It’s an indisputable fact that Nigeria with an estimated population of over 170 million people is grossly under policed with about 400, 000 personnel which is a far cry from the United Nations’ recommendation of 222 Policemen per 100, 000 citizens.
So many reasons have been adduced for the poor and inadequate policing of the Nigerian state as well as the structural deficit and abuse of the police by the elites for purposes other than their constitutional functions, but this is another topic for another day.
One has observed that on assuming office, every newly appointed Inspector General of Police (IGP) whether in acting or substantive capacity, try to warm their way into the hearts of Nigerians by immediately rolling out “short term” directives that seem to suggest repositioning the police to become public friendly, effective and efficient to their statutory functions.
However, despite the various attempts whether real or cosmetic to reform and reposition the Nigeria Police by successive administrations, one area that seems to defy solution is the abuse of the constitutional functions and dignity of the noble profession of policing by some persons dressed in Police uniforms or in mufti T-shirts with Police logo or with locally sewed like traditional chiefs hats but with Police inscription as identification, who parade our markets or stand by the road sides on interstate roads soliciting to be hired as escort of goods to any part of the country for a fee which one has appropriately titled “Policemen for hire”.
The threat posed to national security by these category of “for hire Policemen” is an indictment on our security system and an embarrassment to the dignified profession of policing which continues to be looked down upon erroneously by the populace as an occupation suitable only for misfits and the never do well in the society.
The threat to national security by the commercialization and abuse of the Police can be seen in the fact that these “for hire Policemen” are only interested in the money to be made from the escort job and are less concerned about whether the goods are stolen or not. By this act, the Police are thus complicit and guilty of emboldening persons to commit crime and violation of the laws for which they are established to uphold.
Reflecting on this national problem, necessitated some fundamental questions requiring urgent answers, among which are;
- Are these “For Hire Policemen” captured in the Nigeria Police data?
- On whose instruction or authority are these commercial Policemen carrying out this duty?
- Has the constitution been amended to allow for the Nigeria Police to be hired for commercial purposes?
- Is it part of the functions of modern day policing for policemen to be at markets or waiting on interstate roads soliciting for escort of vehicles carrying goods?
- Is this action not an assault on the dignity of the respectable profession of Policing?
- Can citizens anywhere in the world have respect for a Police that can be hired for any purpose whether legitimate or otherwise for money?
- Is this act a function of the poor working condition of the average police man who has to make ends meets by supplementing his income through acts that undermines national security and the integrity of the profession?
During one of my trips out of Lagos and back just about a week ago, one was seriously disturbed to see these “for hire Policemen” standing on the road side and soliciting for customers to escort. On my way out of Lagos, one saw them just like other passengers who don’t go to the bus park to board and are popularly referred to as “Soole” standing at key points on the road from after former Lagos tollgate end, Berger bus stop to the long bridge and one immediately knew that they were not on official duty of providing security, but out to carry out their own personal business.
And on the way back into Lagos, one saw these “for hire Policemen” right from around former Ibadan tollgate axis, Ogere tollgate, under the Sagamu interchange bridge, and from MFM church axis standing on the road side, waiting to be hired. Infact, at a point on the journey, one’s security sense was aroused by the presence of these “for hire policemen” that one thought that, are these genuine Policemen or robbers disguised standing on the road and waiting for when to strike to block the road and carry out their nefarious activity? That was the temporary shock one experienced until the sixth sense now came to the rescue of decoding that these are “for hire Policemen” and not robbers, but that is not to say that criminals will not be capitalizing on this shortcoming of our security system to unleash havoc on the society.
Thus, the time has come to call on the Nigerian Police authorities to move swiftly to address this threat to national security and a denigration of the dignity of the Police force which is at the lowest ebb and is a contributory factor militating against a robust Police public relationship in surmounting our security challenges.
The coming on board of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration of change, presents us with a Golden opportunity to do the needful now!