UBONG KING is the CEO of PROTECTION PLUS SERVICES, a famous company with a bias in Maritime and land security. In this exclusive interview with SECURITY MONITOR’s crew in his Ajah, Lagos office Ubong examines salient national security issues facing Nigeria and many developing countries in Africa and how his company established in 2009 uses local competences to satisfy its numerous clients across the globe.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN IN THIS BUSINESS?
I have been in the job of security for 22 years. I have gained a lot of experience and for the past 15 years, I have developed passion for security and acquired business understanding, technology and public confidence in the job. To me, these are the needed ingredient of security business: it is one thing for you to have the money and it is another thing for you to have the fundamental requirements needed for the business.
WHAT ARE THE SERVICES YOUR COMPANY OFFERS?
Protection Plus Services major in three areas: firstly, we are professionals in VIP protection. We provide trained guards; we have risk managers and integrated solution. We also do maritime protection. We are among the licensed maritime companies that signed M.O.U with the Nigeria Navy. That allows us to work with the Navy to ensure that our territorial waters are safe especially the access that are recommend by I.O.C. we do protection of rigs, drilling companies and we carry out super tankers monitoring from one company to the other. We also do protection of shallow waters and so on.
Our company also engaged in logistics support whereby we are able to provide security supports to the public sector. If the private sector is not welcome the public sector will be over stretched and suffers. I don’t know why a police man should escort somebody. That job should better be handle by somebody who is specialized in executive protection, because there are many components needed for executive protection, such that the principals comfort level is not compromised but when you have somebody from the public sector, a police man who get salary from the government doing escorting, whether the principal is happy or not is not his business since he will collect his salary at the end of the month. The private sector security are the one that will monitor their R&D (Research and Development department) to draw out new strategy or technology that could be introduced to compliment trending security needs. For instance, I may not be able to patrol a local village but I can use a drone to see the activities going on in a remote center.
However, if the government security agents want to do all these by them selves, it could be problematic because they lack necessary trainings and equipments to do so. The modern criminals are not illiterate and using outdated technology to fight modern criminals is a waste of time. Those guys are highly sophisticated. The modern criminals can wreck havoc from the corner of their bedroom and it will affect the whole country. If we don’t understand this we will loose out, so, the polity must be sanitize in such a way that political appointment will not be based on party affiliation or personal relation rather on merit and professionalism.
Another factor militating against security system in Nigeria is lack of training. More so, the Nigeria public security forces are men of old ages. In Israel for example, the chunk of their security forces are between the ages of 17 to 20. There, their brain and energy is still alive but when you have police or soldier of between 50 to 60 years in the force they can’t be effective. Their thinking is how to enjoy their money and plan for their retirement while raising their children. They don’t have time to research and research solves new challenges. Before this it was only arm robber, later we have militancy, vandals and ritualism. Now, we are talking about insurgency, terrorism and suicide bombing. Let do economy analysis that relate with insecurity. Nigeria has a population of about 182 million people and only 50 million people are working. That means, one person must cater for three people. If we have such challenge, couple with the fact that Nigeria is not a producing country. We import most of our essential commodities and that is why Chinese flooded Nigeria because they realized we don’t have electricity and manufactured generator. They noticed many can’t afford big generator, they import into the country small generator popularly known as “I better pass my neighbor” they also noticed that some can not afford money to fuel the generator therefore they created rechargeable lamp and radio. They don’t use all these because they don’t have light problem. Many countries are thinking how to stop using petrol, diesel etc and use the sun as solar energy but Nigeria is not there. The sun is shining very well in this country but we don’t make use of it. Some Identified free flow of water as a natural resources and used it to generate power but Nigerians are not thinking. Here is a country that wastes it gas and we have countries that are monetizing the same product we are flaring. Every year, people go to school and graduate and when they become graduate without job they resort to crime. Despite the fact that Boko Haram, militancy and so on are big challenges. We have never seen anything. There is another looming challenge that will soon explode and make whatever we have seen a joke. And that is crisis occasioned by the huge of unemployed youths. Nigeria has over 50% youth’s mainly between the ages of 20 to 45 that are idle. Out of these 40% of them are unemployable because they are not skilled. We are talking about 68 million who can not be employed because they don’t have required trainings to be productive. If we have such huge unproductive and jobless population, in 20 years time they will be no more youths and they would have given birth and become parents. Since, they don’t have necessary education, their children too may not have quality education and these multitudes of people will continue to live with us. Definitely they will constitute nuisance and become local terrorists, you will now have close to 100 million people who need to survive without a means of survivor. At that point in time they will be ready to do anything, including crime to sustain. Anybody who have a car will have to go to bed with one eye closed because they will be willing to break the car and take the valuable things in the car. So, that is what a developed country should look at before it becomes an explosion.
