A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has barred the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and the Minister of Interior from forcing organisations to employ their security guards only from a Private Guard Company.
The judgment was sequel to a suit no. FHC/ABJ/CS/1301/2019 filed by Reiz Continental Hotel against NSCDC and the Minister of Interior.
In the judgment delivered recently by Justice Taiwo O. Taiwo, he ruled that any person or corporate entity who employs more than one person to secure its private property must not necessarily engage the services of a Private Guard Company, as canvassed by the NSCDC and Interior Minister.
The suit had challenged the propriety of the NSCDC in applying the provisions of the Private Guards Companies Regulations 2018 issued by the Minister of Interior, particularly Section 23 of the regulations, to individuals who are not Private Security Guard Companies contrary to Sections 1(1), 35 and 36(3) of the Private Guard Companies Act and Section 4 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.
The crux of the case was whether the Minister of Interior had the power to expand the scope of the application of the Private Security Guard Companies Act through subsidiary legislation, in this case, the Private Security Guard Companies Regulations 2018.
The NSCDC had written to the plaintiff, sometime in September 2019, vide a letter, titled, ‘Illegal Operation of Unlicensed Security Companies’, wherein it alleged that the hotel contravened Section 23 of the Private Guard Companies Regulations 2018 and by extension the Private Security Guard Companies Act, because it had employed more than two persons to guard its premises, which is private property.
The NSCDC then ordered the hotel to within two weeks sack its employees and engage the services of a Private Security Guard Company to secure its private property. The NSCDC equally threatened to apply sanctions by sealing the premises of the hotel and arresting the staff of the hotel, if they failed to comply.
The hotel, however, filed the suit to challenge the application of the Act and the Private Guard Companies Regulations 2018. Justice Taiwo held that the intention of the legislature in drafting the Private Security Guard Companies Act was the regulation of the operations of Private Security Guard Companies.He further stated that Section 23 of the 2018 Regulations was not within the contemplation of the Act of the National Assembly with respect to the Private Security Guard Companies Act.
The court also held that Minister of Interior in the exercise of his powers under Section 35 of the Act does not have the power under the 1999 Constitution, as amended, to expand the scope of the Act to include any person or corporate organisation, which does not operate as a Private Security Guard Company.
“The fact that any person or corporate entity employs two or more staff and cloths them to secure its private property without breaking any law, does not mean it is a private security guard company liable to the provisions of the Private Security Guard Companies Act and the Private Security Guard Companies Regulations 2018. Thus, the Minister of Interior or officers acting on his behalf, including the NSCDC, do not have the power to enforce the said Section 23 of the Regulation by any means whatsoever against any person or corporate organisation which does not operate as a Private Security Guard Company,” Justice Taiwo ruled.
Chief Umeh Kalu, SAN, principal counsel of Seasons Law Firm, solicitors to the plaintiff, applauded the judgment, saying it was in tandem with all the relevant laws germane to the determination of the suit.
He added that the judgment was another bold intervention by the judiciary to check the recklessness and excesses of some government agencies. He further said that if the NSCDC had succeeded in sealing Reiz Continental Hotel and indeed other hotels and business enterprises in the country as threatened, it would have gone a long way in stifling private businesses, which employ more than 50 per cent of the work force in the country.