Arresting worsening insecurity
The events of the last one month have proven more than ever before how urgent it is that we examine and reflect on the extant security architecture of our land. If bandits could dare to abduct police officers on assignment on an expressway, there is no other signal that can be picked than that war has been brought to the doorstep of the security forces, but of the government. There is the accustomed world-wide notion that the face of government you encounter in any community is the police. The uniform is the staff of authority. When you encounter the police, therefore, you encounter the government in its awesome protective armour.
Flowing from that is the guaranty and confidence of protection from criminals. It is the assurance that all is well. Yesterday, reports quoting BBC stated that suspected bandits kidnapped 12 police officers of the rank of assistant superintendents more than a week ago on the Katsina-Zamfara Expressway. They were going to Zamfara from Borno State.
Equally frightening a week earlier was the storming of the home of a professor in the Faculty of Medicine, Ahmadu-Bello University, Zaria, by kidnappers. They abducted his wife and daughter. Gunmen similarly made away with five health workers from a private hospital near the Federal University, Lafia in Nasarawa. In the same week a couple, the wife, Aisha Sadiq, an expectant mother, were killed by kidnappers in Kaduna, the same day a woman by name Ameenah Ibrahim was kidnapped, again in Kaduna State capital, the southern part of which is suffering from intractable insecurity featuring orgy of killings and mindless destruction of property.
Daily Trust Columnist Gimba Kakanda writing on the state of insecurity to which the Northern leaders paid highly insensitive scant attention at their meeting in Kaduna earlier in the month told a story of two sisters who had been in the den of kidnappers for 15 days. When their brothers went to the spot with the ransom the abductors demanded, they were beaten up and they themselves kidnapped to join their sisters.
Another grim security report came on Tuesday from no less a government functionary in Kaduna than the State Commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs, Samuel Aruwa, corroborated by Southern Kaduna Peoples Union. They said that within three days 16 persons were killed by gunmen. This is coming about the same time the Vice-Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Professor Kabir Bala, stated that eight of the institution’s students were among people kidnapped on Kaduna-Abuja Road last Sunday.
An online newspaper, Everyday News reports a similar kidnapping raid on Nuhu Bamali Polytechnic in Zaria. Gunmen stormed the staff quarters of the college. They shot one man and fled with three other persons. They entered the college about 9pm on Saturday. The newspaper quoted the school’s rector, Kabir Abdullahi, an engineer as saying that he was in Kaduna when the chief security officer phoned him to inform him about the attack on the staff quarters. The rector said: “It is true that suspected armed bandits have kidnapped one of my staff, Engineer Bello Atiku who is Head of the Department, Computer Engineering.”
In his own account, Aruwa the Internal Affairs Commissioner spoke of wanting banditry in Southern Kaduna between Sunday and Tuesday—two days ago, sweeping through Giwa, Zangon Kataf, Igabi and Kajuru Local Government areas. The Southern Kaduna peoples Union corroborating the harrowing experiences in the area said the District Head of Mazaki, in Atyap Chiefdom, Zango Kataf Local Government Area, Haruna Kuye and his son, Destiny Kuye. During the raid of Sunday in that belt, a former village head in Maraban Kajuru, Kajuru Local Government Area was killed as well. In Giwa and Igabi Local Government Areas, 13 persons were killed between Sunday and Monday.
How vulnerable the country is in terms of insecurity was starkly demonstrated in the aftermath of the EndSARS protest, indeed on the trail of an otherwise well-organized and sophisticated youth protest. Some other youths with grievances different but not dissimilar to the issues raised by the EndSARS protesters took over and ignited mayhem across the land. The kernel of the protest was calling for end to police brutality by its unit specifically set up to battle armed robbery and other violent crimes. The entire police community, feeling demonized and humiliated stood aloof, pushing the citizens to help themselves if they could, not even entreaties, assurances and directives by police high command could get them back on their beats to rescue the country from mayhem, looting and horrific destruction of businesses and properties. Nothing could have proven how exposed and helpless the country can easily be. The outcry was loud and clear to the most hard of hearing that we cannot go on like this without alternatives. The present mono-policing system has failed disastrously if the experiences of the EndSARS days have any additional lessons to teach us. Before the protest saga, the situation was bad enough. Several parts of the country had been turned into killing fields. The alternatives in all countries with a federal arrangement of government are to have other tiers of policing. Of course, the imperative of dismantling the centralized policing has been a subject of national debate since the return of the country to a democratic order, the Fourth Republic, in 1999.
