Monday 21 July 2014

The Private Security & Investigation Industry in Nigeria: Opportunities, Challenges and the Way Forward

Written by: Don Okereke

Security and safety are sine qua non for human existence, survival and development. Renowned Greek historian-Herodotus was said to have opined two millennial ago that: ‘’great deeds are usually wrought at great risks’’. This assertion is apt in our increasingly precarious dog-eat-dog world. It follows that no individual, business or government will thrive in an atmosphere of wanton unpredictability and insecurity. Because it is difficult to place a price tag on peace of mind, governments, organizations and individuals that truly value certainty and peace of mind around the world appropriate huge war chest to Security and safety.

Global Perspective:
Globally, the Private/Industrial Security & Investigation Industry is big business and also a vast employer of labour. A 2013 benchmark study by ASIS International and the Institute of Finance and Management indicates that the United States Security industry is a $350 billion market. A breakdown of this shows $282 billion in private sector spending and $69 billion in federal government spending on homeland security.

The reliance on Private Military and Security Companies (PMSCs) revved up over the last two decades sequel to incidents and interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Gulf of Aden, Libya, and Liberia amongst others. The September 11 attack on the United States was also a game-changer to the security industry.

At a time it became fashionable for regular combatants to switch sides: disengage from the armed forces and pitch their tent with Private Military Security and Companies because of the mouthwatering offers that the later availed.

The crème de la crème of multimillion billion dollar and most powerful private security companies in the world include: G4S, Securitas AB, ADT, AlliedBarton, DynCorp, Gardaworld, Booz Allen Hamilton, CACI International, The Brink's Company, Pinkerton Government Services, International Intelligence Ltd, Erinys International, Andrews International, Defion International, ICTS International, Corps Security, KBR, GK Sierra, Aegis Defence Services, Triple Canopy, ACADEMI (formerly known as Backwater) and Prosegur (said to have 150,000 staff strength) which is more than some countries armed forces.

Security: A Constantly Evolving Industry:
Spent are the days when a poorly dressed, haggard-looking, baton-wielding, amulet-wearing old man opening and closing the gate of an establishment epitomizes a Security Professional. These days it is a norm to see Security Professionals donning three-piece designer suit with silk ties. With Closed Circuit (CCTV) Cameras and other electronic and remote-controlled/Internet Protocol (I.P) Networked Access Control devices/installations; a Security Professional can monitor an entire organization, estate or facility on a laptop in the comfort of a well-furnished office. The Security profession has become more eclectic, complex, inter-connected and ever-expanding. It inter-alia encompasses disciplines like ‘’Enterprise Security Risk Management’’ (ESRM)-identifying risks/vulnerabilities in an establishment and mitigating them, ‘’Security Convergence’’-the inter-dependence of IT, Physical Security, Safety etc in an organization; Fraud/Loss Deterrence; forensic investigation etc. Sure it’s not every so-called ‘Security Man’ or even educated folks are familiar with aforementioned terminologies.

Due to the global and growing demand for the services of talented Professional Security experts, academic programs leading to the awards of B.Sc, M.Sc and PhD's in Security related fields have become very attractive and rewarding. Today, a plethora of Security Professionals are highly educated and can hold their own. 

The Nigerian Experience
By acts of commission or omission, successive administrations in Nigeria have not done enough to nip insecurity in the bud. Most administrations treated the symptom and not the causative agent of the disease leading to a deferment of the evil day.

It beggars belief that a country like Nigeria peopled with about 160 million people has a police force of plausibly 370,000 officers and men. This grossly falls short of the United Nations recommendation of police to people ratio of 1:450. The consequence is that Nigeria Police and other security establishments are ceaselessly over-stretched and overwhelmed.

The aforementioned scenario accentuates the relevance of the Private/Industrial Security and Investigation Industry and professionals in Nigeria. If well-harnessed, the Private Security Industry in Nigeria has the capacity to ameliorate the unprecedented levels of unemployment, crime and insecurity especially now that the country grapples with vestiges of insurgency and terrorism.

Aside Crude Oil, Security is definitely another money sapping and spinning sector in Nigeria. Defence and Police got N319.65bn and N348.91bn respectively, the biggest chunk of the 2013 federal budget.

As I update this article, President Jonathan is seeking approval for a $1 billion loan to be channeled to the fight against Boko Haram. This is in addition to $6 billion allocated to defense and security in the 2014 federal budget. States and Local Governments also set aside their own budgets for Security. Recall that each of the 36 State governors in Nigeria is supposedly entitled to N6bn annually as ‘’Security Vote’’. Some school of thought alleges the monies are often embezzled since the lordly governors don't owe anybody explanations as to how the money is expended. Also bring to mind, the huge amounts that individuals, formal and informal sectors apportion to Security.

