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Security: Tilting at windmills

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There is no serious opinion leader in Nigeria who has not sunk his teeth into the paralyzing issue of insecurity in Nigeria. There is no leader of significance, past or present, who has not shown deep concern about the deep deterioration of the government’s ability to protect our people. There is no significant group of Nigerians that has not shown paroxysms of outrage about our sharp descent into a state of lawlessness and hopelessness.

Security or the lack of it is the defining agenda of the moment as we all feel paralysed physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Without mincing words, we appear to be at the precipice of a dramatic free fall as a nation and it is uncertain if our leaders do know how far down that dangerous road we have gone. We are down in the gutter of despair and we are enveloped with gloom. There is no State, no region, and no section of Nigeria that is wholly or nearly wholly free from fear of the kind of insecurity that the country has not witnessed since the end of the civil war in 1970. Everybody has a river of grievances against those whose duty it is to protect our lives and property but who have failed abysmally to do so. When we complain their spin artists and sycophants say that we are exhibiting hatred for our country because apparently, they expect us to accept our failing state of existence with quiet passivity. In the last few years, our people have been abducted from major and minor streets, highways, and footpaths in the north, south, east, west, and other points of the compass. Boys have been kidnapped in schools. Girls have been abducted from their dormitories. Old men and old women, young women and adolescents have been captured, tortured, defiled, and killed sometimes even after receiving huge sums of money as ransom. Even those who have a battery of escorts are not immune from the prospect of being dealt with. The Governor of Borno State, Professor Zulum has escaped death twice at the hands of terrorists.

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The Governor of Benue State Mr. Samuel Ortom had to undertake an unscheduled marathon race to escape from being lynched by those who had waylaid him but who missed him by the whiskers. A few years ago, a former President Dr. Goodluck Jonathan escaped being killed as his waterside residence in his village was invaded by some unknown gunmen. So if all these high profile Nigerians can be an audacious target who, then, among us can sleep with his two eyes closed? No one. What is happening on the highways is perhaps the most unnerving. Innocent travellers in lorries, buses, or cars sometimes find that their drivers have to slow down on the bad portions of the ill-maintained rock-and-roll roads. At saner periods in the past, those portions of our highways were turned into emergency go-slow markets where travellers could buy bananas, groundnuts, bush meat, plantain, pure water, and drugs that the sellers claim are capable of resurrecting a dead pudendum instantly.

Now those places are the favourite hunting grounds for kidnappers. So what used to be temporary fun spots have now been transformed into permanent disaster zones since those whose duty it is to fix the roads have failed us and themselves. Now that these mayhems have conquered and subdued us, they have now shifted their target to the security agencies – army, police and prisons, attacking and burning their facilities at will and abducting and killing their personnel. In the process the hoodlums also gather whatever arms they find to enrich their arms arsenal. In the last five months it is estimated that 10 prisons have been attacked, 134 police stations have been razed and 3,837 prisoners and detainees have been illegally set free. A former Head of State of Nigeria, retired General Abdulsalami Abubakar says that there are about six million illegal arms in unauthorized hands. Some security experts think that the figure is probably higher and rising. If the figure is six million, it is scary; if it is higher than six million, it is scarier because it means that at any time at any place anything untoward can happen to anybody.

You may remember that our police headquarters in Abuja, yes the police headquarters, was bombed a few years ago. Now, that the criminals appear to have tested successfully their ability to penetrate a fortress such as the police headquarters, they seem to want to do it in the other large, loosely protected security outfits almost routinely. Many of these police stations dotted in several rural environments have only a couple of ramshackle buildings, a few policemen in tattered uniform and rubber slippers and torchlight and batons which constitute their major war implements. These policemen working with almost bare hands have the unenviable duty of having to face these miscreants carrying AK-47s, machine guns, and detonators. If the policemen choose to run away when the touts arrive can you blame them? The attacks on these security and correctional outfits are as terrible as they come. They are a diminution of the power of the nation-state to discharge its security responsibilities. So far the criminals seem, in the eyes of the public, to be having the upper hand or something close to that. The criminals apparently want a complete breakdown of law and order so that we can get to the place where life is brutish and short, if we have not arrived there already.

