The Nigeria Police has been turned into a private army for hire by powerful and connected people in Nigeria, in a corruption-ridden police-for-hire scheme. For less than 50 Thousand naira anyone can retain the service of a police officer, to, among other things, be their driver, bodyguard, and errand boy. Virtually every Inspector General of Police of the last decade has lamented this situation, all promising to end what is essentially a national embarrassment and a betrayal of taxpayers. Unfortunately, they have all failed in their reform project, as the corruption surrounding the police-for-hire scheme permeates the entire police force and makes it difficult for internal reform. Senator Isah Misau alleged in 2017 that the Police top hierarchy illegally made around 120 Billion naira per annum from the scheme.
Besides the corruption, the scheme also burdens an already overburdened police force. Listen to Parry Osayande, a former deputy inspector general of police on the matter: “Another practice which, in recent time, has been inhibiting the effective performance of the Nigeria Police is the deployment of about 100,000 of its 377, 000 personnel to personal protection and guard duties. It has become a status symbol for the nouveau rich Nigerians to pay for the services of Policemen and women to be attached to them on guard duty, and by so doing deny the majority of Nigerians Police protection. This has greatly affected the deployment of Policemen to beats and public place, and thus portend danger for policing.”
I used to belong to the camp of those who find this scheme upsetting. In fact, as recently as a few days ago, I expressed indignation at a picture of a non-Nigerian entrepreneur posing with her police bodyguards. The said entrepreneur clapped back at me on Twitter, claiming she has earned the right to those police officers because she pays N150,000 every month for them. (It’s always interesting how foreign businesses and individuals tap into the grace of the Nigerian corruption while they are here without any compunction.) According to her and her supporters, her decision to have these police officers does not in any way affect taxpayers who are left with a police force that’s deprived of a chunk of its personnel. Expressing my indignation at the situation is, therefore, an attempt on my part to guilt trip individuals like the entrepreneur who have earned their right to monopolise police resources.
I am happy to announce that I have now changed my mind on this issue. It is clear to me now that instead of being annoyed at the selective privatisation of police services, I should be pushing for the regularisation of the scheme. Successful citizens and residents alike should be able to get as many police officers as they want. However, instead of the current system of poor taxpayers subsidising their choice, they should be compensating the Nigerian people for hollowing out an already understaffed force. Say we loan 100,000 police officers at 6 Million Naira a year for each officer, we can bring in 600 Billion naira. However, it is certain that not everyone who currently thinks they need police bodyguards would be able to afford one immediately this new regulation goes up, so it’s smart to put our revenue target at 50% of 600 Billion Naira. With a fresh 300 Billion Naira accruing to government treasury (as against the pockets of police Ogas), we can afford to employ 100,000 new police officers to replace the 50,000 in private service, with enough change to improve the currently mediocre capital budget of the police. This is a win-win situation for everyone.
I concede that this might not be a win for those who are currently using the service simply because of how cheap it is. I have no doubt that this group would be just fine like the rest of us who go about our work without police bodyguards at our beck and call. If they find living in Nigeria harder without 24-hour police protection, they might be interested in joining their fellow citizens and residents in demanding for a better police system, instead of resorting to the use of a system that (currently) contributes to the insecurity plaguing the country.
Sodiq Alabi tweets from @SodiqAlabi1.
The views expressed in this post are those of the author and in no way reflect those of Nigerian Diary