State police: From rhetoric to action
AS the nation continues to grapple with existential and grave security issues, it behooves the Federal Government and all stakeholders to re-think its security strategies and re-jig the existing security architecture to save us from a free fall into the depths of anarchy reminiscent of Libya, Somalia, and Yugoslavia in modern times.
No one needs any preaching to be convinced that the nation’s current approach to tackling the scary crime rate and the different facets of insurgency in the land has failed woefully. The corporate and fundamental existence of Nigeria is under severe pressure. The level of fragmentation in our body politic is alarming and this increases by the day. Nigerian citizens at home and abroad are highly distraught, worried and despondent with thousands of opting to undertake desperate journeys of migration through unsafe routes.
In response to this crisis in the security sector, different stakeholders have proffered probable solutions. One of such is the idea of community policing. The other day, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, governor of Ekiti State and Chairman of Governors’ Forum reported that the presidency, state governors and the Inspector-General of Police were ‘currently perfecting plans for the smooth take-off of community policing across the six geo-political zones of the country.’’ He was also reported as saying that support from the presidency would be needed in areas of ‘‘arrangements ahead of the launch of community policing, coordination among governors and security heads across the six zones as well as recruitment arrangements.’’
While in principle we gladly welcome this coordinated effort on re-ordering the security system, we are wary that the approach seems to be another version of dealing with the problem in the spirit and texture of a central command and control system. This approach failed in the past. Let us not fool ourselves into thinking that we can do the same thing in the same way and expect a different result. The federation spirit negates this approach. It is our considered view that state policing should be constitutionally guaranteed and only states that can afford it should embark on it.
Daily reports of acts of pillage and wanton killings have become so commonplace across the country that we are gradually accepting them as the new normal. Our highways are no longer safe for travel even in broad daylight in some areas. Commuters, both rich and poor, are not spared the bullets of those savages. Rampaging herdsmen have been fingered as the main culprits. It is true that some criminals may also hide in the guise of herdsmen to wreak havoc. It is the duty of security men to unravel the truth in all circumstances. Too much blood has been shed and is still being shed. Yet the politicians, both in the executive and legislative arms of government in Abuja, seem to live in a different world. If a denial of fact is the only solution the Federal Government has to offer, then it has no business being in power. If the founding fathers of the Nigerian nation were to resurrect by some chance they would be appalled by how their successors have made a mess of the federal structure, which they labored for and entrenched before the disruptive incursion into governance in 1966.
The verdict is clear: a central policing system is not in consonance with the fundamentals and practice of federalism. Only obtuse and recalcitrant leaders whose views of governance are warped can continue to revel in the anomie that has descended into the polity with frightening severity. In any properly administered federation, policing is local. One of the common arguments for effective policing is knowledge of the area and understanding the local culture. A policeman who understands his environment, who is accountable to local authorities is more likely to achieve greater milestones in crime detection and prevention. Local policing encourages commitment and being proactive. It also facilitates prompt response because of the closeness of the hierarchy and men of the command to the scene of crimes. It is for this reason that we support investing the state governors with the power to control the police structure in their domains.
The time to act is now. We are on the brink. Two elder statesmen, ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, and Mallam Musa Balarabe, former governor of Kaduna State, respectively at different fora gave a warning the other day too about the dire and precarious situation, which the country has now found itself on the watch of the incumbent government. Using such pungent expressions as ‘‘very onerous cloud is gathering…and rain of destruction, violence, disaster, and disunity can only be the outcome’’ and ‘‘it has never been so bad in this country…and every patriotic Nigerian should come out and talk to Buhari and save the country from war,’’ the two elders called on the president to wake up from stupor and take charge of things. We urge the president to look beyond the messenger and study the message: our country is tottering like a house stricken by an earthquake. Dithering or pussyfooting is not an option. To put this in everyday language, nobody should play politics with the lives of human beings.
The president should rise to the occasion and save Nigeria from the specter of and descent into a war of attrition. Along with the National Assembly, the powers-that-be should tinker with the security system and make it reflective of political realities. Indeed, Nigerians are sad that their elected representatives are not putting enough effort to re-direct the polity onto the path of peace and harmony. They should facilitate the creation of state police by amending the 1999 Constitution. No right-thinking Nigerian will oppose tinkering with the 1999 Constitution at this time. The presidency should enter into dialogue with all stakeholders. The Army, Air Force and Naval chiefs who have completed their tenure should quit the scene. The headship of security agencies should reflect the plural nature of our society. That way the president would be fed with objective assessment at all times. In their wisdom, our African elders say that ‘‘a river which overflows its banks before our very eyes does not drown us!’’