We asked Okereke Chinwike, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the African Law Foundation (AfriLaw), a Member of the CSO Pillar in Nigeria about the private security landscape in Nigeria and what role ICoCA has to play. 

What is the African Law Foundation (AfriLaw)?

The African Law Foundation (AfriLaw) is non-profit and non-governmental Law, Justice and Development organization founded in 2013 with the Corporate Headquarter at Enugu and Advocacy office at Abuja of Nigeria. Amongst other things AfriLaw advocates for the respect of rule of law, the protection of human rights, access to justice for all as well as advocating for peace and human security. We do this through a combination of policy advocacy and capacity building, legal aid services, campaigns and awareness-raising, community development and mobilization, research and documentation, consulting and technical services, partnerships, network building and coordination.

Why has private security become a human rights issue in Nigeria?

The weakness of the public security system is a major contributory factor to the level of insecurity in Nigeria. This can be attributed to a number of factors, one being that the country is grossly under policed. As crime, violence and insecurity has continued to rise in Nigeria, so has the demand for private security services. However, Private Security Companies (PSCs) in Nigeria are poorly regulated. The Private Guards Companies Act is very outdated and out of touch with realities and challenges of modern private security services and there is a lack of adequate monitoring and supervision by the regulatory agency, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC). There are poor standards of operation and professional conduct in the industry. Most PSCs suffer from poor and inadequate capacity and professionalism resulting in many cases of unethical and unprofessional practices, crimes, brutality and abuses of human rights. The explosion of Private Security provision combined with ineffective governance and regulatory framework constitutes a huge problem for the industry in Nigeria.  The existence of many unregistered PSCs is worsening the security situation of the country, with many companies engaged in atrocities.

How is this being tackled?

In a number of ways. Recently there has been improved CSOs partnership and collaboration with the NSCDC to promote private security governance in Nigeria. There’s also been improved participation, collaboration and partnership between private security companies and CSOs in promoting private security governance. AFRILAW has been an official CSO partner with the NSCDC since 2018.  The draft National Advocacy Strategy on Improving Private Security Governance calls for a number of improvements, including the reform of Regulatory and Legal Frameworks,  strengthening of  NSCDC for effective performance and service delivery, promoting recognition of the PSCs and  the position of the PSCs in Nigeria’s security architecture, improving cooperation and synergies between the PSCs and other government law enforcement agencies and  improving collaboration and partnership between the PSCs and Civil Society/NGOs and communities. As a CSO Pillar member of ICoCA we are also promoting responsible private security governance through the Nigeria Responsible Private Security Partnership (NRPSP) with NSCDC and the Association of Licensed Private Security Providers of Nigeria (ALPSPN).

Why did Afrilaw decide to become a Member of ICoCA

AfriLaw had already been engaging stakeholders in advancing business and human rights and security sector reform and governance in Nigeria and across the globe including promoting and improving private security governance and responsible private security services in Nigeria.

Becoming a member of ICoCA was therefore a great opportunity for AfriLaw to expand its network of partners on security sector governance particularly in the area of private responsible private security services in Nigeria. Membership has created the opportunity for learning and building AfriLaw’s capacity on private security governance and responsible private security services. It’s provided us a platform to partner and provide support to PSCs in Nigeria and promote the responsible provision of security services, engaging PSCs on human rights and ethics training; and promoting PSCs joining and becoming members of the ICoCA and obtaining ICoCA certification.  Becoming an ICoCA member and partner has also helped AfriLaw to improve its work on Monitoring and Reporting of PSCs operations and practices in Nigeria, and also in promoting an effective complaints mechanism for violation of private security standards.

What are the main challenges and opportunities for an international multi-stakeholder initiative such as ICoCA in raising standards in Nigeria when the Nigerian government is not a member of the Association?

Considering the numerous challenges confronting PSC regulation, governance, monitoring and operational standards, the existence of an international voluntary multi-stakeholder initiative like ICoCA provides applicable guidelines, principles and good standards on responsible private security services that can be adopted and applied by the Nigerian government to raise standards in the industry in Nigeria.

While Nigeria’s government is yet to join and become a member of the International Code of Conduct Association (ICoCA), the African Union has created some guidelines and has made references relating to the issues of regulation of private security industry that are relevant and apply to Nigeria. The AU Policy Framework on Security Sector Reform 2014, mentioned ‘non-state security bodies such as private security companies’ as one of the components of the security sector in Africa, and stated that State members should ensure that private security companies ‘will conform to relevant international, regional and national frameworks regulating the activities of PSCs’.

Becoming a member of ICoCA is one of the best ways the Nigerian government can fulfill its AU obligation. It would also greatly help the NSCDC to improve and ensure effective private security governance, supervision and monitoring in Nigeria. NSCDC could adopt and use the ICOC as a Tool for the improvement of private security governance. Becoming an ICoCA member would also create an opportunity for the NSCDC to establish a strategic partnership with ICoCA and its member in the areas of capacity building and technical support in improving their service delivery as the PSC regulatory agency and ensure effective responsible private security services in Nigeria.

I understand AfriLaw is a member of the Private Security Governance Observatory and as such, you have just completed a baseline study on Private Security Governance in Nigeria. Could you please tell us about the Observatory and share some of the key findings from the study?

The Private Security Governance Observatory was formed in 2014 and is a network of African civil society organizations (CSOs) that seeks to share knowledge and reinforce their organizational capacity to promote good governance of the private sector. The Geneva Center for Security Sector Governance (DCAF) is a strategic partner to the Observatory providing strategic level, administrative and expert support to ensure the consolidation and further development of this initiative.

As a Steering Committee member of the Observatory, and together in partnership and support of the Geneva Center for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF), Switzerland and NSCDC, AfriLaw has just conducted this Baseline Study on Private Security Governance in Nigeria. The aim of the study was to identify areas of challenges and to develop and promote an advocacy strategy for private security reform in Nigeria. Released in August 2019, some findings from the study include the lack of adequate training of private security personnel as one key challenge within an industry that’s witnessing the proliferation of unregistered PSCs resulting in poor standards, unprofessional conduct and human rights abuses.  In 2018 registered private security companies employed as many as 828,505 persons, 74% (of whom were male). As of February 2019, while there are about 1110 licensed private security companies operating in Nigeria there are also about 740 unlicensed private security companies.

A full version of this interview is available here

The Baseline Study on Private Security Governance in Nigeria is available to download here.