It was certainly a gathering of eggheads, security experts, influential Nigerians and security stakeholders. The event was the 3rd Private Security Summit And 3rd Annual General Meeting, with the theme: “Refining Security: The Evolving Role Of Private Security In A Changing World.”
The stakeholders event was held on November 28, 2023 at the Civic Centre, Victoria Island, Lagos State.
The day’s discussion centred on issues relating to insecurity and the significant roles of the private security sector in mitigating it. The keynote address was delivered by the Chairman of the Police Service Commission, Dr. Solomon Arase, also a former Inspector-General of Police.
Addressing the distinguished audience, Arase said the discourse holds profound implications for the contemporary security landscape of Nigeria. According to him, in a rapidly changing world, where the dynamics of security management were undergoing unprecedented transformations, the event could not have come at a better time, especially given the need to systematically address the insecurity challenge in Nigeria.
He said: “The complexities and lethality of our present internal security threats and realities necessitate a nuanced study of the evolving role of private security, a domain traditionally associated with safeguarding assets, but now assuming a far broader dimension and responsibility in our internal security architecture. Private security, therefore, is a phenomenon that has re-emerged in force in the last half of the century and has firmly established itself in many countries as part of policing methods.”
Arase noted that it was as a result of the above-mentioned realities that contemporary conversations on the state and security have shifted from the traditional assumption that security was an exclusive responsibility of the state. He mentioned that the prevailing trend now focuses on the increasing role of private security outfits as dominant actors in Nigeria’s contemporary security landscape.
“This is not alien to the global security environment as the United Nations guidelines for the prevention of crime proffer that individuals, communities, non-governmental organisations, civil societies and private sectors have imperative roles to play in enhancing security and community safety,” said Arase.
He argued that Nigeria and Nigerians explore the transformative trajectory of private security and its profound impact on strategic approach to security, adding: “We see how private security has transcended beyond the conventional confines of risk management and loss prevention. There is no doubt that the private security sector is fast becoming a pivotal force in navigating the intricacies of our contemporary security landscape. At its core, security is a local affair, and private security is inherently local, intrinsically woven into the communities it serves.
“The archetype of private security was once epitomized by local, untrained individuals colloquially known as ‘maiguards.’ Their responsibilities were confined to basic access control – being gatekeepers, emblematic of an era where the machinations of security were predominantly powered by physical might. Yet, we stand at a juncture where the wheels of security no longer turn solely through the grease of muscle, instead, they are powered by the profound force of information, aptly referred to as intelligence in the security lexicon.”
He maintained that the private security sector was strategically positioned like sentinels in every nook and cranny of the Nigerian communities, adding that private security agents have evolved into vital information hubs, which are synthesised into actionable intelligence for utilisation in security operations.
Arase said: “They are undoubtedly, no longer confined to the rudimentary task of gatekeeping, these agents have rather transformed into the vigilant eyes and perceptive ears of their localities, intricately connected with the pulsating heartbeat of their surroundings. In this metamorphosis, community policing emerges as a cornerstone, with private security seamlessly melding into the intricate fabric of their communities. They transcend the conventional role, becoming trusted liaisons and architects of robust relationships that facilitate the exchange of crucial information. This localised intelligence proves invaluable, serving as a linchpin in preventing and mitigating security threats.”
Furthermore, Arase stated that the adoption of intelligence-led policing, underscored by a focus on Human Intelligence, emerged as a strategic imperative. He also said that rigorous training programmes may help to equip private security agents with the acumen to gather, analyse and disseminate actionable intelligence. He stressed that by fostering a culture of vigilance and collaboration, private security transformed into a proactive force adept at countering emerging threats.
“Technology, a formidable ally in this transformative journey, assumes a pivotal role. Advanced training in the utilization of cutting-edge tools such as CCTV, Access Control Systems, and Open-Source Intelligence (OSINT) empowers private security agents to not only enhance their operational capabilities but also contribute valuable intelligence to the broader security ecosystem,” the former IGP emphasised.
He explained that there are several reasons the private security industry expanded rapidly over the last twenty years, listing the reasons as “the growth of private security is directly related to the scaling down, and subsequent withdrawal, of the police from some of its functions. Private security companies fill the gap created by this withdrawal. Private property has increasingly become open to the public. Much of public life has moved away from public streets to ‘private-public’ property-private property which houses facilities extensively used by the public, such as shopping malls and entertainment centres. Owners of this property make use of private security to police the public who use such property. Consequently, private security companies are increasingly performing functions previously performed by the police. This has, and will continue to have, a significant influence on the functioning of the criminal justice system as a whole.”
Arase held that historically, the police had often accused the private security of being poorly trained and generally being composed of those who could not meet the standards to be police officers, but not anymore. He noted that the private security sector often views the public sector as being self-centred and arrogant.
He further explained: “Despite the misconception that working together for a common goal is difficult to achieve, it is gladdening, given the pervasive and prevalent insecurity challenge in our country, that the police and private security agencies are beginning to work together, at times unknowingly. Cooperation between the private security sector and public law enforcement is vital in dealing with both local crimes and organised criminality. This, therefore, raises the question as to what can be done to improve the perceptions of two areas towards each other, and foster cooperative efforts in resolving issues of crime and enhancing community safety in our society?”
