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Pile of events

By AbduRafiu
14 July 2022   |   2:45 am
The rate at which events are piling up is mind-boggling. It is not even the acceleration and intensification of these events that are shattering as much as their content.

Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Usman Alkali Baba. Photo/FACEBOOKTHENIGERIAPOLICE

The rate at which events are piling up is mind-boggling. It is not even the acceleration and intensification of these events that are shattering as much as their content.

Hardly is one able to catch his breath than purveyors of information assail us with what they define as Breaking News, and practically all so categorized and depressing. Uplifting ones are a rarity.

Anyone who is attentive and perceptive is bound to come to no other conclusion than that our world is out of joint. Just consider the happenings in the last two weeks.

More than 800 inmates at Kuje Correctional Centre were freed by armed men who stormed it. They operated at the Centre described as Medium Security Custodial Centre, the modern name for a jailhouse more known as a prison. Among those on the loose are Boko Haram terrorists, about 64 of them.

A few days before then there was horror at a gold mine in Shiroro. No fewer than 43 persons lost their lives in an attack by again armed men who took them by surprise. Among those shot dead were soldiers who numbered 30, and also seven mobile policemen. Some Chinese were abducted from the site as well.

The most scandalous to demonstrate the precipice to which Nigeria has been driven was the attack on the convoy of the President’s advance party of aides going to Daura, his hometown. The incident raises several embarrassing questions. What was the aim of the gunmen? Did they have information about the advance party’s movement? Who was the target? That the President’s convoy could be waylaid and fired at is too frightening to contemplate and bear. And as if to deepen the wounds in our hearts, hours after visiting Kuje, the President jetted out for a meeting in Senegal. He said to cancel the trip would be tantamount to conceding victory to the dare-devil terrorists. I think it was one trip too many! Indeed, the trips have been many—to France, to Turkey, to Spain, to Senegal.

The picture that floats in the mind would seem to suggest that it might be easier these days to simply have a mail for the President forwarded to any of the world capitals than to the Villa at Aso Rock. I will seek guidance from Geoffrey Onyeama and Abike Dabiri very soon in the event I have a mail for the President.

The Nigeria House is on fire. We have the gallant soldiers, policemen and the DSS operatives accompanying the convoy of the advance party to thank for averting an unimaginable calamity. They repelled the gunmen who had ambushed the convoy. Two persons were injured. A day before the incident, an Assistant Commissioner of Police, Aminu Umar Dayi was killed in an ambush by another gang, but in the same Katsina State in what reports say was a revenge attack. The senior police officer had led a team of his men to raid the hideout of bandits in the area the previous week.

The insecurity has sunk to such a nadir that even homes that anyone would call his castle are not safe.

On Saturday, the chief executive officer of Always Petroleum, Muhammed Jamiu Idris was abducted by gunmen from his residence at I dare in Okene Local Government Area of Kogi State.

A total of 43 persons still remain in captivity of the Kaduna-Abuja train hijackers. They were seized when their train was attacked on 28 March this year. Neither the President nor the legislators are keen on giving thought to the imperative of establishing state police, despite the loud clamour for it. This column has addressed the subject three times.

In the face of the intractable security challenges the President would have rushed down an Executive Bill to the National Assembly and used his influence to bear on the legislators to pass it as a matter of urgency.

The obstinacy on the part of the President as well as the dragging of feet by the legislators is incomprehensible to a great many in the land. The National Governors Forum right from the time of Abdul-Aziz Yari down to Kayode Fayemi has pressed for it, so has the Southern Governors’ Forum under the leadership of Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State.

One occasion, this column did argue as far back as 2019 that there is no way the Nigerian security situation could have deteriorated this badly were the state police to be in place, more so as the incidents are purely law and order. There was no way state police recruited from among the indigenes of Borno State would have, with their eyes open, folded their arms and allowed their society to disintegrate socially and economically. At the time of the writing around Maiduguri alone there were nearly three million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). There were about 780, 000 of them in Benue and no fewer than 10, 000 in Taraba.