NIGERIA HAS SCHOOLS FROM PRIMARY TO TERTIARY INSTITUTIONS AND OF COURSE GOVERNMENT RECENTLY ESTABLISHED MORE UNIVERSITIES, YET YOU SAID NIGERIAN YOUTHS LACK TRAINING. WHY?
It depends on the quality of education they are been given. I think there is need to review our educational policy. The government needs to take a radical approach to review the schools curriculum. We need to look at the direction of relevance educational policy. There is need to inculcate entrepreneurship, craft and creativities into our schools children. It is not until when someone is 20 years old that will be teaching him physics, chemistry, biology and so on; everybody may not be a graduate to live a meaningful life. Nigeria education policy should be titled towards productive and creativity. Technical skill training should be encouraged to stop the idea of graduate looking for job. Another example is the system of exporting crude oil to buy refined fuel, thereby creating job opportunity for foreigners at the detriment of our youths.
AS A PROFESSIONAL IN MARITIME SECURITY, HOW CAN WE PROTECT OUR WATER WAYS?
You see, everybody is looking for ways to maximize profits including governments and countries. The population of neighboring Republic of Benin is just 5 million but the volume of imports into that country worth 50 million people. The economy of Republic of Benin therefore supports smuggling. The bureaucracies in Nigeria is high, people then bypasses the country and go to Cotonou and find a way to smuggle in the products from that country. If you are travelling by road to Republic of Benin you will meet over 40 police check points, customs, immigration and so on. Now, ask this question, how come the smuggled products get into Nigeria. It’s because the security agents their take it as juicy bits to enrich themselves. Once a car loaded with goods part with money it will be allowed into the country. Even, if they collect one thousand naira from each car. You know how many cars that will pass there in a day.
Another thing is the fact that unemployment rate in Nigeria has turned many to smugglers, remember the I.O.C has been in operation in Nigeria and it has not really helped the member communities, so the rural communities dwellers were not helped by the I.O.C and once there is oil spillage, the whole business in riverside communities collapse, then, the rural dwellers in the that communities resort to crime. Once a tanker is noticed they will rushed in there and seized it, demanding for money. Of course such money is usually spent in a reckless manner as those guys use it to oppress others. By the time others see such reckless spending, they will follow suit in the business. Even with the Nigeria Navy on the water ways, the gulf of guinea is 2,400 kilometers. Within Nigeria, Lagos Badagry down to Calabar is 847 Kilometers meaning we are the longest part on the continent of gulf of guinea. All the communities within this 847(from Badagry to calabar) which is also the part of the victims of unemployment are looking for means of survival. Remember their original job was fishing, when the water got polluted and what to do for a living becomes imperative. Therefore, seeing a white man living large on the water ways will attract them to kidnap him for a ransom business. Then, the Nigeria Navy who is not properly funded and who are small in number will be helpless while army of unemployed youth goes on rampage. Ordinarily, patrolling the water ways with Navy vessels in a day will cost an average of 8,000 liters that cost 1.5 million naira per vessels. Since, the Navy is not funded enough; they decide to enter into the agreement with some companies including mine. So, we provide security for assets on the water ways. The licensed companies are 16. These companies contribute 200 vessels to protect the water ways. Yet the required security apparatus for the water ways is far from reality. Of course, there is inland water and there is territorial water, with emergency of territorial water there is a lot of challenges. The government needs to create deep sea ports and link it to many countries, our population is our greatest asset and we should capitalize on that to boost our economy and reduce unemployment. By doing so, insecurity will be drastically reduced. For instance, 85% of our business activities is being done on water. We are so blessed with water in Nigeria that I find it difficult to comprehend why there is traffic congestion on the roads when we can develop our water ways for easy transportation. There are standard boat that are more quality that those fibres being used in Lagos. Why do I need to waste time and energy staying in traffic for hours while going from Ajah to ikorodu when I can easily spend less than ten minutes using water transportation?
Also, the country is not structured and there is need for proper urban planning to avoid certain man made disaster such as inferno. Just look at how houses are built arbitrarily without planning.
INSECURITY SEEMS INSEPARABLE WITH ECONOMY AND JOB SECURITY. HOW WOULD YOU ADVICED GOVERNMENT ON JOB CREATION?
Government makes money through taxation. Therefore, it will preferable for government to create more small and medium scale businesses that would cater for the unemployed Nigerians and in return generate income for the government.