As I once observed in this column, the plank on which the argument for variegated policing has rightly been anchored is that a centralized police system is antithesis to the letter and spirit of federalism. There is hardly any federal state with diverse people that operates a centralized police system. There is no way it will not lead to suspicion of impure motives, acrimony and hostilities. If we have elected a federal republic, it means we have chosen what we think is good for us as a country of over 500 nationalities as discovered by the 2014 National Conference, with different culture, aspirations, values and world views. In the heat of the debate from 2017 to 2018, I quoted former Governor Jonah Jang who had said: “We cannot be calling ourselves a federation and be running a unitary system of government. The two don’t work together.” He went on: “If we want to run a federal system of government we should run it properly. It is unfortunate that during the military which I was a Part of, we believed in a unitary system and when we were trying to give the nation a constitution we end ended up giving the nation a unitary constitution to be operated in a federal system of government. That is why nothing is working. So, if we really want to progress as a country we must restructure the country.”
Governors are the chief security officers of their states. As we have seen and governors themselves have experienced over the years this is only on paper. This was brought to the fore by the Governors Forum under the chairmanship of Abdullaziz Yari then the helmsman in Zamfara State. At the time he made public the position of his colleagues, as if there was need for something to bear him out and reinforce the position of the governors, his backyard was in chaos in which no fewer than 31 persons died. On the heel of the Governors Forum stance at the time came the Nasir el-Rufai Committee Report on Restructuring. The establishment of the state police featured conspicuously in the report. It was also believed that at a time that there was renewed thinking in the Presidency that year when Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo spoke at a security summit organized by the Senate. He had said that it would be difficult for the Federal Government to provide security for the country from Abuja in view of the fact that Nigeria had failed to meet the United Nations requirement of a policeman to 400 people. Governor Henry Dickson lending his voice as governor with experience and a lawyer, said the prevailing security situation and the need for an effective response to the challenge had made the establishment of state police mandatory. His conviction was borne out of the fact that the personnel would be drawn from the locality that made up the state. Such personnel would be able to access valuable information required to prevent crime and track criminals. He went on to state that the police as at then become over stretched owing to the wide ration of police to the rapidly increase in population. These are facts made more self-evident by our experience in the aftermath of the EndSARS protest when looting and unimaginable destruction were unleashed on the nation with no police to check the hoodlums. That is the predicament into which the country has been plunged by those that can be said to be either ignorant, deliberately callous or enlightened but are of impure motives who are not touched by their compatriots being killed or being driven from their homes for safety, carrying mats and little belongings wandering into IDP camps.
Hear what Southern Kaduna Peoples Union said: “SOKAPU is saddened by the spiraling wave of kidnapping and killings in the state . In Giwa and Igabi LGAs, 13 persons were killed between last Sunday and Monday by outlaws who seemed to be making a mockery of the state. At this point we call on Kaduna State Government to come to the assistance of thousands of IDPs in southern Kaduna. Most of them are living under sub-human conditions, especially children, women, the old and infirm in Kallah, Rimau and Geffe all in Kallah ward, Kajuru LGA, thousands of Adara IDPs are in dire need of food and medical services.’ He said story according to him is the same in Gbagyi of Chikun who have fled their homes. They can be found in the thousands in Unguwan Madaki and many Kaduna suburbs south of River Kaduna. These thousands can be added to figures that we have always had. As of February 2018, the total number of the internally displaced persons in the North East and North Central was estimated to be over two million. With the figure at the time Nigeria was host to the sixth IDP population in the world. Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states had the largest number of IDPs, with approximately 1.68 million. The figure excluded the IDPs in Benue State said to be 160,000. It is the shame of a nation.
For those who have been stalling the emergence of the state police, it is the same puerile, shallow argument of the state police being misused by governors, a notion dispelled by former President Ibrahim Babangida. Contributing to the debate in 2017, he said the fear of misuse is unfounded and, indeed, exaggerated. He should know. Joseph Daodu, one-time President of the Nigerian Bar Association put it in all simplicity that state police is for law and order. Can anything be greater be greater than simplicity? In the revelation of the living higher knowledge available on earth today, it is said in simplicity lies greatness. It is amazing that given the all pervading criminality the Federal Government continues to drag its feet. It is unbelievable that giving the security uncertainties we can still afford to delude ourselves into believing that the problem of insecurity would go away without the establishment of state police. Can the misuse of police by say a combination of three state chief executives mass up for the country an estimated displaced people of three million without other parts of the country not rising to arrest the evil and the descent into Darkness? A matter of common sense! Where is the love which is the bedrock of character?