On August 4, the governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom, launched a security outfit called the Benue State Community Volunteer Guards (BSCVG) in Makurdi, the state capital. The members of the newly established BSCVG would work with the police and other conventional security agencies to enhance the security of life and property in the state. Since 2011, the state had, according to reports, lost over 5,000 lives in attacks by terrorists.
The governor’s intervention is a response to the failure of the Federal Government to address the deteriorating security situation in the North-Central state. Prior to the formation of the BSCVG, Ortom explained that the Benue State Vigilante Law of 2000 was amended to enable the creation of the new security outfit. “By the provisions of the new law, the Benue State Community Volunteer Guards can therefore carry legally approved weapons which we have duly provided.” The first batch of 500 personnel of the BSCVG trained as riot squad, unarmed combat squad and intelligence gathering unity would work with the police to curb insecurity at the grassroots.
The citizens of Benue State have been affected by the relentless attacks by killer herdsmen and other criminals to the state that farmers can no longer go to their farms. Even Governor Samuel Ortom has been a victim of such vicious attacks by armed herdsmen. In June this year, gunmen killed 37 people in Igama, a rural community in the state. The frequent clashes between the farmers and the herdsmen have led to famine and scarcity of food items in a zone regarded as the food basket of the nation. The escalation of the clashes between the herders and the farmers has threatened the nation’s food security and exacerbated the hunger in the land.
During the unveiling of the security outfit, Ortom, among other things, stated: “The Benue State Community Volunteer Guards represent our modest attempt to support our communities in their daily struggle to escape the worst of the atrocities of the killer herdsmen.” The Benue State security organisation came on the heels of the South-West Security Network, known as Amotekun, and the South-East security outfit called Ebubeagu. However, the rules of engagement of the state security organisations must be clearly stated.
It is necessary that they work in concert with the conventional security agencies. The establishment of regional security organisations point to the need to have a decentralised policing system, which notable Nigerians have called for in recent times. In almost all federations, there are many layers of policing.
In the United States (US), there are several layers of policing, including the federal, state, county and city police. Some institutions in the US have their own policing system as well. Canada has many levels of policing as well. Many Nigerians are in agreement that the rising insecurity across the country can only be tackled if we decentralise the Nigeria Police Force and put in place at least four levels of policing such as federal, state, local government and community.
The increasing insecurity in the North-West region occasioned by incessant attacks by bandits has necessitated the governments of Zamfara and Katsina states to urge their citizens to defend themselves. There is no geo-political zone in the country that is not affected by the current wave of insecurity. Most geo-political zones have some areas now being controlled by non-state actors. Kaduna State governor, Nasir El-Rufai, recently raised alarm on the control of some parts of the state by some criminals.
While the call for self-help may not be the solution to the rise in the activities of bandits, terrorists and other criminals, it underscores the urgent need to have a state police and other levels of policing in the country. Since most crimes are local, decentralisation of the police will go a long way in curbing crimes at the grassroots. The inability of the Nigeria Police Force to provide the much-needed internal insecurity can be traced to its centralised command structure and poor numerical strength.
The argument that governors will abuse the state police is not enough to put it on hold. To allay such fears, measures will be put in place to ensure that governors do not abuse the state police. Nigeria is ripe enough to have four layers of policing. That is the best way to ensure that the country is adequately protected. Besides, the government should increase the numerical strength of the Nigeria police. A police force of about 371,800 personnel cannot guarantee the security of over 200 million Nigerians and others.