Nigerian youths can be engaged in many creative enterprises such as photography, crafts, artistic design and so on. Nollywood has proved to us that actors can make more money. Comedians are making it big nowadays. Our public officials should leave out pedestrian discussion such as whether to approve millions of naira for car allowance and focus on how to develop the economy. Certainly, without a buoyant economy, insecurity will continue to be a problem.
DESPITE EFFORT BY THE LAGOS STATE GOVERNMENT TO ENCOURAGE WATER TRANSPORTATION WE STILL EXPERIENCE PHOBIA ON THE PART OF THE PEOPLE OVER RECURRENCE BOAT MISHAP(cuts in)
Lagos state government has not done anything fantastic to improve water transportation. The jetties you see are all outdated. Government can acquire more modern jetties and develop the coast lines for tourist attraction. If Lagos state government means business they can visit Taiwan, china or Dubai and see how well to develop water ways for economic progress. 12% of Dubai income is on oil, the rest is on tourism. Dubai was a desert they dredged their state to allow water come in. They put fancy boats so that people can have parties and catch fun in the night. If you want to use the boat in Dubai you have to pay at least four hundred thousand. That is money. That is investment. Government over-taxed few investors who manage to do their business because they lack vision to expand revenue base. Why do they get water accident? It’s because they don’t develop the system, the jetties are substandard and the life jackets are fake. If you go to Dubai, the water is clean and treated. Here in Lagos, the whole water side is stinking. It has been completely abandoned by government.
IS THERE ANY HINDRANCES FOR PRIVATE SECTOR TO COME IN?
Like I have said polity is the bane of development in Nigeria. The politicians here are not serious about the real business of governance. When Fashola was a governor he entered into agreement with a private sector to construct a bridge from Victory Island to Lekki and the government didn’t pay kobo since the company now collects toll to get back its money. Even though I have my reservation about the bridge because it is too low, it is not high enough to allow passage of big vessels travelling in that axis. If there is an experienced commissioner of transport, he would not have allowed the company to do it that way.
WHAT IN YOUR OWN VIEW IS RESPONSIBLE FOR INCREASE SECURITY THREAT SUCH AS BOKO HARAM, KIDNAPPING AND SO ON?
Unemployment; lack of job, why should I go to school and graduated without a job. Somebody must pay for it, I say over 68 millions Nigerians are jobless. Look at the way that small boy, Nnamdi Kanu muster Igbo with one little thought that the Igbo are not getting their own share of the national resources. And millions of young men follow him, shouting and ready to die because they are hungry. The only solution to insecurity is provision of food security. There is problem in Iraq, Iran Syria and many African countries because we are economically backward. There is no problem in Dubai, Saudi and many American and Europeans countries because of job security. The population of Dubai is 9.8 million and you hardly see them on the road selling bread or doing any odd job. Out of the 8.9 million, the indigene of Dubai is less than two million, every Dubanian travel in business flight, if you establish a company in Dubai 51% must be the Dubanians. Weather they come to work or not you must pay them. That is what they call local content. Protect your citizen so as to be economically comfortable. The reverse is the case in Nigeria. And of course, the people that are managing this country are not in position of authority by merit but by appointment and they lack understanding of good governance.
WHAT ADVISED DO YOU HAVE FOR NIGERIAN YOUTH?
John Kennedy said”look not for what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country”. Nigeria youths should be creative, look around for areas that have not been tapped and be creative to do new things. When I start up this company, it was just only me. Today, I have up to a thousand staffs. If every body engaged one thousand staff in his business the insecurity arisen from unemployment will be eradicated.
HOW DO YOU PAY BACK TO THE PEOPLE WHAT GOD HAS ENDOWED YOU WITH IN TERMS OF CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY?
Protection Plus Services have a platform called Security Clinic. What we do in the clinic is to educate Nigerians on security issues. My wife actually developed the idea and since we started we have moved from one secondary school to the others and we have also visited some tertiary institutions to educate young ones about security threats, what causes fire and how to avoid it. We talk about sex abuse and all that. We have not visited public schools because of bureaucracy. We visited associations, companies and organizations, creating security awareness.
Aside from that, as part of our CSR we did water treatment plant for Nigeria Navy hospital in Calabar the capital of Akwa Ibom state. We also established an ICT center in Ibioto village, Akwa Ibom state. We also have educational entrepreneurial activities where we train young Nigerians how to be creative. And we still intend to do more in years to come. Also, during the Ebola crisis, we donated gun thermometer to Naval command.
IS THERE ANYTHING YOU STILL LIKE TO DO IN THE FUTURE?
If I have the means, I like to involve in politics whereby I will use the knowledge and experiences gathered so far for the betterment of our society. There is a lot to be done and we can not continue to allow half baked people to continue messing up with our economy.