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Hegemonism versus state police

By Ray Ekpu
05 July 2022   |   2:57 am
Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara State is a frustrated man who, like all the state governors, has been given responsibility without powers.


Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara State is a frustrated man who, like all the state governors, has been given responsibility without powers.

He is designated as the Chief Security Officer of his state but he has no wherewithal for securing the state. That power belongs to the Federal Government according to the rickety 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. His predecessor Abdul’aziz Abubakar Yari was equally afflicted by the assault of bandits and terrorists in his state.

He told Nigerians that he did not want to be called the Chief Security Officer of the state, as he was given no tools with which to secure the state. But the inconvenient truth is that he could not accept the office of State Governor without accepting its accompaniment, namely Chief Security Officer of the state.

By the Nigerian Constitution, the two offices go together. That is the inconvenient reality. That is the major flaw in our constitution, which no leader past or present and no legislature past or present has cared to amend. Governors, therefore, remain, in security matters, toothless bulldogs in our so-called federal system.

I know of no federation in the world with our size of population and diversity that has only one central policing arrangement. Having one central police force with a single operational command structure clearly makes our federalism structure wacky. This is how the Governor of Ondo State, Mr Rotimi Akeredolu put it recently: “A federal system of government cannot be administered as if the country is a unitary colony, controlled rigidly at the centre while the constituent units are treated as mere outposts.” It is not only that the unitary system we are operating has not worked satisfactorily but the most important aspect of it is that we have not bothered to change it.

The APC set up a committee headed by Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State to examine the nature of our federalism and make appropriate recommendations. The team spent public money and travelled to all the geo-political zones, asking for and receiving presentations from the people. The committee came out with a report that recommended a number of measures including state police. As of today, that report is still gathering cobwebs in someone’s office. President Muhammadu Buhari just shot it down and moved on while the country he runs continues to suffer under the capture of terrorists, bandits and kidnappers who torment our people daily.

It is obvious that Buhari is a man with a hegemonic frame of mind who wants everything federalised and the country’s power put only in the two hands of whoever is Nigeria’s president. If he can achieve it he probably would like not just the security agencies under federal boots but perhaps such matters as land, water, grazing grounds etc so as to achieve the hegemonism of his brand of federalism.

It doesn’t seem to occur to Buhari that the existence of Amotekun in the South West and Ebubeagu in the South East is an indictment of the Federal Government, an admission of governance failure at the centre. And as various states such as Zamfara, Benue, and Katsina have called for their citizens to carry arms and defend themselves that indictment becomes absolute.

Recently, Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara State worried about the massive killings of his people by terrorists and bandits urged them to buy guns and defend themselves. He said that his government will distribute 500 forms to each of the 19 emirates in the state for them to obtain guns for self-defence. He also plans to recruit 200 additional Community Protection Guards (CPG) in each of the emirates. He has already signed a bill that prescribes the death penalty for terrorism, banditry and kidnapping.

These measures are a direct response to the severity of the insecurity situation in the state. It has been there for years because there is a massive deposit of gold in the state. So the criminals have acquired the resources with which to procure sophisticated arms. No one can truly give an accurate level of atrocities recorded in the state and country. However, Beacon Consulting has computed figures of atrocities committed by terrorists and bandits in May this year across the country. The figures are 421 attacks, 265 abductions and 913 deaths. The actual figures are probably higher since some local communities hardly report incidents that occur in their communities to appropriate authorities.

Buhari has attempted to deal with the security situation by purchasing aircraft and ammunition, changing security chiefs, providing more resources for their use and increasing the number of policemen recruited every year. He has also caused the police to start what is called community policing. But community policing as I have said repeatedly is not the answer because the operational control of the policeman is not locally located.

Besides, Commissioners of Police do not owe allegiance to state governors. They owe allegiance to the Inspector General of Police who takes instructions from the President and Commander in Chief. So the idea of community policing is the equivalent of tilting at windmills. No President will be able to tackle the insecurity in the country satisfactorily without State Police. State Police will substantially increase the number of men and materials available for use. It will domesticate the operational powers of the police. It will benefit from the gift of local idiosyncrasy in intelligence gathering and each state will utilise technology appropriate for its situation.

We seem to treat casually the issue of technology in security management. But that is what Israel has always used in defeating the enemies that surround it on all borders. We must put together a gathering of technology and security experts to work out appropriate technology for dealing with the various forms of insecurity in our country. The tepid action of just summoning security chiefs to a meeting at the Aso Villa whenever any major atrocity has occurred should be considered only as a subsidiary action. Technology is the key. The use of our people is the key. Surveillance is the key. Why should we say that we do not know where the terrorists and bandits operate from when we have people who return from there when the ransom is paid?

At the recent Commonwealth summit in Rwanda, Buhari met with Mr Boris Johnson, British Prime Minister. The man offered to assist Nigeria on security and I was surprised that Buhari turned down the offer. Instead, Buhari told him to assist Libya, apparently hitting Johnson below the belt for Britain’s contribution to the fall of Gaddafi and the collapse of that territory. But Libya is not worse than Nigeria. In fact, Libya is better than Nigeria. That is why we still have hordes of Nigerians still staying there, even though a lot of them have come back. The brutality that Libya has witnessed was a crisis waiting to happen. Even though Gaddafi provided amenities for his people he was an epitome of terror to the same people. Giving his people food was good but not enough. Food had to come with freedom, which he denied them, a lesson that all dictators must bear in mind.

Resorting to self-defence by citizens is glaring evidence of governance failure. And it is not a solution to the problem. In fact, the philosophy of individual self-defence makes the idea of a government nugatory. It takes legitimacy away from governance, governance by governors and the president. It is clearly an act of desperation, which can lead to more desperate actions, the proliferation of small arms, hunger for blood, anger at minor happenings and the development of a gun and or violent mentality and the gift of nihilism.

What is the answer to the question of insecurity in Nigeria? State Police. Anyone who scoffs at the idea of State Police in this big country is simply fooling himself. That is why Amotekun, Ebubeagu, and community guards have emerged everywhere. But their emergence is a mere Pyrrhic victory because they are not fully armed. Why is any Nigerian leader afraid of State Police? Answer: hegemonism.

Opponents of State Police claim that governors will abuse its use. That may be true but where will we all be? We can fight that with placards and demonstrations and court actions. Secondly, the abuse of state police by governors can only be limited because the governor’s area of coverage is also limited. Thirdly, if we can live with the abuse of the Federal Police by the President who also controls the Army, Navy, Air Force, Customs, Immigration, Department of State Security, NDLEA etc why can’t we survive under the limited abuse that a state governor may come up with? Fourthly, it is common wisdom that if there is State Police, there will be a check on the excesses of the Federal Police and vice versa. That is what political scientists call “balance of terror.”

In any case, there is nothing that is advantageous that does not have a disadvantage. Even the sun as beautiful as it is has a disadvantage: a shadow. On balance, the advantages of establishing state police far outweigh its disadvantages. I believe, therefore, that the argument ought to be resolved in favour of state police if we are sincere about curtailing the level of high crime in our dear country.