Thursday, 25 September 2008

Row Over Guard Uniforms

The use of replica uniforms by some private security guards with military agencies is provoking some debates among the people

By Anita Ochoga

Jessica, a Briton who was on a visit to Nigeria was surprised to observe 'naval personnel' guarding one of the banks in the country. At first, she attributed this to the militancy in the Niger Delta region. But on a second thought, Jessica enquired from her host why 'naval personnel' should leave the sea and be guarding a finance house.

Obviously Jessica may not be the only one who usually mistakes private guards with any of the military outfits. Investigations by this magazine on the uniforms of some private guard companies show similarity with the Nigerian navy or the army. For instance, the uniform of the private guard company manning the premises of Bank PHB is a replica to Nigeria Navy. The same with Soltan Security guarding the premises of AMAC Plaza in Wuse zone 3. Main Guard Company, a registered private company based in Jos, Plateau State adopts a replica of Nigeria Army uniform as its uniform. The company is said to be owned by a retired Air Force officer. The uniform of another private guard, Vigil Security is a replica of the Nigeria Air force. All these are in contravention of the Act establishing private guard companies in the country.

A staff at the public affairs department of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, told Newsworld highly connected people do not bother to follow due process in the registration of their guard companies. According to him, with just one phone call, the deed is done, and nobody bothers to know if the laid down procedure is observed thereafter.

Act No 6 section 3 of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corp (Amendment) Act 2007 gives the NSCDC power to register, and from time to time, inspect the premises of private guard companies, their training facilities and approve same if it is up to standard. It also empowers the agency to supervise and monitor the activities of all private guard companies and keep a register for that purpose as well as seal up any private guard company which operates without a valid licence.

These, to many Nigerians may be observed in breach. A staff of the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital, Mrs. Chi-Chi Augustine told Newsworld that children no longer know the difference between a private security personnel and Nigeria military. Sunday Obima, a police officer said it is high time the civil defence reviewed the registered uniform used by private guard companies since some of them conflict with that of the federal security agencies.

A senior army officer at the Mogadishu Barrack accused the civil defence of compromising its responsibilities. He described the conflict in uniform as an embarrassment to the country. “This is what you see in democratic rule; if it were military regime no private security company could try to insult the sensibilities of the federal (security) agencies.”

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