Though he had promised on several occasions to withdraw the riot policemen on bodyguard protection duty, checks indicated that many PMF personnel were still attached to traditional rulers, politicians and other dignitaries who were not constitutionally entitled to personal police protection.
Findings indicate that the IG, like his predecessors, may have been playing to the gallery by promising to restructure and professionalise the police to serve the public instead of the elite.
Although the police had a Special Protection Unit assigned for the protection of important personalities on request, many private individuals and corporate organisations preferred the services of riot policemen, who were believed to be more effective than the conventional policemen serving in the SPU.
Instead of applying for personnel in the SPU, dignitaries preferred to approach senior officers who could influence the deployment of riot personnel for protection, contrary to the force policy.
Idris, shortly after assuming office in June, 2016, promised to stop using the PMF personnel for bodyguard protection duty, noting that they were trained to handle crises and riots.
He said, “I was AIG Operation and I know the challenges we faced. What we are saying is that the PMF and the Counter – terrorism Unit are going to be withdrawn from individuals and this time, we mean it.
“We have more security challenges in the country and we cannot continue to deploy them as bodyguards. The PMF operatives are not bodyguards, they are trained as response unit to take care of riot and they are going back to their primary responsibility. The Special Protection Unit would not provide guard and protection for individuals.”
Also, at a meeting with squadron commanders at the Force headquarters, Abuja, last Wednesday, Idris warned them against fragmenting the PMF or deploying them for bodyguard duties.
Four days after the meeting, photographs surfaced on the Internet on Monday, showing two armed riot policemen on bodyguard duty with the Olu of Warri, Ogiame Ikenwoli.
The Force Public Relations Officer, Donald Awunah, could not be reached for comment as calls to his telephone failed to connect. He had yet to respond to an SMS as of the time of filing this report.