Policemen attached to politicians in the ruling All Progressives Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party as well as others serving Very Important Persons in the country will be withdrawn ahead of the February 16 elections.
The Force spokesperson, ACP Frank Mba, told Saturday PUNCH exclusively on Friday that the withdrawal of policemen would affect all categories of VIPs, including state commissioners, businessmen and individuals with police aides.
He said, “The withdrawal of policemen is going to cut across all borders, including politicians, party chairmen, state commissioners and businessmen. It will affect everyone that has policemen attached to them.”
Asked to give the number of personnel that may be affected by the exercise, Mba said he could not provide an estimate.
“I cannot estimate but there are two basic rationale for the withdrawal of policemen; One, we need all hands on deck for the purpose of securing the electoral process.
“Number two, we also need to be proactive in ensuring that unscrupulous people do not hide under the cover of security or policemen providing security to create problems during the elections. These are some of the reasons we need to mop up as many policemen as possible,” he explained.
Saturday PUNCH however gathered from other sources that over 20,000 Special Protection Unit operatives of the force and riot policemen attached to prominent Nigerians would be recalled and deployed for election duties by police authorities.
Some security sources said the number of policemen that would be withdrawn might be as high as 35,000 because the Nigeria Police Force would play leading role in providing security during the elections.
“The Strategic Election Security Operational Plan is a big, complex operation requiring huge deployments; so, all hands must be on deck to ensure its success. The number of men to be recalled from private security duties could be huge, maybe as high as 35,000 or more,” a source stated.
The Acting Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, had earlier given a hint during a meeting with Counter-Terrorism Unit and SPU commanders at the force headquarters in Abuja on Wednesday.
He had explained that the recalled men would provide security for local and international election observers, escort sensitive electoral materials and also protect critical national assets during the exercise.
Adamu said, “In order to ensure full mobilisation and deployment of personnel for these duties, we shall in the coming days prune down or order the withdrawal of SPU and CTU operatives that are currently on non-essential duties including those attached to certain categories of personalities.”
Within the context of the Strategic Election Security Operational Plan of the Force, the IG said the recalled operatives would be deployed to provide specialised protection for electoral officials, including ad hoc personnel of the Independent National Electoral Commission.
He added that the officers would also be part of the operatives that would secure INEC’s facilities across the country while some of them would patrol the public space before, during and after the elections.
It was gathered that some of them would act as a reserve force that could be deployed for rapid response to crisis areas during the elections.
Over 50,000 policemen are attached to private individuals including politicians, businessmen, former governors and senators and Very Important Persons across the country.
Past IGs had pledged to reduce the number of policemen attached to influential individuals but lacked the political will to do so.
The beneficiaries of police protection are known to pay the police authorities for the security services provided by the cops.