also suggested that other units can be deployed to the VIP section, said if implemented, the policy would help to restore the image of the Police.

But another security expert, C. Okeke, was not so optimistic about the initiative which he described as “Executive recklessness.”

Okeke said: “As far as I am concerned, there is no policy in place, neither have they rolled out any framework for the implementation of this pronouncements.
If you followed the trend, you will notice that every new IGP starts by making such pronouncements, just to play to the gallery and soon after, they will abandon it.”
Okeke noted that it will be impossible to implement the dismantling of either road blocks or withdrawal of Police Mobile men attached to the VIP, without a properly laid out alternatives.
“What we had expected him to do was to call stakeholders, organise a retreat and allow experts make their inputs into his policy initiatives before making it public,” he said.

He lampooned the authorities in the police cycle for always sabotaging good policies.
“It is the same people who have commercialised the policy in the Police force that will end up sabotaging it. So, as far as I am concerned, nothing has changed and nothing will change,” he said.
At a meeting in Lagos last Monday attended by public sector players, the IG’s pronouncement was commended. But they were quick to point out that the police boss has a lot of tasks before him.

They noted that over the years, the Police seemed to have lost sight of their core duties in society, which created a situation where the wealthy people in society have a number of personnel to themselves as guards.

They also suggested that before any meaningful reform could take place, the welfare of police personnel must be properly taken care of.