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Federalism is the answer, after all – Part 32

By Editorial Board
03 June 2021   |   3:00 am
Widespread banditry and other criminalities terrorising our corporate existence, right in the face of a helpless central police system would, again, validate our resolve that true federalism

President Muhammadu Buhari

Widespread banditry and other criminalities terrorising our corporate existence, right in the face of a helpless central police system would, again, validate our resolve that true federalism is the answer to questions of insecurity among other related challenges at the moment.

Before our very eyes, criminal gangs have gone brazen across states, eroding all public confidence in the Federal Government-controlled police, especially. State governors, who are the chief security officers to whom the people bequeath their trusts, deserve the latitude of state-owned police to ward off threats at this crucial time. It is gratifying to note that all of the governors have now built a credible consensus around state police, thanks to their helplessness at this time.  

The Federal Government should warm up to federalism that will involve state policing, not the failed central system that is masquerading as community policing under the last IGP, an artful dodger – from state police.  
Governors under the aegis of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) first made a strong case for state policing as a replacement for the new community policing arrangement for which they had already given a vote of no confidence for its lack of neutrality and capacity to serve purposes assigned to it in the Police Act 2020. They said the newly introduced arrangement was already being abused by partisanship, technically failing to decentralise the control and funding of security architecture down to the grassroots. 
As this newspaper has consistently opined, the community policing agenda is an ingenious distraction, if not mischief, against the urgency of true restructuring of both the Nigerian system and its security architecture. And it is in the best interest of the current administration and public good to exercise sincerity of purpose, to save the country from the brink and shackles of a unitary system.
The governors are not alone in the rally for truly decentralised security architecture that has grown louder with worsening insecurity in the land. Recall that unbundling the current security arrangement was at the heart of the 2014 National Conference and its report that has since been left to gather dust on the shelf. The All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2015 campaigned promising to restructure the moribund system too. Following denials and counter denials by men of the broom, the ruling party set up a committee to look at the propositions of restructuring. The committee led by Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai, concluded that the country, just like its security structure, was overdue for state police, if the country must work again. How many times will public intellectuals and commentators refer to the El-Rufai Panel Report of 2018 before President Buhari will listen to the voice of reason?
Between then and now, the country has not worked: It has in fact worsened. Bandits across the length and breadth are either hiding under Fulani herders or freely occupying territories to attack soft targets and compete for space with Boko Haram sects in national security consciousness. Almost every week, there are reports of heavily armed bandits in a midnight raid killing and abducting students, teachers and their family members at all-boys and all-girls in far northern and north-central states. Passengers are not spared in the current nightmare that has made road travels more precarious. Records are beginning to appear that bandits have killed more Nigerians in the few months than the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic. And quite shameful of the Nigerian State, private citizens like Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, are reportedly negotiating with bandits right in the forest that is elusive to the entire Nigerian intelligence community headed by President Muhammdu Buhari.

Apparently tired of Federal Government’s complicit insincerity and tardiness with reforms, some states have taken the gauntlet of state policing and they should be encouraged like the opposition governors have advocated and the governors’ forums have adopted. Encouragement should begin with not confusing state policing with community policing. They are not the same for the following reasons. First, there is widespread insecurity in the land and attendant agitation for decentralising the unified security architecture because the existing system of mobilising and taking orders from unified police heads in Abuja has failed. A new sub-set of that failed structure, call it whatever name, is only window-dressing a failed structure. Second, the American system that we often cite as standard has a truly decentralised system that doesn’t confuse community policing with the federal police. In the United States, there is the federal police that has exclusive control of the FBI and Homeland Security. Each of the 50 states has its police and criminal investigation agencies. Then the counties have their Sheriff’s departments, among others. While they cooperate, the local county police are neither a subset nor take orders from Washington in local affairs. Third, the Nigerian state once had local independent police formations that worked in the pre-colonial days and before the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) that began as an experiment. The latter was to centralise the security network, yet it failed and turned out to be the worst form of the indigenous police system, going by the preponderance of crimes, social crisis and poor performances of the federal police in communal matters.
As the governors, of the opposition states have rightly rebuffed the idea of community policing structure without the local content, the Acting Inspector General of Police (IGP) should not join the Abuja bandwagon to confuse Nigerians just because of the N13 billion earmarked for the dubious project (community policing).  A truly decentralised security network draws from the community, for the people and takes cognisance of the culture, their nuances and the immediate environment. But beyond mouthing the most workable idea of state policing, it is time the South West, South East governors and believers in state policing in the North put their money where their mouth is. It is not enough to publicly support indigenous policing systems in the face of security threats. State governors across board should rally their regions and commit more to funding for full implementation of homegrown security in collective interest. It is certain that once we are able to arrest insecurity from the communities, wards, local councils, state and regional levels, then our economies and attendant prosperity will boom.

Clearly, the Nigerian Police Force, which is on the exclusive legislative list is an experiment that has outlived its usefulness. It is time to restructure it from the roots and give indigenous security systems, their self-funding and control a chance. There are so many writings on the wall now pointing at the expediency and urgency of restructuring of the failed federation. The Buhari administration should work with all the documents and groundswell of opinion on the decentralisation of police operations in the country. That is what will send a strong message to the people that indeed the Buhari administration would fulfill the promise of change his party used as a vehicle to ride him to power in 2015.

All told, the Nigeria’s leader should note that he has only few options to tackle the spate of insecurity in the country. Certainly, state policing in its organic form as in all federations the world over is the most urgent one he needs to tackle insecurity that has threatened to discredit his administration. The regular lamentation of the president on state of insecurity isn’t a strategy. Our leader needs to address what most of the people are saying: that he should restructure this convoluted federation to reflect federalism we lost since 1966, lest we should be the last.  

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