Acting Inspector-General of Police, Abubakar Yields To Pressure
Acting Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Abubakar, may have been prevailed upon by entrenched political and business interests to drop his planned withdrawal of police orderlies attached to private individuals.
SATURDAY PUNCH investigations showed that virtually all the previous IGs had made similar declaration to address the issue of the large number of policemen on private duties without success.
Abubakar had on February 13, 2012, ordered with immediate effect, the withdrawal of all approved police guards from private individuals and corporate bodies across the country.
The affected personnel include those given by the Special Protection Unit, the Mobile Police Unit and conventional policemen that were sent out as guards to companies and influential citizens.
Abubakar had also directed the dismantling of all intra-state and highway roadblocks, which he said constituted a nuisance on the roads of Lagos, Edo, and South-Eastern states.
He had stated that the directive was aimed at restoring professionalism, efficiency and integrity in the performance of police duties, adding that the withdrawal would ensure service delivery to the people.
Checks, however, showed that the order was not complied with as the concerned policemen are still performing their escort duties to influential politicians and rich businessmen.
Over 100, 000 policemen are believed to be attached to individuals and corporate organisations as guards to the detriment of the security of the generality of Nigerians.
Abubakar’s predecessors (Tafa Balogun, Sunday Ehindero, Mike Okiro, Ogbonna Onovo and Hafis Ringim) had similarly issued the same directive on assuming office, but the orders were never carried out.
By law, only the President, Vice-President, governors, local council chairmen, magistrates and judges are entitled to police guards.
The privilege has, however, been abused by senior police officers in charge of police commands and formations, who assign junior officers to privileged individuals for pecuniary gains.
The Acting IG had said that the policy was meant to build a strong and vibrant police force to give the country what he called the best policing service.
He had pointed out that every policy statement would be pursued with all seriousness, adding that the time for rhetoric was gone.
He had also ordered the immediate release of all persons detained in police cells without lawful jurisdiction and reiterated his directive that no person should be detained beyond 24 hours except otherwise permitted by the law.
The Acting IG disbanded all squads, teams and other investigating outfits operating under whatever name and collapsed them under the original structures recognised by police standards.
It was learnt that the huge number of policemen involved in the private postings had been a thing of concern to successive IGs, who felt that the number was unacceptable in a nation with 377,000 policemen.
Investigations showed that no previous IG had mustered enough courage to withstand the massive Pressure from the beneficiaries of the police escorts such as politicians, wealthy businessmen and others.
Findings showed that the quest to withdraw police orderlies had always been aborted by influential politicians and the wealthy business class, who the IGs could not afford to offend.
A senior police officer, who confided in our correspondents, said the crime situation in the society, was another factor preventing the planned withdrawal of the policemen.
The source said that it would be impossible for any senior police officer to expose eminent Nigerians to possible attacks by undesirable elements as such people could be killed or even kidnapped.
According to him, any senior officer who withdraws police orderlies would be in a difficult situation to provide explanation if prominent people got killed, robbed or kidnapped.
The source said that the only option open to the police authorities is to reduce the number of such men in the personal entourage of the wealthy to the benefit of the general public and not total withdrawal.
He said, “You see, the power brokers, that is, the politicians, the high and mighty, are behind this thing. They are the beneficiaries. How can a new Inspector-General withdraw police escorts from all these people?
“Apart from the influence, you must take a critical look at the crime situation. The crime situation is a factor. If you withdraw police orderlies, the VIPs would become vulnerable, and the very basis for your defence and protection is destroyed.
“You can only reduce the police details, not totally withdraw them. You have to protect the VIPs because if anything happens to them, it could become a serious embarrassment to the IG and even the force.”
Another source said that successive IGs were restrained by superior political authorities from carrying out the threat to withdraw the police orderlies, especially the men of the Mobile Police Unit.
The source said that under former IG, Hafiz Ringim, the modality for the provision of police orderlies was adjusted.
It was gathered that the situation made the former IG to create a unit known as the VIP Special Protection Unit.
The men of the unit drawn from demobilised riot policemen wear blue beret to distinguish themselves from the regular Police Mobile Unit men and they are stationed in all the six geopolitical zones comprising 12 bases and an unspecified number of units, with a unit having 53 officers.
The foundation officers for the VIP Squad were trained at the Mobile Police Training School, Ila, Osun State and the Nigerian Army School of Infantry, Jaji, last year after which they were deployed in bases across the country.
The squad was part of the reform programme instituted by Ringim to make the police more professional and end the abuse to which its military arm, the Mobile Police Unit, had been subjected to.
The force had said that more personnel would be recruited into the squad as time goes on to beef up its numerical strength, adding that the MOPOL personnel that hitherto provided security for private individuals would be used for their traditional duty of quelling civil disturbances and managing emergency security situations in the country.
However, the recent directive by the Acting IG is causing confusion in the force as it is taken to mean that he does not agree with the ideals behind the establishment of the SPU founded by his erstwhile boss, Ringim.
A senior officer wondered why the new IG would want to undermine the efforts of his predecessor, who created the SPU to stop the abuse of the MOPOL unit.
He said, “The Acting IG has shown he meant business and everyone is impressed with his actions so far, but he needs to be careful how he runs the force otherwise, he might be frustrated and his plans would come to naught.
“How can he direct the withdrawal of all police orderlies when he knows that a special unit was created specifically to provide security for VIPs and others needing special protection?
“Or is he just grandstanding on the issue, which we all believe has been taken care of by Ringim, who created the VIP special protection unit which has stopped the use of MOPOL as orderlies to politicians and private individuals?”
When contacted for comments, a member of the Police Service Commission, Dr. Otive Igbuzor, said the issue was an operational matter that only the police could respond to.
He said the commission expected the police management to take the right decision in respect of the huge number of policemen attached to private individuals and politicians.
“The Police Service Commission is aware that the Acting IG has issued a directive in respect of the huge number of police orderlies attached to private individuals and politicians.
“But we don’t interfere with the running of the police because the issue is an operational matter that only the IG or his public relations officer can respond to, but we expect him to brief us on the issue,” he said.
The Force Public Relations Officer, Olusola Amore, could not be reached for comments as he did not respond to the calls and the text message sent to his telephone on Thursday.
-Additional reports by Fidelis Soriwei. for punch
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