Nigerian Police are serving politicians and not the citizens

Police Chief Ogbonaya Onovo
Police Chief Ogbonaya Onovo

The  Nigeria Police Force are more engaged in allocating officers to politicians rather than attending  to its traditional duty of providing security and safety to the people of Nigeria, according Inspector General Ogbonnaya Onovo.

At lease 25per cent of the entire police capacity are dedicated for the protection of Nigerian politicians and their family, rather than protecting the people.

The Inspector General of Police admitted  that  a large percentage of its staff are located to political office holders adding  that the police force  “don’t have an alternative,”.

The Inspector General of Police, Ogbonnaya Onovo had said during a special interactive session last Thursday.

Inspector Onovo was  speaking  at the Musa Yar’Adua centre in Abuja during  an “Emergency brainstorming session on kidnapping and national security” organised by the alumni of the National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), and the Nigeria Police Force.

He was responding to comments by experts in criminology and sociology at the session who had taken the IG up on the issue of the abuse of the Nigerian Police force by politicians.

The experts had alleged that the police was allocating too many officers to politicians and their family at the expense of the nation’s security and safety.

Acording  to Okey Ibeanu, a professor of social sciences at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, explained that citizens were being forced to provide security for themselves, since the police were concentrating on providing security for politicians and many public office holders..

“There is no study on how much people are spending on security gadgets such alarms, bullet proof vehicles. The money used for these would have been used for other purposes that are more economically productive,” Mr Ibeanu said.

Another speaker,  criminologist Femi Odekunle also , expressed his worries that about 25 per cent (100,000 of the 400,000) of Nigerian policemen were assigned to politicians and their families.

“Security in Nigeria seems to be security for government officials and their personnel rather than for the citizens,” Mr Odekunle, a professor of criminology at the NIPSS, said.

No choice

In his response, Mr Onovo stated that “at times, we don’t have alternatives than to give politicians police cover.

“Even where we cannot provide security for the ordinary man, we should be able to provide security for our key officials.” Mr Onovo said, clarifying that  there were constant threats to the lives and property of political office holders, that warranted devoting such a high number of police personnel to them. He gave an example of one of the discussants at the program, Eyinnaya Abaribe, a serving senator who had been attacked and almost kidnapped several times, which recently led to the death of two of his police orderlies.

The IG expressed his dilemma over the high number of police officers assigned to politicians and their wives further when he said, “when you don’t give, and it (kidnapping or assassination) happens, you are blamed. Why didn’t you give them? When you give and it doesn’t happen, you are blamed. Why give them?”

The Chairman of the occasion, Emmanuel Iheanacho, in his own contribution, suggested the use of members of the National Security and Civil Defence Corps to replace police offices as security to political office holders.

Mr Iheanacho, who is the minister of interior, explained that since the NSCDC officials were now permitted to carry arms, their deployment would free more police officers to fight crime and kidnapping.

Don’t kill kidnappers

The police boss joined David Mark, the Senate President, in recommending that kidnappers should be subjected to the death penalty. Mr Onovo explained that the death penalty would deter would-be kidnappers.

Criminologists, however, condemned the death penalty, saying it was not the right panacea.

Etannibi Alemika, a professor of criminology at the NIPSS explained that armed robbers became more deadly after more stringent penalties were put on armed robbers, saying kidnappers may prefer to kill their victims instead of them getting caught and killed.

The criminologist also explained that what deters people from crime is not the gravity of the punishment, but the knowledge that they could be caught, diligently prosecuted and convicted, using existing laws.

Mr Odekunle, on the other hand, explained that corruption was more inimical to the society than kidnapping, and wondered why politicians as well as the police were not recommending the death penalty for corrupt officials.

“Maybe it is because some of us here are more likely to be involved in corruption than kidnapping,” Mr Odekunle said.

Discussants also complained about the lack of government action despite many similar conferences.

“Our problem is that we talk too much and we never do the right thing,” Mr Abaribe, the Abia Senator said. Echoing Mr Abaribe’s view was Mr Odekunle, who stated his displeasure with continually presenting papers without the government taking any action.

“It is probably only the UN (United Nations) that organises more conferences and sessions,” he said.

Blame governance

There was a general agreement that failure of good governance was the cause of kidnapping.

“It is a problem surely of a failure of governance and we cannot deny it,” said Mr Abaribe.

Mr Alemika explained that the government had to tackle the problem of unemployment to solve the problem of kidnapping, saying “kidnapping today is a symptom of the kidnapping of the nation by a small cabal.” He said people who engaged in kidnapping were the same ones involved in armed robbery and would also be used as political thugs for the forthcoming elections.

“There will be a decline in kidnapping by October, November, and December. IGP Onovo should not claim success then. They would have merely diversified to political thuggery,” Mr Alemika said.

Issa Aremu, the vice president of the Nigeria Labour Congress, explained that when industries like the Aba Textile Mill were functional, youth from Abia and its environs were sure of employment and hardly gravitated towards crime.

Source: Next