State police and national security
The high state of insecurity and the inability of the Federal Government to deal with the orgy of killings by herdsmen in the country certainly challenge the very basis of Nigeria’s existence as a sovereign nation.
The National Assembly, obviously responding to this dangerous scenario the other day started the process of amending the nation’s constitution to give states the power to create their police forces.
This is salutary news in the face of a constant barrage of bad news across the country.
This may be well the beginning of the journey towards creating a truly federal country.
Sadly, the executive arm of government has been caught napping.
It has shown sheer incompetence and obnoxious detachment from the ugly realities which citizens face every day. Pictures and media reports of brutal killings shock Nigerians almost every week.
Although all fingers point in the direction of the now notorious and vicious herdsmen, the Presidency appears to be in a quandary about taking appropriate actions.
President Muhammadu Buhari seems to have got reports that some citizens believe that he is incapacitated because the alleged perpetrators are members of a band he once headed.
This is because he openly said last week that it is unfair for anybody to express that idea. However, the President should go beyond a disclaimer.
He was elected to act as Commander-in-Chief on behalf of the people. Regrettably he cannot be said to have effectively discharged his obligations to the Nigerian people on the herdsmen matter.
Men of the Nigeria Police controlled from Abuja appear defeated and despondent. Perhaps they have every cause to be. A Police post was attacked in Abuja last week and seven officers were killed.
Till now, the culprits have not been apprehended. Also, in the same week, police officers on security posting in Maiduguri staged a public protest against failure to pay their entitlements.
Last month, the Governor of Zamfara State Abdul’aziz Yari dramatically and symbolically resigned as Chief Security Officer of his state because he ‘had no control over security machinery in the state.’
To be sure, this is the plight of most governors in the country. It is a fundamental contradiction. It runs counter to the spirit and practice of true federalism.
The State Commissioners of Police are not obliged to take orders from the duly and constitutionally elected governors of the states.
Where in the world does it happen that an elected governor has no control over security in his territory?
It is dangerous that the presence of military officers in Benue State has not stopped the killings.
Nigerians are now forced to ask: what exactly is going on? The truth is that state security should be in the hands of the constituent parts of the federation.
The current unitary system of policing is not working. There are states in which local groups now branded ‘vigilante’ perform some security duties in some communities.
The men of these groups are usually drawn from the community. Their efforts have been more effective in checking the menace of local criminals.
The lesson is that local policing is the way to go.
Creating state police is one of the low hanging fruits of restructuring. It is baffling that President Buhari believes that the current political arrangement is sacrosanct and must not be tinkered with.
Society is dynamic. Real leaders are expected to review existing conditions once problems begin to arise.
Even marriages that had been contracted for years are subject to review by both parties in order to make the union healthy.
Where such parties refuse to re-examine their relationships in times of fundamental disagreements, it could result in a split.
The time therefore has come for the structure of Nigeria to be revisited in line with the demands and aspirations of the people. No one man should hold the country down.
The President is hereby urged to call for the Nasir El Rufai committee report commissioned by his ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, and create an enabling environment for the implementation of some of the recommendations therein.
Indeed the outside world sees the crisis which Nigeria faces as a domestic issue. French President Emmanuel Macron said as much when he visited last week.
Nigeria must therefore develop internal solutions to the problem.
All elected officials should come on board the restructuring train and alter the financial and economic architecture of the Nigerian State for the good of the people.
The president should remember his pledge to provide security for all Nigerians.
The current acts of genocide in the Middle Belt are unacceptable.
It is appalling that the president has resorted to prayers and finger pointing as a way of confronting the killings.
The buck stops at his desk. His security team should rise to the occasion and end the killings.
A government that cannot secure the lives of citizens has no business being in power.
In the midst of the killings in the Middle Belt, the nation is aghast at the number of security personnel that has been deployed to election zones while the battle field where security men are needed is denied of same.
For the umpteenth time, the point is hereby made that restructuring is not synonymous with dismembering the country.
It is a suggested way of improving social and political relations among the constituent parts of the federation.
The era of the big and almighty but ineffective central government is gone forever and should be discarded.
The units should be allowed to manage their resources and make their contributions to the national coffers as it was during the First Republic.
All the signs are there for state police to be created.
As for those who fear that some governors might abuse the state police force when created, they should be reminded that there are institutional checks to prevent this.
The laws will be specific on federal and state crimes and redress can always be sought in the courts.
Besides, unless tried, it may never be known how effective it could be in checking the level of crimes in the country.
The National Assembly should use this as an opportunity to examine the basket of demands for a proper federation and pick out the immediate ones that would enhance the level of security in the country.
The time to act is now.