Mr Wale Olaoye, managing director and chief executive officer, Halogen Security Company Limited, in this interview with FEMI OGBONNIKAN, bares his mind on the prospects of private security business in Nigeria, the operating environment, cybercrime, among others.
Principally, anywhere in the world, the police institution itself is associated with providing law and order in the society. So we call them officers of the law of the nation. They are the first in law to instill law and order in any environment. It is no longer news that the minimum standard expected of policing in any country demands that the number of those policing should also move in tandem with the population.
There is a benchmark, according to the United Nations police:population ratio standard, that any country should have. It is no news that the police:population ratio in Nigeria is no longer able to cope with that standard. We don’t have enough policemen to police the 160 million people in this country.
Without saying much, there is already a widening gap in the ability of the personnel to keep law and order in the society. What we should ask is how come we have more private security companies as against the police (the government security agency that has the mandate to provide law and order in country)?
That is how private security companies evolved anywhere in the world to ensure the effectiveness of law and order in the society. Bringing it back home, we started by circumstances. There was a need and gap that needed to be met and closed by providing security to all companies.
We started by providing our own internal security and that was how we began to offer the services to the market. We started as a guard company. If you look at critical areas of our infrastructure, critical national assets such as the National Stadium, Tafawa Balewa Square, PHCN installations, telecommunication installations, water corporations, federal and state ministries, etc, those protecting these assets are personnel of the private security firms and this implies that the police alone can’t cope with the duty of maintaining law and order in this country.
How favourable is the operating environment for private security operators in the industry?
We have many categories of private security companies in Nigeria. We are in category ‘A’. That licence means that we have national spread and we also have the capacity that categorised us by the standard and spread of what we do. Our spread is by the service delivery that we provide. The Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) is the regulator of this business. That means that every guard company must register with the NSCDC.
Regulation starts with licencing. A lot needs to change. There is need for best practices. You will find out that we have very few organisations or practitioners who are also self-regulated. What do we see that is happening? There is need for change to raise the bar, increase the standards and ensure that the market is protected to a large extent and also ensure that the quality of service that is delivered is consistent with the benchmark.
Now, you will also find some practitioners that are in the business are also complementing the roles of the regulators. Although the regulators are there, but you will find that the pace of regulation is changing now. Security is taking more seriously now, the risk is getting higher and managing and mitigating risk is all about art and science. It is not an all-comers affair. It is the way and manner people evaluate risk and you plan your risks and these things are not easy to come by; it is an art and science and there is a model for it.
You will find companies that really understand operating levels of these systems come into our country and sub-region and things will only begin to grow when these standards improve here. Now, we are saying that the regulators themselves need to be far ahead in understanding global best practices. They need to be up and doing to understand that the industry has improved and that the quality and standards of the service of the operators has become a critical issue of clear benchmarking in global best practices.
With more private security companies springing up by the day, do you see Nigeria becoming more secure?
Private security organisations complement the roles of the police and they are constitutionally empowered organisations charged with the responsibility to keep law and order in the society. The police force is to enforce law, to keep law and order in the society. Now, private security organisations came into being to play complementary roles, but private security guards in advanced countries bear arms, and that is their own level or structure in those countries.
In our own country, private security companies are not allowed by law to bear arms, but the good thing is the service is complementary and there is clearly an understanding. The Nigeria Police Force has been trying to give us support where the issue of private security is concerned. They’ve been able to provide us with support and to a large extent that is what we can say.
The higher the risk, the higher the plans to mitigate the risk, the best you can do is to design your risk management plans and articulate policies that need to work. The good thing is that the police force has been very supportive and ours is a complementary role. But critically, we design a lot of plans that we manage and these systems are not things you do anyhow without some levels of training, understanding, and professionalism.
What our company does is to take risk management seriously which transcends bearing arms. We have physical security in every business or environment that we have. Modern security is being complemented by modern technology and designing critical plans. For you to have holistic risk management plans, we as integrators of our business, integrate across the entire value of risk chain management (physical security and technological assistance) in a way that it addresses clearly risk management within our clients’ facilities or anywhere our service is needed.
Nigerians are electronically savvy. With the rise in cybercrimes, where do private security companies come in?
Business continuity plan and cyber security is an arm of security that we specialise in and we focus extremely on managing security information platform, electronic and cyber security platforms. Each of these three platforms has not done well, but it is beginning to become a factor, because the more we take risks to those platforms, for instance, taking risks online, the more the need to also secure those channels or platforms.
Our business has a full-fledged unit under the division that we do have already, but we started from the point of view of the business continuity platform or basis, which means there are already professionals that are certified in that line of risk management. We have those working in that respect.
What sector are you targeting now?
We have the e-commerce platform to take care of the logistics and financial institutions, the risk is highest at the point of exchange, companies that we are already working for and who are very active in online procurements and delivery may be prone to such risk. Now, two things happen there, the exchange of value which is money for the physical goods.
Now, if you are placing your orders there is the possibility of someone intercepting those orders and it is just like to physically rob you of your goods when you are moving them along and they thieves ambush your trucks and then, remove those things physically. In cyberspace, electronically that is a risk. So, we understand this fact that this is just the way to go and secure risks that are huge.