It’s more sensible to arm NYS graduates than private security guards

In this age of terrorism and cybercrime, we must start thinking about training and arming the National Youth Service (NYS) to complement the overstretched National Police Service and even take up some of the roles performed by police officers and private security firms, such as guarding banks, supermarkets, schools and VIP protection duties.

The conversation on giving arms to private security guards has lingered in the public domain for quite some time, with proponents citing Uganda and Tanzania as classical examples where this concept has worked well.

Corruption has enabled people who should never have been allowed to own guns to acquire licences under the licensed gun owner’s umbrella.

Having worked with the National Police Service for more than 10 years, it is not for me to oppose or support the idea of arming private security guards, but imagine a situation where security guards who are trained for one week at most; paid not more than Sh15,000 monthly being given semi-automatic rifles to guard banks, hotels and supermarkets that transact in terms of millions of shillings daily.

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We have well-grounded security companies, but at the same time, we have those conceived in backstreet Nairobi.

Well connected people influence the award of a tenders for which they have no qualification, rush to some tailor in River Road, make watchmen attire and dress unemployed youths to start work as security guards.

Extremely casual

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On several occasions, we have encountered these clueless security guards.

The next time they try to frisk you using that metal detector, stop and ask them if it is working, or if they know what they are even looking for; and if they do, or one is armed for instance, what action they should take.

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Not surprisingly, they have no manual for that.

In most cases, the metal detector don’t work and if they do, the overworked security guards are too tired to know what they are looking for.

They do it for the cameras and because of that belligerent boss. Our approach to security is extremely casual, despite the fact that terrorists have made a bed at our doorstep.

Part of a long-term solution to terrorism and the security menace in this country is arming the National Youth Service (NYS) cohorts.

The nine months paramilitary training the NYS offers its recruits is close to that of the General Service Unit (GSU) and/or the military.

As a security measure in this age of terrorism, we need to do away with private security companies for major hotels, supermarkets, banks, learning institutions, churches, homes of influential people and vital installations.

These security roles should be taken over by armed and trained NYS.

Private businesses

Commercialising NYS services so that money paid for security services is remitted to the Government will help in paying the NYS guards decent salaries.

We cannot afford to leave this critical security function in the hands of civilian businessmen, majority who have no adequate knowledge on security matters.

Once trained on arms, basic police work, surveillance, counter terrorism, basic investigation among many other critical areas, NYS can take up some of these roles and the Government can withdraw police officers from guarding banks, supermarkets, learning institutions, churches, private businesses and private homes of influential people. Police officers can then concentrate on their core duties.

We can also train and have the NYS take up VIP protection duties. A recent report by the Ministry of Interior and National Coordination stated that there are over 5,000 police officers assigned to VIP duties as bodyguards, drivers, home and office guards.

Village bridges

We also need to have a policy where NYS will take up government projects and be used solely to provide labour to all government projects, both in the national government, county governments and NG-CDF projects.

These include building of stadiums, polytechnics, clinics and hospitals, classrooms, village bridges, police stations, administration buildings etc.

We would then have a government quality standard and standardised cost for certain projects like the USAID-funded model of dairy plants across the country, but the foremanship, architectural design, quality and cost are the same.

By doing this, we will have solved the menace of obnoxious tender-prenuers, exaggerated project cost and corruption in the long run.
We must look for solutions that do not have deleterious effects, for us to solve the insecurity puzzle, corruption and the youth unemployment riddle.

Mr Oduma is President- International Youth Network Against Corruption. [email protected]

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