True federalism and the question of state police – Part 2
There were cases reported in which some criminals had been terrorizing some communities in some areas within Lagos and its environ for a length of time and the people in the area only got relief when the Vigilance group in the area rounded up the criminals and handed them to the law enforcement agents. The point here is that because the members of the Vigilance group belonged to the area, they knew the terrain and the neighborhood so well that they could identify people of doubtful personalities.
Many of the criminals would not want to operate if they have the knowledge that the security enforcement agents are those who can easily recognize them as people from the same neighborhood and strange people will find it difficult to go to an area, where they can be easily identified as strangers, to perpetrate crime. A pointer towards this is when the Nigerian army recently took some officers and men through the learning of some of the major languages in the country. The relevance of the training is to make it easier for the soldiers to relate with their environments of operation.
For instance, some years past, the wife of the then speaker of the House of Assembly in Osun state was kidnapped and kept in communicado by the abductors. She got her freedom when a Vigilance group somewhere around the Benin border in Ogun state suspected the unusual occupants of a vehicle, challenged them, apprehended some of the abductors, while some were killed. The importance of the story is just that the Alhaja regained her freedom because the Vigilance group knew the people within the terrain as well as their idiosyncrasies.
The case of the four young men who were shamelessly murdered in Aluu town would have been different if the policemen who got there during the tragic drama were people from the locality who could listen to the agonizing cry of one of the mothers of the victims and if the governor of the state had had direct control over the police men without having to consult the Almighty Inspector General of Police. If the governor had had the power and the mother had known that the governor had the power, she would have run to the governor for assistance rather than petitioning the Inspector General or the National assembly.
Some school of thought would have even argued that true federalism would have made many of the crises in the country impossible. The crises and crimes in the Niger Delta and in the Boko – haram – torn North would have been unnecessary if there had been true federalism. In a truly federal system, the centre cannot first of all tap the resources of a state or region and later dole out something as what it considers to be appropriate for that houses the resources. In true federalism, the state concerned should be the principal partner in deciding what should be tapped, how it should be tapped and, in agreement with the government at the centre, the percentage of the revenue that should go to the federation account.
If our political players claim to be practicing federalism, they should abide by the spirit of federalism. The government at the centre should take care of the power specified in the exclusive list which bothers mainly on the defense of the territorial integrity of the country as well as the national currency. The centre should be satisfied with its own portion of the concurrent list and leave the remainder of the concurrent list as well as the residual list to the lower tiers of government. The power at the centre should be exercised to promote mutual understanding and respect among all the arms of government. Such mutuality would have saved the country and the citizens from the usual uproars that most of the time accompany cases of suspicions between the federal government and the other tiers of government.
In the present political set up, the centre wields power that almost equals the one accorded to God. This explains the reason while all geo-political zones are jostling ferociously for the about to be vacancy at the Presidential Villa. My impression is that if the power accruable to the centre is reduced and we strictly follow the less rigid and less autocratic dictates of federalism, the Nigerian state and the citizens are most likely to be confronted with less misfortune of insecurity and unbridled ambition than under the present pretentious unitarism that is covered with the veil of federalism.
KEHINDE SALAMI is Professor of Philosophy, Obafemi Awolowo University,Ile Ife