Our crown of gloom
People of various descriptions, Nigerians, foreigners, old men, and old women, young men and young women, pastors, clerics, professors, travellers, public and private sector persons, no one is safe from the prospect of being kidnapped or maimed or killed by some evil men.
Nigeria has become something like one big evil forest where evil things occur daily, weekly, putting us all in a devouring gulf of despair, making all of us except the mighty, full of fear for our lives, fear of the next person and fear of the next moment.
As we watch the news or read the newspapers daily, we are tormented by the devastating news of recklessness and mayhem and madness by strange men carrying various impedimenta of murder. All of us are in a panicky mood now as we visualise these heart-pounding moments of terror in which our beloved country is enmeshed. We realise that most of us are walking the knife-edge of danger and have unwittingly, casually, accepted being forced by our present circumstance to accept violence as a way of life.
The effort made by the Federal Government which is vested with the authority to protect lives and property has been an abysmal failure despite their best shots. Now two former rulers of Nigeria, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, and General Olusegun Obasanjo are so alarmed that they have decided to make, outside of the established system, their own contributions to the search for peace and tranquility in our troubled country.
General Abubakar, a man who speaks sparingly and guardedly, felt compelled to say, a few days ago, that ”there is anger and tension in Nigeria” when he summoned people of concern to have a meeting with him in the joint search for peace. This meeting was apparently a reflection of the former Head of State’s frustration with the lack of progress by officialdom to arrest the country’s fast descent into a state of anarchy and anomie.
Recently, also, General Olusegun Obasanjo had a meeting with leaders of herdsmen living in the South West at his Presidential library in Abeokuta. At that meeting, both parties proffered ideas on how the current messy situation can be brought to normal. We must thank the two former Heads of State for their initiatives. However, whatever ideas they generated from these meetings must fit into the Federal Government’s idea of how the problem should be tackled.
Last week, the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo took his own or the Federal Government’s idea, of how to tackle the problem on a roadshow. He had a meeting in Osogbo, Osun State with South West Traditional Rulers, community leaders and security stakeholders. At that meeting, he announced that the security agencies will now use aerial surveillance equipment to protect South West forests. The Vice President’s meeting, I believe, is triggered by three factors:
(a) The anger that Afenifere and many South Westerners including governors have expressed on the forceful occupation of their zone by herdsmen from Northern Nigeria. They considered such an occupation of their major highways and forests as an insult.
(b) The killing of Mrs. Funke Olakunrin, daughter of Afenifere leader, Chief Reuben Fasoranti, allegedly by Fulani herdsmen in Kajola village along Benin-Ore Road in Odigbo Local Government Area of Ondo State.
(c) The news that the governors of the South West have decided to set up their own security architecture to protect the lives and property of their people. They have already set up a committee that is feverishly working on this.
Some time ago, the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode had made billions of Naira purchase of essential security equipment for Community Policing in various areas of the state. The Governor of Cross River State, Professor Ben Ayade, had done so some time ago. The southeast governors have also decided to police their own forests and highways as well. The latest attempt at taking its destiny in its own hands is Rivers State where there has been a series of serious security infringements recently.
On July 26, 2019, Governor Nyesom Wike launched a State Security outfit codenamed Operation Sting. His new security architecture comprises 76 patrol vehicles fitted with communication gadgets, eight armoured gunboats for coastal security, two armoured personnel carriers and 450 hand-held mobile radios.
The state governor has established operational bases in all the 23 local government areas. In addition, the government has established a fund to take care of the families of the security operatives in the event of any calamity befalling them while on duty. By these measures, the state governments are setting up their own police forces by whatever aliases they may be called.
In normal times, the Federal Government or its agencies would have jumped up to scold or flog or bully them for infringing on Section 214 of the 1999 Constitution which vests the policing of Nigeria in only the Nigeria Police Force. In fact, the Constitution explicitly says for the purpose of clarity that “no other police force shall be established for the Federation or any part thereof.”
Since the Federal Government seems overwhelmed by the security situation, it feels comfortable looking the other way while the various state governments are establishing their police forces in violation of Section 214 of the Constitution. Necessity is the harbinger of that violation.
At the Osogbo meeting, Osinbajo brought to the fore the idea of community policing. It is an idea that all the Inspectors General of Police have been pushing since the beginning of this Republic as a means of quenching the public’s thirst for State Police. But community policing is not a substitute for State Police. In fact, community policing can only work efficiently where there is state policing in operation.
In community policing, policemen must be recruited from the local environment because they know the lay of the land; they speak the local language and they understand the customs and traditions of the people. These are very important for the gathering of intelligence and for the settlement of disputes in those communities without a resort to litigation. The operational authority must also be localised. Community policing will fail if police in those local communities have to take instructions from Abuja. So community policing as proposed now by the Vice President and the Inspector General of Police is not a panacea for the present insecurity situation in Nigeria. It is by no means the magic wand that we have been waiting for. If it is tied to the present operational and command structures of the Nigeria Police Force, I can say without any equivocation that it will be dead on arrival.
It is very funny that we prefer to dance around the subject of State Police while the reality of its inevitability stares us in the face. Now the Senate wants to mount a security summit. That too sounds very funny. What will its security summit produce? Nothing new. The APC set up a Committee under Governor Nasir El-Rufai on restructuring. The members travelled to all the six geopolitical zones. They came back to report that State Police was highly favoured all over the country. The Governors Forum under Governor Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara State endorsed it.
The Vice President marketed it vigorously, saying that the Federal Police alone cannot police the country and that State Police was a desideratum. We don’t need another talk shop.
What the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives need to do is to have a heart to heart talk with the President who seems to be the main opposition party to State Police. If they win him over, they can easily amend Section 214 of the Constitution and give State Police the boots with which to march into history. A security summit is a waste of time and resources because the solution is like an open book. You can read it.
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