The unparalleled and swarming unemployment rate, failure of governance (weak judiciary/other public institutions), unprecedented levels of corruption, culture of impunity, religion fundamentalism/radicalism, inefficient Political system, under-staffed & inadequately trained/equipped/motivated Police force etc has continued to fan the embers of crime, insecurity, terrorism and other social vices in Nigeria.

The exponential trend in instability, insecurity, unpredictability in Nigeria gives rise to a geometrical demand for the services of Private Security Companies and Professionals. Many private and commercial organizations-Banks, Oil companies, Housing estates, embassies, even churches and mosques are increasingly strengthening their Security departments and apparatus.

Buoyed by the flourishing and lucrative business opportunities in the Private Security and Investigation Industry in Nigeria, a lot of foreign Security establishments have made inroads into Nigeria and are smiling to the banks. Aside provision of Guard and ancillary services, sale of Security Gadget is also booming.  Individuals and organizations are spending a great deal to protect their lives and properties since not even the government can guarantee the safety of lives in Nigeria. It is not unusual to see metal and explosive detectors been used to frisk people and cars entering into public offices, churches and mosques. One hopes the so-called ‘’Detectors’’ deployed are state-of-the-art with excellent ‘’Sensitivity and selectivity’’ capabilities. I will return to this sometime.

Challenges Bedeviling the Private Security Industry in Nigeria:
In most Western democracies and other countries where the rule of law holds sway, it is anomalous to see Police officers guarding Private individuals, banks or other commercial establishments. The Police are strictly meant to protect the citizenry. The reverse is the case in Nigeria. Successive Police administrations pay lip-service to ensuring that the Police rigorously cleave to its statutory and constitutional role. Will it amount to letting the cat out of the bag to speculate that Police (MoPol) escort or protection in Nigeria is for the highest bidder? With staff strength of about 370,000 Police officers, Nigeria is grossly under policed. Out of this number, almost every Bank branch in Nigeria boast of say 3-4 Police (MoPol) officers on their payroll not forgetting those attached to foreign embassies and telecommunication companies. All the 774 Local government Chairmen in Nigeria and all the National Assembly members (House of Representatives and the Senate), all Ministers, all 36 state governors, their wives, children, girlfriends, concubines cum relatives, party chieftains, political godfathers, celebrities, money bags amongst others have Police Orderlies. Depending on how close you are to the powers that be, soldiers too can be thrown into the mix. So how many Police officers are actually out there in the streets fighting crime?

The peculiar security challenges bedeviling Nigeria may have extenuated the Police abandoning its statutory role. This status quo has been tolerated for too long and must not become a norm.

Another serious challenge confronting the Private Security Industry in Nigeria apart from its roles been usurped by the police, is the Byzantine bureaucracy and high cost of registering, licensing a Private Security Company and also dearth of professional code of conduct. Again this is also attributed to the fact the agency – the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) tasked with regulating the Private Security Industry is not fit for purpose. Apparently the NSCDC, a Para-military outfit is encumbered and overwhelmed with the onerous responsibility of law enforcement/fighting crimes, chasing Crude oil pipeline vandals etc hence is not well suited to manage Nigeria's Private Security Industry. Regulation of a Sector should not be about increasing cost of registration/acquiring licenses or arbitrarily shutting down erring firms. This does more harm than good leading to genuine Operators operating outside the rules. A regulator will do well to minimize, remove unnecessary bottlenecks and make financial commitments expected from its clients affordable.

A while ago, Nigeria’s Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) supposedly slashed the cost of incorporating a Company by upwards of 70%. In addition to duly incorporating a Private Security Company, there is also a requirement to obtain a license from the NSCDC. Research indicates that the process of Incorporating and acquiring a PSC license in Nigeria is pricey and unnecessarily very cumbersome. Inter alia, the NSCDC stipulates that a prospective Private Security Company in Nigeria must have a minimum share capital of ten million naira! It goes further to state that "all directors of the prospective security company must be Nigerians. It is such ill-thought out policies that hamper business activities and discourages prospective foreign investors. It appears this is a paper tiger that is been circumvented anyway. A registration fee of N500, 000 in addition to other sundry levies and probably payment of bungs will accrue the whole cost into millions of naira. After payment of the fee, investigation will be conducted by the State Security Service (SSS) before applications will be considered and approval given by the Minister of Interior. Envision the toll, unnecessary duplication of roles, bureaucracy and bottleneck associated with this process. You see why there is a plethora of unregistered Private Security Companies in Nigeria.