Recalling the event of September 11, 2011 when 19 terrorists attacked the United States of America, causing the death of some 2,750 people in New York, 184 at the Pentagon, and 40 in Pennsylvania, including the death of more than 400 police officers and firefighters, Arase said: “The events of 9/11 brought private security operations and public law enforcement closer. In the United States, cooperation between public law enforcement and private security was evident during the anthrax scare that followed the attacks on the World Trade Center. The events of 9/11 have helped build private/public policing partnerships to prevent and respond to terrorism and public order in the US.
“This was demonstrated by the 2004 National Policy Summit project supported by the Office of Community-Oriented Policing Services. This joint partnering effort involved the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the Security Industry Association, ASIS International, the National Association of Security Companies, and the International Security Management Association. Furthermore, private security in the United States is allowed to bear arms in their operations, although this varies from state to state, requisite training is given and the appropriate license is usually issued to legitimate their bearing of arms.
“In the US, Canada and the UK, there is a mutually reinforcing division of labour between the Police and private security, aimed at reduction of crime and enhancement of community safety in the society. A report on forensic service delivery in Canada recommended the need to expand the role of the private security sector to provide timely and complementary security services to the police and the public. In the United Kingdom, private security personnel out-number the public police by a ratio of nearly 2:1, and between 1951 and 2001, total employment in the sector increased from 66, 950 to 161, 13.
“In South Africa, the private security industry is one of the fastest growing economic sectors in the country. The private security industry is increasingly performing functions which used to be the sole preserve of the police, like guards, monitoring, armed reaction, escorts, investigation and other related services to private individuals and companies. While the police seek to protect the public at large, the private security industry operates on a profit motive and is accountable to its clients only. Moreover, the police generally apprehend criminals after they have committed a crime, thus deterring potential criminals from committing future crimes. The private security industry, by contrast, seeks to prevent crimes from occurring in the first place.
“Private security operations in the country are, the guarding component, the armed response component, the cash-in-transit component, the electronic hardware component, and the investigation and risk management component. Private security officials in South Africa are allowed to bear arms for their operations, this is, however, not without appropriate training and licensing by concerned government institutions. Unlike what obtains in our clime, in South Africa, due to the efficient regulation and control of private security services by the government coupled with the sophistication and effectiveness of the industry, many policing functions have been outsourced to the private security industry.”
The former number one policeman in Nigeria further stated that the private security industry in South Africa is among the largest in the world, with over 9,000 registered companies, 450,000 registered active private security guards, and a further 1.5 million qualified, but inactive guards, adding: “Suffice it to say that the total personnel of the private security industry are more than the combined available personnel of the South African Police Service and South African Army. This indicates that South Africa had 2.57 private security personnel for every police employee. Like in Nigeria, the private security industry in South Africa is regulated, and every private security company is required by the law to be registered with the Government authority before they can operate.”
In Nigeria, said Arase, the private security industry has experienced phenomenal growth since its founding in the early 1970s, adding that it grew from three companies to thousands of security outfits today. His words: “Private security has become a major part of Nigeria’s economy, and there are currently between 1,500 to 2,000 private security companies employing more than 100,000. The industry is rapidly growing with major industrial organisations, banks, oil companies and some government agencies employing their services.
“The Private Guard Companies Act enacted in 1986 gave private sector companies the legal backing to offer security services to clients. The Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps regulates the operations of private security in Nigeria, conducts periodic inspections of their operations and provides annual renewal of their licences. Although there are limitations to the optimal functionality of private security industry in Nigeria, which range from lack of practical law enforcement-private security sector co-operation and arrangement, prohibition of the use of a firearm by private security outfit which reduces most private security agents to mere gatekeepers whose functions are limited to searching of individuals and opening of gates.”
The Doctor also noted that it was important to emphasise that private security cannot replace the police. He clarified that the two have different objectives and roles, Public policing aims to protect the public, Private security has a profit motive and has as its main objective the protection of its clients’ interests. He mentioned that the interests of private clients and those of the public are not always the same.
Arase stated: “Private security companies are accountable to the market and their clients. The police are accountable to the people and government. An argument in favour of expanding the private security industry’s role is that it allows the police to concentrate its resources on more serious matters. Private security outfits could thus play a greater role in acting as the ‘eyes and ears’ of the police.
“According to the Introduction Handbook on state regulation on civilian private security services, published by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the growth in size of civilian private security has been necessitated by its expanding role in the contemporary security landscape. This has invariably created job opportunities for our teeming youths who ordinarily are predisposed to crimes by unemployment; thereby solving the issue of insecurity through job creation.
“The truth remains that in our evolving and challenging security landscape, the nation as a whole will benefit from the heightened effectiveness of the law enforcement agencies and private security organisations. Security, however, has a common goal, and security services protect both public and private places. This summit is an odyssey into a future where the convergence of human acumen and technological prowess reshape the contours of private security.
“As we traverse this transformative landscape, let us peel away the intricate layers of private security’s evolution and delve into its transformative role in shaping the security paradigms of our dynamic and ever-changing world, while also emphasising that the prevailing security complexities and lethality in our present-day society demands that both the law enforcement community and private security industry work in synergy and greater understanding towards a more secure and safer Nigeria. I look forward to insightful deliberations and collective wisdom that will undoubtedly emerge from our shared exploration and practical experiences on the evolving role of private security in contemporary society.”