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Secondly, their action, if unchecked, will be aimed at proving that, in fact, we have no government and if we have it is sleeping on duty. In these activities, we are all jointly humiliated, the government and the governed. Haven’t we been humiliated enough? Residents of Sokoto State once called on soldiers from the handkerchief-sized Niger Republic to come and protect them since Nigerian soldiers say that their weapons are inferior to those of the criminals. Haven’t wives of our soldiers had a demonstration asking for their husbands to be paid their entitlements and to be provided with modern weapons? Hasn’t a young soldier done a video complaining about the poor quality of the arms given to them for combat? Haven’t Nigerians, out of desperation, asked for mercenaries to be hired to come and face our foes for us for a fee? Haven’t Nigerians asked our government to crawl to America, Britain, and anyone else, even outer Mongolia, and ask for help so as to save us from being annihilated by these criminals?

As part of the desperation, the Minister of Information, Mr Lai Mohammed convened a town hall meeting in Kaduna to discuss the country’s security situation. The hall was filled to overflowing and the words flowed like water from a spigot. I saw men with lean and some with pot bellies wearing their lovely flowing gowns and assorted caps pretending to be doing serious business. I kept yawning because that is the only appropriate response to the theatre of the absurd. I am sure as someone who is paid to talk Mr. Mohammed was sure that he was doing what he is paid to do.

Talking serves him best. But pray, what is the point in holding a fruitless town hall meeting on security when there are tons of ideas in the 2014 National Conference report, in the El-Rufai Committee’s report, and in the newspapers every day on security.

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What Mohammed and the people assembled in Kaduna did was simply tilting at windmills, a fruitless talk shop, a bloody waste of public funds, an act of appearing to do something about something without doing anything about something. The ideas are there. They have always been there but no one in authority seems to be interested in ideas that can reasonably deal with the major security issues. The truth, the blunt truth, the unvarnished truth, is that no government in Nigeria will be able to properly and sufficiently protect Nigerians in all the nooks and crannies of Nigeria without a secondary police force aka State Police. Mr. Nasir El Rufai who was chairman of an APC Committee that was asked to look at the issue of true federalism came up with a number of recommendations that included State Police but Nigeria’s Pharaohs remain unmoved by and impervious to fresh ideas. There are, in my view, seven advantages of State Police. One, if each State recruits 10,000 policemen and women who graduated over a number of years we may get about 800,000 policemen from the Federal and State Police forces. Numbers will help.
Two, decisions will be taken speedily at State and Local government levels because the operational command will be localized. Right now 36 commissioners manning the States report directly to one man, the Inspector General of Police, and not even to the AIGs who head the zonal offices.

Three, Right now State Governments support the Nigeria Police with vehicles, equipment, and funds as a discretionary duty. If we have State Police, they will be able to fund their police as a matter of legal necessity as the authentic Chief Security Officers of their States. Four, at this point the Governors will accept, willy milly, that they are the dejure and defacto Chief Security Officers of their States and can be truly, rightly, held responsible for security or lack of it.

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Now it is fraudulent to hold them responsible for security in their States because they are given responsibility without power. In fact, it is a misnomer to call them Chief Security Officers because the actual power to secure their States lies elsewhere since they control neither the Armed Forces nor the Police. When a security crisis occurs they can only grit their teeth or hold a whirlwind of fruitless meetings with security men whose loyalty lies elsewhere.

Five, each State can launch its Police support fund and raise money to fund its security, acquire modern equipment and technology because the Federal Government cannot meet fully the financial, technological and manpower needs of the Police in all the States.

Six, every crime is local. Intelligence gathering must also be local to be effective. Those who live in local communities are in the best position to provide intelligence because they will be invariably contributing to their own protection. Strangers cannot.

Seven, if the need for a secondary police force did not exist, we would not have had Hisbar, vigilante groups and the recently established Amotekun which has demonstrated through some recent successes that it will grow to become a major factor in the security architecture of the South West.

I wonder who can bring those who can take a decision on this matter to the circle of reason so that Nigeria does not remain at the mercy of miscreants when we have immense resources, manpower, intellectual, financial, to turn the heat on them and save our people from the serial harassments to which they are subjected daily.

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