In line with global standards, there is nothing wrong allowing folks legally resident in Nigeria and devoid of criminal character to be a director of a Private Security Company. There are many Nigerians legally resident abroad (not the naturalized citizens of their host country’s) that run Private Security Companies. Two of the richest men in Britain today are Russian born Chelsea football club owner- Roman Abramovich and Indian born steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal. They are not UK citizens but I am pretty sure both can own and run a mere Private Security Company in the United Kingdom if they so wish and meet the requirements. A foreigner being the Director of a Private Security Company does not necessarily impinge on National Security. Yes, for Critical National Infrastructures you can insist that the Private Security Company bidding for such a contract must be wholly indigenous. By the way where was this clause, proviso when our ogas-at-the-top reportedly awarded a $40 million "Open Source Internet Monitoring System and Personal Internet Surveillance System" contract to Elbit Systems, an Israeli firm? It is a threat to National security for a non Nigerian to be a Director of a Private Security Company but it is not a threat to ‘outsource’ the private information of plus or minus100 million phone, Internet users in Nigeria to a foreign company. Double speak!

Devoid of a comprehensive database and fingerprints of ex-convicts/felons in Nigeria, it is plausible that a supposed Security Professional is an ex-convict, cultist or even a terrorist. Cases like this abound even in the Police and Armed forces of convicted criminals and dismissed Personnel’s enlisting and re-enlisting into the fold. This is a clarion call to Security Companies, organizations and the government Security Services to stringently vet and do background check on their prospective Security Professionals. 
Envision the far-reaching consequences of inadvertently having a terrorist or an unrepentant ex-convict as a Security Staff of an organization.

Also of contention in Nigerian Private Security circles is whether or not to allow Private Security Professionals to bear arms. Officially PSO’s in Nigeria are not allowed to bear arms but it seems there is a way around this. My take on this is that allowing every Tom, Dick and Harry to bear arms may be counter-productive. However if need be, let there be a stringent condition or requirement. I will be more comfortable with ex-servicemen working in Private Security circles bearing arms than a typical civilian with little or no weapon handling or firearms skills.

With the exception of Private Security Operatives (PSO’s) employed by multinational companies, embassies, telecom firms and other big players in the Sector, the remuneration package of an average low skilled PSO in Nigeria is nothing to write home about; plausibly fifteen thousand naira (N15, 000.00) i.e. about $100 a calendar month whereas his counterpart, say a ‘Doorman’ in the street of London or Manchester, with little or no education, earns upwards of twenty pounds (£20) or more an hour! Given the extremely precarious security terrain in Nigeria, a cheering salary/welfare package and life insurance will definitely boost the morale of a PSO in Nigeria. The effort, sacrifices of PSO's in Nigeria must be commended and appreciated.

Instead of esprit de corps, there is subtle rivalry and mutual distrust between mainstream government security agents seconded to most commercial establishments and the in-house Private Security Operatives hired by those organizations. Private Security Operatives simply compliment the efforts of the Police and other Security agencies. They are not in any way competing with mainstream government Security agencies.

Another major issue that has bogged the Private Security and Investigation Industry in Nigeria is the prevalence of unconventional groups like the OPC, Bakassi Boys, Egbesu boys and other local vigilantes. These unconventional groups now vie for Security contracts and they get them because they have all the good contacts in the right places. With Oil Pipeline and Maritime Protection contracts in their kitty, many ex-Niger Delta Militants have metamorphosed into nouveau-riche multi-billionaires.

In South West Nigeria, some organizations, neighborhoods and individuals will use the services of the OPC for security during the night but will not be proud to have those same OPC chaps during the day. It is a well-known fact that most of these irregular Security groups bank on their native charms for their work. There is no doubt that some of the groups mean well and maintain some semblance of social order. However the problem is with their modus operandi which usually leads to extra-judicial killings when a suspect or a culprit is apprehended. Sadly, some mainstream government security agencies are also enmeshed in extra-judicial killings. It beggars belief that a suspected criminal or terrorist in Nigeria will be cut down without extracting sensitive and helpful information from him.

Paper-tiger Professional Security Bodies:
There are about five or so different Private Security Professional Associations in Nigeria vis-à-vis the National Professional Security Association (NPSA), Nigerian Chapter of the American Society for Industrial Security (ASIS), the Society of Security Practitioners of Nigeria (SSPN), the Security and Safety Association of Nigeria (SSAN) and the Association of Private Security Practitioners in Nigeria (APSPN).

