President Muhammadu Buhari has rightly suggested that state governors should work with traditional rulers and community members in the ongoing fight against insecurity in the country. Buhari, who made the call following the escalation of insurgency, believes that improving local intelligence gathering would aid the work of security agencies.
The role of traditional rulers and members of the community in ensuring internal security cannot be under-estimated. It has also been observed that since the collapse of the regime of former Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, the security situation in the West African sub-region has worsened due to unbridled cross border movement of weapons and criminals. Therefore, enlisting the support of traditional rulers and community members in security matters will go a long way to ensuring a secure country. Apart from this approach, we believe that the time has come for state and community policing. We say this bearing in mind that security matter is better handled by those who are familiar with a particular area and know the people who reside there.
Being closer to the people, the traditional rulers and their subjects are in a better position to identify strangers in their midst and pass the necessary information to security agencies. The suggestion is most auspicious, coming at a time that many Nigerians are calling for community policing.
Let state governments take the call seriously and engage the services of traditional rulers in ensuring security in their states. We believe that traditional rulers have a big role to play in security issues because they are highly regarded by their subjects. Under the 1960 and 1963 Constitutions, the Council of Chiefs was established for them in the regions. Some of the traditional rulers even rose to play significant roles in the country. In the 1979 Constitution, traditional rulers were represented in the National Council of State. But the role of traditional rulers was virtually absent in the 1999 Constitution.
Traditional rulers unarguably are in a better position to provide intelligence on the security situation in their environs. Only recently, the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar, decried the rising insecurity in the northern part of the country. Eminent leaders from other zones have also condemned the threatening general insecurity.
That is why the government must do everything within its powers to ensure that Nigeria is secure for the citizens. It is sad that Borno State, the epicenter of the Boko Haram activities, has reportedly lost a conservative estimate of 40,000 people, mostly unarmed civilians. Also, about 2.5 million people in the state are displaced from their homes and farms and property worth trillions of naira destroyed. In the same vein, over seven million people, mostly women and children, are facing humanitarian crisis.
States in the South are not entirely free from the menace. Apart from armed gangs robbing and killing with relative ease, kidnappers have also been on the prowl.
Therefore, giving traditional rulers some role to play in security matters, as suggested by the President is in line with the thinking of most Nigerians. It is not in doubt that the security agencies have been overwhelmed by enormity of the problem. We urge the state governments to carry the traditional rulers along in securing their states. However, intelligence gathering and sharing is a capital intensive project. To discharge their expected function effectively, the traditional rulers need to be encouraged and adequately empowered. They should be treated as partners in progress and not aides to the governors.
The Federal Government should consider decentralising the police by making allowance for state and community policing as obtains in countries that have a federal structure of government. The United States is a good example of a country with a decentralised policing system. It is not debatable that the current policing arrangement is not working. It does not encourage intelligence gathering and sharing. It does not nip crimes in the bud. Community policing will bring the security closer to the people. However, the traditional rulers should not abuse their roles in this regard.