Juvenal was a celebrated Roman poet in the 1st-2nd centuries AD. His poetry collection “Satires” exerted considerable influence and many phrases from his works are in popular use today.
One such phrase in Latin is “Quis custodiet Ipsos custodes.” One of the English translations is, “Who watches the watchmen themselves?” This maxim in form of a question was as true in ancient time as it is today.
In 1981 President Anwar Sadat of Egypt was in a victory parade in Cairo with four layers of security around him. Two soldiers in one of the layers detonated grenades and after failing, fired shots of which a bullet hit home. Three years later in 1984 a Sikh bodyguard of Prime Minister Indira Ghandi of India shot and killed the Indian strong woman. Her son Rajiv was killed not by a guard but by an aggrieved woman who detonated a bomb that killed the Prime Minister, herself, and others. There are several other cases.
The widespread insecurity in the entire world has led to the need for guards particularly at home. However, most guards are no more than gatemen and women since they do not bear arms and have hardly undergone any training. It is therefore more of good luck than of security sense.
Several cases are known of guards who aid and abet thieves or steal by themselves. Some rape the women they are supposed to protect. In some families they are so useful that they are almost given rooms inside the main house rather than at the gate. They even eat from the family pot. Yet some can be bought with a mess of pottage by mischief makers. Agreed some men, their wives, and children treat guards and house helps like slaves and human scum (a serious mistake) but most families integrate them sometimes to their peril.
Another angle is that house owners cannot monitor these guards and gate men. Some bring in guests who secretly become tenants in the back house or gate house. These persons could be of questionable character. Families let down their guards till it is too late.
What of cases involving guards in criminal activities such as taking hard drugs and/or trafficking in same? Some could keep guns because the big man’s house is a haven. If the Police find out, they would not be interested in the guard but in the big ‘oga’ who is thought to have a strong room in the house stashed with millions of Naira even when the man is surviving on palliatives. Which IPO investigates a case for the purpose of establishing truth? Is it not possible for the boss to be accused of being a baron or gun runner when he or she is completely innocent? By the time truth is established if ever, much damage could have been done (a black American, Archie Williams left prison last year after 37 years following conviction for murder he did not commit. DNA evidence saved him).
What is the way forward? We can consider the following:
- Ensure that anyone hired is introduced by a reputable person. Community leaders can play this role.
- Obtain full background information on the prospect including village of origin, next of kin, telephone number.
- The Nigeria Police Force should institute a policy whereby anyone to be recruited should be screened by the nearest Police Station. A token fee can be charged for that service.
- Guests of watchmen should be monitored by the household. Where accommodation is provided in situ, only confirmed family members can stay the night.
- It would seem extravagant but periodic checks should be carried out in the rooms used by guards. This should be done by the Police or a registered security consultant.
- As much as is possible children and young girls should not be trusted with guards. When the worst has happened, the rest are regrets. No father or mother will recover from the shock of an abducted or raped child in spite of ‘justice’ being done later.
- Report suspicious activities to the Police, hoping that some Policemen would not end up giving the Force a bad name just to get money.
- It is not fool proof but users of the services of guards and house helps should see them as human beings. There should be arrangement for relief duty for guards. No normal person should work for 365 days a year 24/7. House owners should watch the health of their helpers and even their demeanour. Guards, cooks, stewards, drivers, and other in-house personnel can build or destroy a family. If you are good enough a guard would be prepared to stand in front of you and take a bullet. The reverse holds true. If you hired a child at 16 as house help for instance (which is even unlawful), that human being lived somewhere and ate food. To now regard such person as a slave is a sign of low intelligence if you have any, immaturity, and insensitivity. Why should your cook or steward be in rags? If you send your child to an expensive school, why not provide the basics for the children of your service personnel in public schools? If your child is in a private university the child of your domestic staff can attend a Polytechnic or College of Education or public university. It will not give you cough; rather it will likely exact higher loyalty and service from the grateful parents.
- Join in the sponsorship of a community vigilante group. Have the phone numbers of your close neighbours and the nearest Police Station. There are indeed a lot of men and women in the force who should be prisoners rather than guardians of the people. Yet, remove Police formations in a city and there will be chaos within 24 hours.
- Pray without ceasing. All scriptures give that advice, for there is no full proof template given that the heart of man is so deceitful. Play your part first.
Above is a tall order. Security firms can fairly well vouch for their staff but they don’t come cheap. No gateman from a registered company comes with a price tag of less than N15,000.00 per month and companies do not allow their men to operate alone. This is why the Police should assist in screening guards.
One may ask, why is the Police failing? Wikipedia of 2020 reports that the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) has 371,000 men and women to be increased to 560,000 in the near future. This is close to what the Daily Post of 4th November 2018 reported. The Post quoted IGP Idris as saying that the Force had 334,000 men and women by 2018.
The ideal number of men is 300 per 100, 000 people. With 975,400 policemen and women, the USA was even above that ideal at 298 per 100,000. By 2012, Nigeria had a figure of 127 policemen/women to 100, 000 Nigerians. The implication? The NPF is grossly understaffed, and massively under provisioned. This is why individuals have to arrange security for themselves. With 200 million people, the NPF requires at least 666,000 men and women (forgive the number 666, for those who are hypersensitive to it).
In summary, we need at least gatemen if not guards. Don’t tolerate proven cases of criminality. Generally, make sure you don’t have to become a watchman to Watch your watchman. God help us all. Amen.