These professional security associations in Nigeria must present a united front, speak with one voice and fight for the interest of the profession. They must go beyond collecting dues, levies and avenues for networking; they should bark and bite - enforce standards - minimum wage, background checks on prospective PSO's, maximum working hours, basic and ongoing training amongst others.

Certifications, Certifications, Certifications:
The penchant to acquire and flaunt even titular foreign and local certifications transcends the Private Security Industry in Nigeria but is entrenched in the psyche of the nation. Savvy mushroom organizations, institutions are taking advantage of this frenzy. Please, I repeat, please don't get it twisted; certifications, academic qualifications and membership of professional bodies are highly recommended. But let also bear in mind that the foregoing are not the only ways of measuring competence and aptitude. There are folks that for one reason or the other lack the prerequisites for such qualifications and certifications but are on top of their game. Let’s have a mechanism, a system that rewards hard work and selfless service to humanity. For instance, what meaningful contribution has the person made to the profession or in the service of humanity? In the UK, teachers, cleaners are awarded the coveted MBE (Member of the British Empire, plausibly an equivalent of Nigeria's MON) in recognition of their contributions in the service of society.

Americans are adept at creating wealth through ‘intellectual Products’ and the service industry. While the Chinese, Japanese etc engineers are busy churning out state-of-the-art gadgets/electronics, they still need an American ‘certification’ or validation to prove that they are on top of their game. Certifying Organizations must rise beyond pecuniary resource from prospective candidates or members.

A classic example suffices: the American Society for Industrial Security (ASIS) is undisputedly a coveted global brand. As intelligent and competent as they are, many Private Security Officers in Nigeria cannot comfortably cough out $450 to sit for ASIS's ‘Certified Protection Professional’ (CPP) examination or pay $170 for annual membership of ASIS. It is easier for an American Private Security Officer (PSO) earning say $3,000 a month to appropriate such an amount than for his Nigerian counterpart earning say N40, 000.00 ($250) a month to do the same.

In view of the high exchange rate of the Naira to the dollar, Nigerians and other poor African countries have a very strong case to make for the ASIS hierarchy to reduce or subsidize part of these fees for them. Otherwise a plethora of qualified and competent would-be members will be disfavored.

Global Case Studies: Requirements, Costs of Obtaining a Private Security License:

The United Kingdom:
In the United Kingdom, the process of registering and running a Private Security Company is seamless and very straightforward. The UK Security Industry Authority (SIA) grants two types of licenses: the Frontline and non-frontline. The license costs about £220 (about fifty thousand naira) for a three year license. There is no proviso that you must be a UK citizen before you can be a director of a Private Security Company in the UK. You are good to go so long you are legally resident and you don't have a criminal background. Sequel to undergoing stipulated training, acquiring either the front line or non-frontline license and registering/incorporating your company, you are entitled to run a Security company. Of course in many European countries and America, one can have a company incorporated within 48 hours and costs as low as £15 in the United Kingdom.

The Private Security Authority (PSA) in Ireland which was established pursuant to the Private Security Services Act 2004 is the statutory body with responsibility for licensing and regulating the private security industry in Ireland. The PSA issues two types of licenses:
(1) Contractor Licenses: required by companies, partnerships and sole traders providing security services in the Republic of Ireland and
(2) Individual Licenses (Employee Licenses): required by all those working in the security sector within the state whether employed by a licensed contractor or directly by a business as in house security personnel. Licenses are issued for a period of two years.

New entrants to the security industry (those without a turnover in licensable sectors) only pay the administration fee of €1,000 whereas an employee license is categorized into (a) Door Supervisor (licensed premises) license which costs €130 and (b) Security Guard (static) license which costs €80. A combined license (Applied for at the same time) costs €190.

South Africa:
The Private Security industry in South Africa is regulated by the Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority (PSIRA). Due to a robust and encouraging regulation, South Africa's Private Security industry boasts of about 9,320 registered companies and more than 400,000 Private Security Guards. In terms of ownership of Private Security Company in South Africa, a recent amendment stipulates that "51% ownership of a Security Company must vest in South African citizens". Also the process, cost of getting the required license and paper work is not as cumbersome and expensive as it is in Nigeria.

Why can’t Nigeria take a cue from the aforementioned best practices? Right now some countries are even privatizing policing and their prison service yet we are stuck in the past in Nigeria.

