BY TIMOTHY AGBOR, OSOGBO
Security experts have raised concerns that President Muhammadu Buhari and the National Assembly might have deliberately been avoiding possible solutions to addressing insecurity in the country.
They noted that the president, in his 62nd Independence Anniversary speech to Nigerians, failed to talk about the need for state police despite the growing calls for it by the citizens.
Reports have it that no fewer than 60,000 people had been killed in Nigeria’s 18 northern states in the last 10 years due to insecurity. Stakeholders also hold that the northern part of the country has been the worst hit since the nation was enmeshed in the web of terrorist attacks and banditry.
According to a report issued by the Centre for Democracy and Development in May this year, titled, ‘Multiple nodes, common cause: national stock take of contemporary insecurity and state responses in Nigeria,’ about 14,000 people lost their lives between 2011 and 2021 in the Northwestern states of Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Kebbi, Sokoto and Zamfara.
The report, signed by the CDD Director, Idayat Hassan, also measured conflict related casualties in the North Central states of Kogi, Kwara, Nasarawa, Niger and Plateau, including the Federal Capital Territory.
It revealed that around 11,000 people were killed in the period under review while about 35,000 people were killed in North East states of Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba and Yobe.
Also, a data compiled by SBM Intelligence, using multiple sources of which Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project made available in January, 2022, indicated that the number of people killed in Nigeria surged year-on-year by 47 per cent to 10,366 in 2021.
The Africa-focused geopolitical research firm noted that civilians formed the bulk of the casualties, but the military and other law enforcement agents also felt the heat.
“Fatalities can be said to be deaths resulting from an accident or disaster, while casualties are people injured or killed in a war or in an accident,” Confidence MacHarry, a resident security expert at SBM Intelligence, said.
Apparently tired of losing lives in scores, the Northern Governors Forum and Northern Traditional Rulers Council recently lent their voices to the popular demand for state police for the first time since other regions have been mounting pressure on the Federal Government on the need to establish state police as panacea to addressing the problem of insecurity.
Arising from a meeting on September 12, 2022, the northern leaders demanded for the amendment of the 1999 Constitution to give legal backing to state police.
A communiqué issued at the end of the meeting read that “This will effectively and efficiently address the security challenges of the region.”
A former Nigerian president, Olusegun Obasanjo, recently canvassed for the creation of state police in order to tackle the growing insecurity in the country.
This gives credence to call by the Southern governors for the establishment of state police.
However, there are worries in several quarters that notwithstanding the clamour for state police across the country, President Buhari and the National Assembly refused to give it a thought.
It will also be recalled that the President had opposed the state police, saying that it was not an option to addressing insecurity in the country. Rather, the President insisted that the establishment of grazing routes would solve the problem of farmers, herders’ clashes in the country.
Buhari had said in one of the interviews that “State police is not an option. Find out the relationship between local governments and the governors. Is the third tier of government (local governments) getting what they should get constitutionally? Are they getting it? Let the people in the local government tell you the truth – the fighting between local governments and the governors.”
The Senate Constitution Review Committee had bowed to Buhari by rejecting the recommendation for state police.
However, stakeholders, including the Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere and the National Chairman of the People’s Democratic Party, carpeted the President and the federal lawmakers for rejecting state police.
“Security experts have argued that the gains of establishing state police far outweigh the fears or the potential challenges. They contended that President Buhari might have been evading the “popular demand and solution” to insecurity”
Constitutional obstacles against state police
The Point gathered that the major obstacles to demand for state police are the provisions of the 1999 Constitution.
Section 214(1) of the Constitution expressly warns that “There shall be a police force for Nigeria, which shall be known as the Nigeria Police Force, and subject to the provisions of this section, no other police force shall be established for the Federation or any part thereof.”
Section 215(4) of the Constitution provides as follows, “Subject to the provisions of this section, the Governor of a state or such Commissioner of the state Government as he may authorise in that behalf, may give to the Commissioner of Police of that state such lawful directions with respect to the maintenance and securing of public safety and public order within the state as he may consider necessary, and the Commissioner of Police shall comply with those directions or cause them to be complied with: Provided that before carrying out any such directions under the foregoing provisions of this subsection, the Commissioner of Police may request that the matter be referred to the President or such minister of the Government of the Federation as may be authorised in that behalf by the President for his directions.”
