The Association of Licensed Private Security Practitioners of Nigeria (ALPSPN) recently made an appeal to the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, for private security guards in Nigeria to be permitted to bear arms. Citing examples from Rwanda, Morocco and South Africa, the leader of the association, Wilson Esangbedo, argued that countries where private guards carry arms appear to experience better security.
As admitted by Mr Esangbedo, Section 17 of Private Guard Decree of 1986, as amended in 2004, prohibits private security guards from carrying arms. But ALPSPN, in its submission to the minister, wanted an amendment to the law, contending that if private security guards are legally permitted to carry arms, some 216,000 policemen who bear arms would have their burden relieved and made to carry out core police duties without distractions.
The association further asked “for a seat in the National Security Council where we can proffer our ideas on how we can strengthen national security efforts and initiatives…” No doubt, private security guards have become an integral part of the country’s security architecture. They deal with issues related to trespassing, burglary, theft, or threats to their clients.They are mostly utilized by private individuals and commercial enterprises. In spite of the important roles they play, private security guards are not agents of state, so they are not given the powers to arrest and detain criminal suspects.
The work of private security guardscomplements those of police officers, because wherever they operate, they ensure vigilance, vet and monitor those who come in and go out, monitor close circuit televisions, write reports on activities at their duties posts on a daily basis and are trained to be vigilant wherever they operate. Some are saddled with other clerical responsibilities, like receiving phone calls, responding to text and email messages. For these and similar other roles they play, these guards could and should be sources of intelligence information to the police and other State security organisations. It is a well-known fact in Nigeria that intelligence information is vital for national security, so if private security guards play this role effectively, it would make more impact than if they are given weapons.
At present, several security outfits in the country bear weapons, but this has not translated to improved security in Nigeria. The Nigerian Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC), which should ordinarily be policing public infrastructure and assisting Nigerians in danger, now bear weapons. Even a section of the Nigerian Immigration Services (NIS) has been authorized to carry weapons. Combined with the Army, Air Force, Navy Ratings and Mobile Police Force, there are too many weapons in the hands of security personnel already. If private security guards are granted the permission to bear weapons, every corner of the country’s cities would be flooded with AK-47 and small arms, which is more of a threat rather than a boost to national security.
Instead of giving private guards weapons, we call on the Ministry of Interior to tighten the regulatory framework under which ALPSPN operates. This association should be compelled to pay, at least, thecountry’s minimum wage to its employees, and such payments should be enhanced based on the educational qualifications of employees. Many Nigerians who have to take up employment as security guards are paid ridiculous salaries while the chief executives of their organisations live ostentatious and lavish lifestyles. This is unacceptable. Secondly, the training curriculum and activities of these private security companies should be vetted by Interior Ministry. From the behavior and lack of self-confidence of private security guards in Nigeria, it is obvious that they were not properly trained, and, therefore, do not demonstrate the capacity to gather intelligence information on criminal suspects. Such individuals cannot effectively secure the private or business organisations they are supposed to protect, not to talk of gathering intelligence information for the police. What they would use AK-47 or small arms to do, if given, can be imagined.