A Case For A "Private Security Industry Authority of Nigeria":
Drawing from the aforementioned countries and best practices, there is need for infusion of fresh ideas in the running of the Private Security Industry in Nigeria. In a country of 160 million or more people, an under-staffed Department of the NSCDC is certainly bogged down with law enforcement and crime fighting. Perhaps this explains why it is struggling to be innovative in monitoring PSC's and PSO's in the nook and cranny of Nigeria. In the light of this, I propose a full-fledged, self-funding and autonomous civil ombudsman to be known as the "Private Security Industry Authority of Nigeria" (PSIAN) peopled with seasoned security experts that will run such a body. Yes, the NSCDC can perhaps still play some oversight function but the day to day running of private security companies in Nigeria will rest with the proposed PSIAN. This arrangement will give the NSCDC enough time to concentrate in its forte- fighting crimes/law enforcement.

It is pertinent that Private Security Professionals in the nook and cranny of Nigeria are adequately trained, re-trained and licensed (badged) after undergoing prescribed training and passing the required assessment.

The same rules/conditions and standards that applies to the Private Security Professional in Illela (Sokoto State), must apply to the one in Mubi (Adamawa State), Etinan (Akwa Ibom), Ohaozara (Ebonyi) and Badagry (Lagos) etc. There will be a license for Frontline and non-frontline Operatives with different designations or specializations.

The Way Forward:
On March 16, 2012, over 55 international private security companies met in Geneva to sign an international code of conduct (ICoC) for private security service providers. Inter alia, the ICoC promotes self regulation of the security industry.

The Private Security Industry in Nigeria will do well to have a self-regulatory, self-funding ombudsman.
The government has nothing to fear or lose but everything to gain from this arrangement because the self regulating body will not necessarily rely on government funding. It's a win-win deal. This conforms to global best practices and will invariably enhance Standards, effective monitoring, Professionalism and instill discipline.

I can brainstorm a proposal in this regard that guarantees a steady stream of revenue and thousands of career opportunities been generated through such a body.

Though the business climate here is not encouraging for start ups and the faint-hearted; notwithstanding the constraints, doing business in Nigeria can be very rewarding if you know what/who you need to know, do what you MUST do and also have the war chest to bulldoze your way.

The Private Security Industry in Nigeria must be encouraged to play an active role in the current haze of insecurity. Given the complex security challenges bedeviling country which calls for the active involvement of the citizenry and Private Security Officers in particular, the Nigerian establishment must as a matter of urgency, streamline the cost and byzantine bureaucracy associated with registration, licensing and running a Private Security Company in Nigeria otherwise many will be forced to operate under the radar.

© Don Okereke
(Security Analyst/Consultant)
Email: donnuait(a)
Twitter: @donokereke
Telephone: +234 708 000 8285


rahul said...

We, at Adroit Security & Service offer escort services requiring assistance when travelling from one place to another. The security officials are professionally qualified, well educated and groomed staff to help the clients in any situation what so ever. We lay special significance on their overall personality development including transmission skills, appearance and presentation.

Don Okereke said...

Nice one, Adroit Security Service. Checked out your website. Very professional. Look forward to partnering with you in the near future.

All the best in your endeavor.


Don Okereke

Unknown said...

What a well taught security industry piece put together by a renown and all season security professional. God bless u Mr Don for this explicit industry highlight! I can image a Nigeria PSI well organized and run by a regulatory body operating on international pedestal. With thousands of under-valued and much relegated PSOs protecting assets of multi billion dollars and personnel all over Nigeria such a body will of certain offer positive transformation to an industry suffering from myriad of setbacks. I am a young security specialist with so much flair, interest and passion for protection services. Having attempted many times for enlistment into GSA which failed I retired into PSO for years now since after my youth service (NYSC). The industry in Nigeria indeed lacks clear direction and standard but good news is there are season professionals waiting to grow it if only the right environment is created. Keep up the good work Sir! your blog is such a resource channel.
Looking fwd to meeting u someday!

Jacob Smith said...

Great and informative post you have shared, which is informative and knowledgeable about the private-security-investigation.

Don Okereke said...

Thank you so very much Zukki. Good to hear from you.

Driven by passion, doing the little we can in the service of humanity.

By God's grace, our paths will surely cross. All the very best in your endeavours.

Don Okereke said...

Hi Jacob Smith, Sure you doing great. Thanks for appreciating my article.

Keep checking for interesting information. Best regards. Ciao

Don Okereke said...

Thanks. Hopefully together we can work something out in the foreseeable future. Best regards