Fear by Nigerians
Since the issue of state police has been on the front burner of public discourse for many years, some Nigerians kicked against it because of fear of abuse, especially by political administrators.
Unlike President Buhari’s desire to retain a single policing system at the federal level, a number of citizens are against state police because of the fear of abuse by the state governors.
They argued that the governors, being chief security officers of their states, might deploy the security outfit against their political rivals.
A public servant, Kunle Adeyemo, said, “I agree with you that state police is part of the solution to the security challenges we are facing in our country, but my fear is that our governors will abuse it. Look at Amotekun, during the July 16 governorship election in Osun State, the PDP went to court to stop INEC from allowing Amotekun personnel to participate in the security efforts. They had their way because the court also agreed with them that the state governor may use the Amotekun to his advantage before, during and after the election.
“So, as needed as the state police is, I am afraid that it may cause more havoc than it’s expected to solve. Our patriotism in this country has not developed to the level whereby political office holders would think of the general good before their selfish gains. Even the federal police that we have now are still being abused but because there is only one controller, it has been mild.”
Another Nigerian, Ikeoluwa Gbadebo, a lecturer, is in support of state police but contented that it would be abused by state governors and other authorities in the state.
She said, “State police is not really what we need now. What we need is that the federal and state governments should join hands and ensure that the federal police are up on their toes. If their salaries are increased, erring ones sanctioned, equipment provided and morale of officers boosted, then I think we won’t be talking about state police. Amotekun is there, how far have they gone with it? I just feel that state police will be misused by state governors.”
It’s high time FG created state police – Experts
Security experts have argued that the gains of establishing state police far outweigh the fears or the potential challenges. They contended that President Buhari might have been evading the “popular demand and solution” to insecurity.
A security and counter-terrorism expert, Anthony Adebayo, said that the agreement of governors and leaders of the North to the establishment of state police was a welcome development, stressing that the region had for long been experiencing carnage.
Adebayo said, “It’s a good improvement to the north and I believe it will work out for them because they are the ones suffering the effects of terrorism even though we also have scratches around the South. It’s more Northern calamity more than the South. This is the first time they are telling themselves the truth.
“Many of those northern traditional rulers are no longer in their towns and villages. Many of them are in the capital cities. Many of them are still in Abuja and that’s the truth. Many are in safer areas like Kaduna and all that. They are no longer in charge of their domains and they have seen that every crime is local; there is no crime committed in the sky. There must be a location for the crime, there must be a place where the miscreants, the bandits, the terrorists are based. There must be a place from where they take off, there must be a place where they return.
“So, wherever any criminal gang is located, it is either somebody’s farm or somebody’s house, or people are on that street. If it’s in the bush, some people own that land. It is either it is owned by the state government as GRA or personally owned. Nigeria is ripe enough for state police.
“North is waking up to reality. What the North was fighting before was mentality and criminals love that. Criminals always hide under that to do whatever they want to do. It has been we against them – the North against the South. The South has been the one actually fighting for state police, the North has been against it. So, it had been ‘we against them’ and the criminals were so happy about that.
“They kept multiplying themselves up and down all over the place. Another ‘we against them’ mentality that has been working for criminals all over the North is that they thought they were fighting against religion – Islam against Christianity, and they hide under that for a long time until people in the North start realising that, come, these guys are not fighting for religion. These guys are criminals. So, if they have taken 360 degrees now to say they want to have state police, I think it’s the beginning of good things for the North.”
On the fear of abuse of state police by governors, Adebayo said, “The gain far outweighs the fear. We should look at the gains and not on the fear. The kind of money we are spending on criminalities, we can’t even afford it.
“There must be laws guiding the establishment and operation of state police. Absolute power corrupt absolutely. We should have a legal framework that will not make it an appendage of anybody. Even if a governor has to remove a Commissioner of Police, there must be measures in place. There is conflict and rivalry among security agencies. When we create state police, we must insist that they do their work. There should be a force of monitoring. Once state police starts, the media must rise up as watchdog.”
Another security expert, Akin Adeyi, said that President Buhari should consider the popular demand for state police and establish it before leaving office.
“When majority of citizens have gotten their acts together, I feel government should listen and do what they want so far it’s in the interest of the country. People are dying every day and the call for state police has been on for long. President Buhari cannot continue to avoid this suggested solution.”