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Herdsmen attack and a reformed police

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Nigeria Police Force

It was contended that the challenges of global warming and desertification forced the herdsmen down south in search of pasture, and that they should be given free spaces for grazing. It was also contended that the herdsmen are foreigners who unleash mayhem on the citizens at the slightest provocation, most of the attacks being reprisals. Yet another thought states that the Boko Haram terrorist elements are only changing their style of offensives. Some states passed the anti-grazing laws which were partly blamed for the recent clashes between farmers and the herdsmen. The Federal Government on their part proposed the Cattle Colonies or Grazing Reserves which was still faulted. The reasoning given was that lands belonging to natives would be ceded to pastoralists in unjustifiable ways. These are divergent narratives in a country where human lives are taken for trifles, a country where many get killed in cold blood before a situation is seen as perilous.

I have, however, viewed the recent Nigerian conflicts from the angle of security and the adamant disposition put up by the government regarding the sector, most especially the part of the Police. One would expect that as a war veteran and a retired General, the foremost approach to the ruthless murder of innocent Nigerian citizens by terrorists or herdsmen, whatever nomenclature suits the perpetrators, would be to champion a major reform in the security sector in a way that the roles of the Police and similar paramilitary outfits will be reinforced vis-à-vis the complimentary duties of the military in local conflicts.

When once I raised the issue of Rann IDP bombing by the Nigerian Air Force and the need to investigate the tactical lapse, examples of a similar mistake made by American soldiers in Afghanistan was cited as a justification and a reason to allow the dead to rest on. But a situation where women and children are slaughtered in large numbers with matches like sacrificial rams calls for a rethink of the relevant security apparatuses in the country. Analysing how long it will take the machete wielding killers to kill fifteen or twenty people and whether some security personnel would have intervened before the thirtieth death will not be out of place. The fire arm attacks on the Coptic Christians in Egypt or the terrorist bombings in Afghanistan and North East Nigeria would have happened within less time and with less precision in a way that many would be killed before security personnel are alerted.

Security lapses have never been questioned in the overwhelming blame games in the recent massacre of innocent Nigerians of Benue State. The usual style of sending in the military after code naming the operation is a recent practice in Nigeria; little wonder the Inspector-General of Police showed conspicuous resentment in the manner the duty of the police was underplayed in the last Benue attack. The military is often deployed down to situations of civil unrest and used as a panacea to the inadequacies of other security operatives, especially the Police due to chequered conflict narratives. The much debated state police and the need to increase the police to citizen ratio have long been swept under the carpet, apart from the recent Police recruitment exercise ordered by the president which was still seen as inadequate. I was accosted by a police officer and my identification demanded while I was having a walk to master my new neighbourhood the second day I arrived Europe for postgraduate studies. It is not because I am black, of course, I was not the only black person on the street, but the officer must have noticed a stranger in the neighbourhood. I also noticed that a gathering of people, in no time, attracted a team of policemen on standby with their security patrol van and high tech communication devices. Let’s leave out surveillance cameras and other sophisticated security equipment as they may be seen as irrelevant in the context of Nigerian rural communities where these conflicts happen.

It is true that the root causes of conflicts have to be addressed in order to effectively stamp it out, but I ask same question again, must thousands die before a scale of conflict is perceived as perilous, and then a clamp down on the supposed perpetrators by the military? The essence of a reformed local police force in saving the lives of Nigerians cannot be overemphasised. I am not talking of creating another section of the police like SARS or similar department that brandish rifles in mufti. I am talking of a new road map and complete overhaul; we must go back to the drawing board to better the Police in this race to curb anarchy. While committees are springing up to address the brutal killings in Benue State, setting up a Police Reform Committee should be accorded same urgency.

.Offor is an Abuja based legal practitioner and security analyst.


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