Weighing options to safeguard Niger Delta
Aside militancy in the creeks, which resulted largely from perceived neglect and non-recognition of the region as an important component of the federation, the fresh challenges currently confronting the Niger Delta are mainly cases of cultism, small arms and light weapons proliferation, farmers/herders clashes, kidnapping, sea piracy, and sex trafficking.
When during his May 1 broadcast, President Muhammadu Buhari gave his nod to the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, to adopt community policing as a strategy to battle crime in the country, instead of state police, many thought it was another political statement, meant to make his Labour Day speech interesting.
But this soon gave way to curiosity, especially with the plan of recruiting 40,000 Community Police Officers from within the communities of applicants and an average of 50 CPOs to be engaged in each of the 774 Local Government Areas.
So, stakeholders were both wary and hopeful, when they converged at last week’s security talk shop. The suspense was high, and you could have heard a pin drop when the police boss took time to explain how his institution hopes to go about implementing the President’s order. The IGP did not mince words, as he reiterated that the sustenance of peace in the region remains a critical national security objective.
He said: “There is no police force in any clime in the world that can achieve its mandate in isolation of the community they were established to serve. This is regardless of the number or quality of the human resources, logistic capacity and funding profile, or remuneration and policing strategies that are in place.
“The security and safety of the communities they serve shall remain under threat, if there are partnership, communication and trust gap between the police and the citizens, and that underscores the importance of the zonal security summit…”
He called for stakeholders’ support in sustaining, strengthening and advancing the interest of communal and internal security, explaining that the Force would soon re-launch “the Safer Highway Motorised Patrol and the Safer City schemes…”
Additionally, Delta State Governor Ifeanyi Okowa and his colleagues in the South-south have endorsed community policing, as the panacea for the nation’s pervasive insecurity.
The support for grassroots policing came at the engaging exercise that also had in attendance traditional rulers, ethnic nationalities and civil societies to give perspectives to the security situation in their communities.
In a communiqué, the participants said the motive of community policing, which centres on integrating the grassroots into security management across the federation, was commendable. They agreed that the summit significantly redefined policing and security arrangement nationwide, adding that the current debacle should be the concern of not just government, but also of every citizen.
In the document signed by the IGP and representatives of the governments of Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo and Rivers State, and read by Governor Okowa, participants urged the police chief to design training for vigilance groups and neighbourhood watchers to bridge the personnel gap in the force.
They equally resolved that ad hoc security operatives be well equipped and funded with their operations subject to the direct supervision of the police.
Mr. Adamu was not alone in this, like the governors, together with first-class monarchs; civil society groups and Miyetti Allah took a turn to proffer ways to achieve the new security architecture. This situation, they all agreed, had created a huge gulf, and that the new project could only work, if the police could break down the wall of apathy, to gain the people’s trust.
Earlier in his welcome address, the state governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa said: “This type of engagement is imperative for formulating a policing policy that is focused, broad-based and liberating, as against the emotional outbursts and mass hysteria that often tend to dominate the national conversation on security.
“The South-south has had to grapple with multifaceted forms of insecurity, beginning with militancy in the creeks, which resulted largely from what our people perceive as years of neglect and non-recognition as an important component of our federation. The agitators at that time obviously tasked the capacity of law enforcement agencies, oftentimes exposing the gaps inherent in our security architecture.”
Admitting that militancy in the Niger Delta has significantly abated; he said the zone now faces emerging security challenges that require a fresh approach.
His Edo State counterpart, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, said the need for community police could not be wished away.
He reiterated the call for the restructuring of the Nigeria Police Force, to make room for community-driven policing. He canvassed better funding for security of lives and property of Nigerians, noting that it was ironical that Nigeria remains the only country globally, with a federal structure that still operates unitary police.
“It is not whether we should have state or community police, because it has gone beyond debate. The conversation we should be having is how it will be implemented, as we have to restructure properly and constitutionally.”
Although it was generally agreed that the security challenges in all states are similar, there are still some areas, for which each state is distinctively noted.
Aside traditional rulers, who welcomed the idea, and made case for their inclusion in the new policing policy, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) also told the IGP to address the excesses of his men in the region, which yields apathy and resentment that will take more than the summit to address.
The issue of local government participation was also highlighted, as council bosses bemoaned the situation where funds are not made available to vigilance groups, who perform better in tackling crimes, even in cases where the police have failed.
They were unanimous in their suggestion that the three tiers of government, as a matter of policy, use their security votes to fund vigilance groups, just as local governments were urged to see it as their duties to promote their efforts, through regular local seminars to enlighten them on their roles, limitations, and cooperation with the police force.
Another issue was that of training, as they noted that the institution must also focus on developing skills and qualities related to effective community policing.
This means officers should be schooled in liberal subjects like sociology, psychology and political science, which will facilitate their involvement in community development and positive interactions with community residents. Consequently, community policing forums must also be broadened to include residents from all ethnic, religious, occupational, and age groups, so that all residents’ needs and perspectives are included in discussions of community issues and problems.
They pointed out that a major constraint on community policing is underfunding. It was noted that community policing requires greater funding than traditional policing, due to the necessity to train and retrain officers, acquisition of modern crime-fighting equipment, and morale-building pay and emoluments for officers.
On their part, representatives of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), through their National Chairman, explained their challenges with natives and people masquerading as herders to commit crimes. The body insisted that most crimes ascribed to it were actually not true.
While suing for understanding, MACBAN, in a speech read by Alhaji Gidado Siddiki, stated that for the reasons of the natural economic endowment of the South-south, the difficulty in navigating the terrains, and the obvious neglect in attending to the issues of development in the zone over the years, youth restiveness became the symbol of the security problems across the zone.
This development, it said, had greatly hampered the growth of the zone’s economy, as insecurity and fear of the unknown are detrimental to meaningful investment drives.
Acknowledging that his members are also involved in crime and criminality against innocent hosts, he said: “We recognise that it is not always that our people are blameless from some events that snowball into some of these conflicts. We are, therefore, very pleased that this summit is holding, as the causes of the avoidable tension between our herdsmen and their landlords in this part of the country will be addressed, and remedies worked out…”
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