BY VICTOR ADAR
When Lucas Njoroge Ndolo joined the Kenya Military Defence College in 1985 at the age of 21, his vision was to find something constructive to do with his life and perhaps be a professional trainer. He served in the Kenya Army for 10 years and retired at the age of 31 after going up to the ranks of a captain.
Soon Mr Ndolo, a 58-year-old grand father of two – his grandson is currently 9 years old, and grand-daughter is 2 –, joined one private security firm which had 200 guards. The company grew in leaps and bounds so much that at the time of his exit, after 24 years, it had about 24,000 guards.
“Training guards is one of the things I did for so many years before moving outside Kenya to take up managerial roles for the same company,” he says. “The military is a place where you can choose a career… you can leave when young enough to go out and pursue other interests. And my interests were in private sector security. So private sector had more of an appeal for me in terms of providing security.”
When it comes to security and running a security organization, Ndolo says, discipline, which is primarily about self awareness, being able to act, and react responsibly, comes in handy.
“I think the discipline from the military does give me an advantage in terms of how I deal with staff, and how I deal with my managers,” he says, adding that private security is a mature market given the current structures put in place by the Private Security Regulatory Authority (PSRA).
In December 2019, the PSRA, which is charged with security training, improving personnel welfare and assessment of people employed in the private security industry, started fresh vetting and licensing of all private security players in Kenya to ensure that players in the private security space uphold the standards laid out in the Private Security Act and to ensure that they act professionally.
The regulator also prescribes a standard curriculum and assessment standards for private security training to be undertaken at every training institution a time when there are about 7,000 private security guards in close to 2,000 companies.
“Starting a security company these days is not as easy as it used to be some two to three years back. There was no regulation in the past. Now we have a regulator, and the regulator is quite strong and they are controlling the industry so that we have standards which were previously not enforced… So a number of companies are going through vetting right now and quite a number have been licenced to provide security service. In the next ten to five years security will be much different,” says Ndolo.
Recently, SGA Security attained the International Standards Organization (ISO) 18788:2015 certification from Intertek – the highest standard for any security firm in Kenya and the region, in recognition of its conduct and compliance of risk management capacity to meet the professional requirements of clients and other stakeholders in the Security Operations Management System (SOMS). SGA Kenya, SGA Uganda and SGA Tanzania are the recipients of this recognition in their respective countries, he says.
“In terms of our certifications, experiences, and target market, we do have a place that we are playing in right now… we compete within a certain niche in the market, and if you want security in certain level there are e a few firms you are looking at, and I am very proud of the positive and good name that we have out there,” explains Ndolo, a man who has continually focused on his personal career and personal development side.
He points out that private security firms should be well regulated. While government has set a minimum wage for guards at Sh27,000, the total cost of putting a security guard out there in uniform, trained and meeting all the regulatory requirements, comes to about Sh33,000 to Sh36,000. The elephant in the room is; how much are private companies supposed to pay a security officer?
“If I come to you and you tell me you want a guard and I tell you 12 hour shift will be Sh37,000, I am sure you will tell me that Sh37,000 is way too much. It becomes challenging to sell that guard with such prices which (you know) a lot of people will not be able to afford. And, how much is that person who is charging you Sh20,000 paying the security personnel? Even in the US, or UK, guarding is very expensive. Selling quality security personnel is expensive,” he says.
Three years ago, interior affairs cabinet secretary at the time, Fred Matiang’i, in a gazette notice allowed private guards to carry arms, quell riots and make arrests, operate rapid response vehicles, police privileges that never saw light of the day. The regulations aimed at maintaining law and order, and help handle national disasters.
“Be ready to arm your guards because we will withdraw officers from some of these jobs like CIT (referring to Cash-in-Transit business),” Matiang’i told a battery of journalists at the time. Today, Kenyan private security officers are not armed, an indication that some things are easier said than done.
“By law we are not allowed to arm our (private) security officers but in the other countries that we operate in such as Uganda, in Tanzania our security officers are actually armed,” says Ndolo, a man who played golf for quite a number of years.
When Mr. Ndolo is not at work, he is most likely playing golf, travelling or meeting people. Camping and game drives also run in his veins.
“I played golf for quite a number of years, and I still intend to go back to the golf course. I like to go camping with my friends, game parks… not into game drives but camping and travelling,” he says.