When in the early part of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration in 2015, some northern governors, especially Governor Nasir el-Rufai, alerted the nation about the influx of foreigners suspected to be Chadians and Libyans, the waringing raised a lot of fears and concern among ordinary citizens and security community.
All through that initial period of insecurity, the Federal Government seemed unconcerned, until recently when Zamfara and Sokoto states were attacked and innocent lives were sacrificed on the altar of government’s lacaidestical attitude and obvious lack of political will.
If government can rise up to its constitutional obligation by tackling the issue of armed robbery, one is at a loss seeing the plundering of Plateau, Benue, Kaduna, Ondo, Ekiti and Kogi states and not much action was carried out as it is presently enunciated with the attack on Zamfara and Sokoto. According to Webster’s dictionary, “Banditry is a type of organised crime committed by outlaws typically involving the threat or use of violence. A person who engages in banditry is known as a bandit and primarily commits crimes such as extortion, robbery, and murder, either as an individual or in groups.”
The Boko Haram sect’s reign of terror is a higher and dangerous type of banditry. Late last year, 2019, some states in the northern part of Nigeria released hundreds of bandits from detention. In a two-part column, titled “Release of bandits may boomerang,” I had x-rayed the futility of the governors, who politicised the amnesty for their political gain. Unfortunately, the Zamfara State governor, Alhaji Bello Matawalle, granted amnesty to hundreds of Fulani bandits in detention at Gusau Prison, as part of the so-called peace process in the state.
Because there was no public uproar, his counterpart in Niger State, Governor Abubakar Bello, also granted amnesty to bandits operating in his state. One fundamental question begging for answer now is, “Where are the bandits offered amnesty by these governors?” The pardoned bandits are like the house rat that saw an escape route only to extend an invitation to others lurking outside with the aim of showing them the way around the house.
Even when the President directed the military to locate and flush them out, he seemed to have forgotten that the hands of same military were full with operations all over the country, thereby reducing the constitutional role of the police in managing the internal security of Nigeria.
Again, the issue of restructuring has come to the front burner. Nigeria is indeed nursing a sore thumb that needs surgical check. The COVID-19 pandemic, although an uninvited evil, has helped to deepen our articulation capacity. Only recently, the over-flogged issue of adopting the state police again came up. The reasoning is that state governors should be fully in control of the police in their state.
After the state police is in shape, then community policing programmes can be introduced. It is becoming frustrating to hear after a deadly operation, only for the Inspector-General of police to immediately announce dispatching what is always described as a “crack team,” after which no feedback is tabled before the public. In fact, it has become a regular phenomenon. But why wait for the IGP each time there is insecurity when the police state commands and the zonal commands are in place? Dispatching men and material from Abuja to Lagos or other states is not only time-consuming but a waste of resources. The list of cases that attracted the intervention of the IGP is endless all ending in police investigation. Investigations in which members of the public are not carried along.
If there is state police, all investigations would surely end in the state under the governor. With the governor controlling the security of the state, there would be synergy between the commissioner of police and the state governor, instead of waiting for direction from Abuja. Also, the usual periodic meetings of commissioners who congregate in Abuja would be curtailed. A time was when some police commissioners were involved in road accidents,and one would have expected a complete change of such programmes. That the Senate is calling for a revisit into the issue of state police means that it is practicable.
The proposed State Police Bill, which is set for consideration and passage by the Senate, may be the game changer. The bill, sponsored by former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, seeks to establish the federal police, state police, National Police Service Commission, National Police Council, and State Police Service Commission for the states. The bill, after deliberation, would be sent to the Constitution review committee. It was first introduced to the Eighth Senate on June 12, 2018, but did not scale through. Mr. Ekweremadu was the chairman of the committee at the time.
Details show that the bill will allow an independent state police in which the governors would be empowered to appoint commissioners of police in their states. According to the bill, the existing federal police will be restructured and be responsible for the maintenance of public security, preservation of public order and security of persons and property throughout the federation to the extent provided for under the constitution or by an act of the National Assembly.
Those that have added their voices to the need to restructure the police mean well for the country. Decentralising the police would help to curb insecurity and other shades of criminality, as no governor would afford to look the other way when such issues raise their ugly heads. State police would have helped to nip the excesses of Muhammed Yusuf, the leader and founder of Boko Haram, before it blossomed to its dangerous level. Surely, no responsible governor would have ignored their activities without doing something. Today, the police force itself is aware that most of its instructions end where such instructions emanate from. Even the recent presidential directive that there should be no movement, yet the rate of vehicular across our highways persisted, despite the deployment of police, is a sign that concentration of the police needs a complete review and overhaul.
Many have pointed the finger at the police in accelerating the transmission of the coronavirus due to their compromising nature. Truly, the pandemic has further brought to the fore topical issues that we as a country have been downplaying. One of such issues is the decentralisation of the Nigeria Police. What is wrong if we have a Lagos Police, Kaduna Police or Abia Police and they swear to protect the life and property of residents of their state, while the IGP supervises the federal police?
Security commentators believe that, had there been a decentralisation of the police, the recent agitation for regional security outfits like “Amotekun” would not have been born.