The Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, on Monday ordered immediate withdrawal of all police orderlies attached to private individuals and companies. This brings the incumbent police chief up to speed with his predecessors in one of the most recurring but ineffective police directives.
At the meeting with police commissioners and assistant inspectors-general at the Force Headquarters in Abuja on Monday afternoon, Mr. Idris said all state commissioners must comply with the orders immediately.
To be withdrawn are officers attached to private individuals and companies — with the exception of private financial institutions— across the country, according Yomi Sogunle, an assistant commissioner of police and head of the police complaints unit.
Mr. Sogunle, who told PREMIUM TIMES he was present at the meeting, said Mr. Idris also issued directives for all spy number plates used by private individuals to be withdrawn. The police regularly issue cover number plates to individuals who are not public officials or occupying sensitive positions that could render them susceptible to debilitating threats.
While the order appears to be the first from Mr. Idris, it contains essentially the same elements as similar directives by former police chiefs over the past decade.
In 2009, Ogbonna Onovo, IGP from 2009-2010, ordered immediate withdrawal of all orderlies attached to private individuals. However, soon after the directive was issued, state commissioners began identifying some private individuals that would be exempted from the policy.
In October 2010, about a month after succeeding Mr. Onovo, Inspector-General Hafiz Ringim called for immediate removal of personnel attached to private individuals, an order that failed to hold water.
In February 2012, Mr. Ringim’s successor, Mohammed Abubakar, also issued his own directive, saying it was time to bring professionalism, efficiency and integrity to police operations.
Mr. Idris’ immediate predecessor, Solomon Arase, also ordered the withdrawal of all officers from private individuals a few weeks before he left office. Like his predecessors, Mr. Arase also complained that the police could not afford to attach officers to private individuals when there are more pressing security challenges across the country.
The demand for officers to be withdrawn from private use has come from successive inspectors-general almost as often as the directive for officers to stop mounting roadblocks in the country.
While the police chiefs have not openly explained the reason why their orders often fall flat, the Police Service Commission (PSC), a body that regulates the police, recently said implementing the order was more difficult than an IGP would admit.
Mike Okiro, chairman of the PSC, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in a recent interview that the police lacked the resources to withdraw personnel from private actors.
Mr. Okiro said about 150,000 out of a total workforce of about 400,000 officers in the country are attached to private individuals and companies.
“We could not sustain the enforcement of the order on the withdrawal of policemen attached to unqualified persons in the country because of lack of fund,” Mr. Okiro, an erstwhile police inspector-general, said.
Even if implemented, the withdrawal order might be short lived. This is because Mr. Idris also asked state commissioners to exercise discretionary powers over who qualifies for police protection in their respective states.
“The IG asked the commissioners to go back to their states and withdraw the police officers from private individuals and companies,” Mr. Sogunle said. “After that, the commissioners would start accepting applications for protection and examine individuals cases to see who has serious security threat that could warrant being granted police protection in their states”
But Mr. Sogunle told PREMIUM TIMES that Mr. Idris appeared determined to see his latest directive through, saying it might even affect some public officeholders.
“The IG recently asked the president to approve the categories of public officials who would be entitled to police orderlies,” Mr. Sogunle said. He added that as soon as the president replies, the police chief would commence immediate implementation of the directive against public officials who have no presidential approval for police protection.