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It’s time the
country listened to its Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Tukur Buratai. The General
has time again complained that his soldiers were increasingly being called upon
to engage in purely police duties. He wished that it were possible to get the
police to relieve his men of these out-of-line duties. Hat way; his men could
then be re-deployed to critical military assignments for which they were best
trained.

The indication
now is that Gen Buratai is not alone on this matter. Not long ago, a panel of
highly placed elder statesmen and eminent personalities put together by the
peace NGO of former Head of State, Gen Abdussalam Abubaka, vindicated the army
chief.

The panel
included retired top army generals, career diplomats, civil servants and other
intellectuals. For two days, they brainstormed on how to sustainably tackle the
challenges of insecurity in the country. Their verdict: the military,
especially the army, should stop performing police duties.

Then enter
Alhaji Lawal Bawa, a retired assistant inspector general of police. In an
interview with the “Daily Trust” edition of edition of June 30th
2019; he was asked what aspect of police duties he would want reviewed. His response:
“I am not happy that able policemen are being sent to become orderlies to
politicians. That should be changed. The politicians use them as orderlies.
That should not be”.

His question
remains pertinent: “Why should elected officials need protection from the very
people they say elected them?” if that does not shake you, what about this?:
“Today, you see Even Criminals (caps mine) applying for police orderlies”. “I
think that shouldn’t be and policemen should be allowed to do their job”.

It is clear that
Gen Buratai, Gen Abdusswalam’s panel and Alhaji Bawa, all have one mind, and it
is firmly bent against the “policecisation” of the military, especially the
army.

In addition to
guarding top politicians and highly placed government officials, you will find
soldiers and policemen guarding companies and top company executives; some
private educational and religious institutions, even palaces. You are also
familiar with them as escorts to fuel tankers, sundry goods trucks, revenue
task forces etc. and, as noted by Alhaji Bawa, you may even have heard of them
providing security for some alleged heads of cult and criminal gangs.

Not done yet,
you also have them manning check-points either alone, on in a mix of personnel
under the name “joint task force” (JTF). This is where the soldiers come into
close contact first, with their police counterparts, and secondly the public at
large.

Now, if you ask me,
the involvement of soldiers with their police counterparts in joint
assignments, especially check-point duties, is probably the worst thing that
has befallen the army. Why! Before our very eyes, so to say, we see the
hitherto very disciplined, no-nonsense soldiers outdoing their police
colleagues in abhor able petty knavery at check points!

It was so
saddening watching them at check-points extorting N100, even N200 from hapless
motorists. Public outcry and strident condemnations kind of jolted the military
command headquarters. It is to their credit that the command headquarters
raised to the occasion. They installed signboards at some army and JTF
check-points urging victims and witnesses to report any extortion to the
commands through the stated GSM numbers.

That, somehow,
appreciably reduced the extortions. It did not stop it entirely though. But the
damage had already been done! The extortion virus contracted by some of the
soldiers from their police colleagues will take some immunizing t get rid of
completely and restore their lost professional integrity for which they were
held in high esteem. For the policemen at these check-points, they will need to
reassure the public that they too still have professional integrity of some
sort to be restored.

Now, how about
the sheer number of policemen and soldiers deployed to checkpoints along some major
inter-state highways? First, the check-points here in Rivers State for
instance, there are three major inter-state highways: the East/West (PH-Warri),
Port Harcourt-Owerri and Port Harcourt-Aba highways.

On any of them,
the first two especially, you would before now, find as many as five
check-points within a two-kilometer distance. Many of them were within
stone-throw or shouting distances from each other. And whether they were manned
solely by soldiers or by JTF, you would find at least, five of them at each
check-point.

In such massive
presence deterred the criminals that operated along those highways, it would
have been bearable. But they didn’t. The criminals still operated as if there
were no check-points.

In addition to
all these, you have a situation where a National or State House of Assembly
member or top Government official visiting his constituency or home with as
many as three to four Hilux convoy of well armed police, military or JTF squad.

For the greater
interest of the country, we can do without this gross abuse of our mainstream
security agencies. It is time Federal and state Governments mustered enough
guts to end this misuse of soldiers and policemen. With the obvious exception
of the President, Vice President, Senate President and his deputy, the Speaker
and the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Chief Justice of
the Country, Governors and their Deputies, the rest top government officials
should look elsewhere for orderlies.

Properly trained
and equipped, the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps can fill the gap
left by the policemen and soldiers, even though the corps is locked in mortal
combat with all manner of sundry criminals and bandits bent on sabotaging the
country’s economic infrastructure especially in the oil industry.

A second option
is the private security organizations. Already, some business organizations
such as commercial banks are patronizing private security firms. Such massive
patronage will boost the private security industry thereby enhancing the
country’s overall security blue-print.

Besides, a
bustling private security business will be the necessary incentive for our
retired and retiring top police, military, DSS officers plunge into it. And why
not! Many are already engaged in non-security ventures like agriculture, marine
and transport etc.

Come to think of
it, private detective business is largely unknown in our clime. With good
incentives and assured patronage, the business could flourish. Before long,
private security training and educational institutions could add to our
existing ones.

If the recent
order to the military, especially the Army and the Air Force, to quickly wrap
up the North Eat war is to be successfully executed, then there is every need
to give immediate ear to Gen Buratai’s call for his men to be relieved of
police duties as a matter of urgency.

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