State Police: Waddling on a precipice
The reported recent engagement between the lithe governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu and a detachment of armed police officers from Abuja at the now controversial Magodo GRA ll Estate, is vividly reminiscent of the July-2020 engagement at a private residence in Port Harcourt between the thunder-invoking Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike and a detachment of armed police officers from self-same seat of federal power.
In October 2016, the same Rivers State governor had had to respond to late night distress calls from the besieged homes of High Court judges in his State. Need l stop to inform that now even Supreme Court justices are not immune from these egregious outrages – no thanks to a ruffled amazon whose spouse preceded Nyesom. Neither is the hallowed First Estate of the Realm spared – thanks to DSS’ Gestapo-style operations at that establishment of a memorable morning in August 2018. These incidents are teeming with negative pregnant. Indeed, as has been said elsewhere, these are very, very disturbing times for citizens-police relations in our country.
As reported in the 2020 incident, the police had besieged the private residence of then-acting managing director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Joy Nunieh, purportedly armed with Arrest Warrant.
The Ogoni environmental activist then contacted her governor who, in his turn, made inquiries with Abuja. But, again going by reports, the perplexed governor could neither get the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) nor the Attorney General of the Federation (AG) to align themselves with the bizarre siege in PH, leaving him with but one option: proceed to the scene and rescue the beleaguered citizen. Wike arrived at the GRA residence, engaged the police officers in a manner that could hardly pass as gentlemanly, and eventually carried the ruffled lady away from the potentially explosive scene, literally with his own hands. Eerie, wouldn’t you say?
Eerie it is, indeed, because the parallels between the Magodo and the PH-2020 incidents are very frightening.
Not unlike his Rivers State counterpart, Sanwo-Olu had, prior-to proceeding to the scene of the siege, made inquiries with appropriate authorities in Abuja with the same results as the inquiries from PH. Neither the IGP nor the AG reconciled themselves to the Magodo siege. Now, one puzzle inevitably sticks out like a sore thumb in all of this. Why did the Heads of Police Commands in the respective States not accompany the governors to the scenes of the unfathomable siege? That conspicuous absence is presently one of the jumbo elephants in Nigeria House, respecting interior security.
Every now and then we hear of one governor or the other lamenting their lame-duck status as chief security officers merely in name, because Commissioners of Police (CPs) do not take instructions from State governors. But how does that come about, when CPs are administratively subordinate to governors, as chairmen of State Executive Councils, to which CPs are ex-officio members? This is cliff-edge situation as exemplified in the tragic aspects of the #EndSARS protests in Lagos.
After obtaining the president’s prompt assent to all the demands of the #EndSARS protesters, Sawo-Olu was supposed to return to a much-less volatile situation in Lagos had the State Police Command been in full league with him. But, alas, to his evident chagrin, the embattled governor returned to a rapidly deteriorating security situation across Lagos, with the protesters making much more demands of the federal government.
Apparently that lack of effective synergy soon put the governor out of his depth, compelling him to make that clumsy, if fatal call to the military. (Why couldn’t the governor get a key member of his executive council to stand with him, even in an acute emergency?)
Of course we are not unaware of the concerns that have been raised as touching likely abuses should State governors be granted de facto chief security officers status. What with the un-abating dictatorial propensities of many a governor in relation to Local Governments and to party primary elections; countless budding lives have been lost, as many more are being wasted incidental to these alleged executive abuses. We also have on good authority that the two committees on police affairs in the National Assembly are respectively up to their necks investigating indented alleged abuses by State governors.
Therefore, no one can reasonably deny that the State governors-cum-State Police Commands nagging question is as proximate as you come to a Catch-22 situation: head, you needlessly lose innocent lives; tail, you similarly lose. Notwithstanding, the three branches of federal government must (in caps) come up with an optimal way out of the present conundrum. That is what leadership is all about, ultimately – cost-effectively combat the monsters that menace human societies. To seem daunted in the face of our security challenges, and presume that the hideous monster herein identified is some imagined threat that will wither with time would be as hazardous as waddling on a precipice.
Nkemdiche is an engineering consultant in Abuja.