In Zamfara the hotbed of banditry, the figure was obviously higher. Professor Gana Zulum doing a good job has boiled down the figure in his state of Borno considerably, returning the IDPs to their villages. Visiting a community a few kilometres from Maiduguri attacked by insurgents the second day after he was sworn in. Governor Zulum said he was going to arm young men who were assisting or who wished to assist the military to forestall any further attacks by the insurgents.

In the words of Dr Okeke, “… the distance between the police and the community, unlike in Britain, resulted in the proliferation of vigilance security apparatus in Nigeria. It entails community partnership in creating a safe and secure environment for all.

With the creation of Anambra State Vigilance Service by an Act of Parliament, Act 9 of 2000 signed into law on 06 December 2000, Anambra became the first to arm a vigilance group. The state government officially recognised it, funded it and paid members salaries. Abia State, Imo, and Ebonyi followed suit with their Houses of Assembly passing bills each establishing a vigilance service, resulting in what sounded like a formal launch of community policing in 2004.

Lagos was the first to break out and signal its readiness to set up its own police with the then Governor Lateef Jakande setting up what amounted to state police. The formation was downgraded following the controversy that trailed it, with the argument that police were on the exclusive list of the constitution. Since then succeeding Administrations have retained the form, but not the essence. The outfit has largely been confined to traffic control. There was, however, some bite added to the project with the establishment of the Neighbourhood Safety Corps by Akinwumi Ambode. The corps was off then, 5,700 men strong. What further evidence do we need to persuade ourselves that the governors are roaring to go?

All along, the seriousness with which Lagos has taken the issue of security has been a model to several states in terms of support to the Nigeria Police. From the Administration of Tunde Fashola, a report on the state government’s Security Trust Fund he set up was given at a yearly Town Hall meeting which afforded members of the public to ask questions and make suggestions. As of 2017, the fund had received a cash donation of N199 million and N9 million worth of equipment –cars and gadgets—from corporate organisations and individuals. The government itself put in N1 billion to meet police running expenses. One of the Lagos city fathers, Femi Okunnu was so impressed by the posture of the state government that he said “…the manner the state government makes money available to the Fund is the proper way to spend security votes.”

As this column did report at the time, Fashola, speaking at the 2014 edition of the Town Hall meeting, said after five new area commands were approved for the state, his Administration had to provide buildings and equipment for them. The then police commissioner in the state, Yakubu Alkali, corroborating the account by Fashola said Lagos State Command received from the Fund two helicopters, 300 vehicles, mobile workshop vehicles and 60 patrol motorcycles. The command additionally received two million ammunition, five fibre boats fitted with 75Hp outboard engines, 30 Armoured Personnel Carriers (APC) and 1,000 AK-47s. The Lagos State model was endorsed by the United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice. Some states asked for guidance on how they could simulate the Lagos model.

Three weeks ago the column reminded us of the position of the Vice-President, Yemi Osinbajo when some time ago, delivering a speech, he had said: “The nature of our security challenges is complex. Securing Nigeria’s over 923, 768 square kilometres and its 180million people requires far more men and materials than we have at the moment. It also requires a continual re-engineering of our security architecture and strategies…We cannot realistically police the size of Nigeria centrally from Abuja. State police and community policing methods are the way to go.”

The President himself layout his plans to the APC in 2014 and said if he was allowed to fly the party’s flag and he became President, he would take urgent steps to decentralise the police. We can recall that the 2014 National Conference approved the setting up of state police, National Border Force and Coast Guide for what was called improved security across the land. The decision followed the adoption of the report of the Conference Committee on National Security, headed by a former Inspector General of Police, the now late Gambo Jimeta. Through a unanimous voice vote, delegates agreed to the creation, funding and operation of the State Police and community police on state laws. One of the delegates, Chief Ayo Adebanjo said the state police should be autonomous and should operate co-coordinately with the Federal Police, arguing that the state is a co-ordinate to the Federal Government.

The question needs repeating: What is the Federal Government waiting for to establish state police? Why do we continue to shoot ourselves in the foot, given the mess into which the nation has been plunged?

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