Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The governors of the 36 states of the federation are yet to decide on state and local government police because the financial muscle of each state differs.
This is even as they have resolved to decide on quick ways to address the various security challenges across the country at the next National Economic Council (NEC).
The Chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) and Ekiti State Governor, Kayode Fayemi disclosed this to State House Correspondents after an expanded security council meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari.
President Buhari had during the submission of the report of the Presidential Panel on the Reform of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) headed by Tony Ojukwu, Executive Secretary, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), approved a three-man panel to work out modalities for the implementation of the report within three months.
The panel’s recommendations include: “Significant improvement in the funding, kitting and facilities of the Nigeria Police Force; Strengthening Information and Communication Technology of the Force; Establishment of State and local government Police; and Institutionalizing a Special Investigation Panel to annually hear and determine complaints on alleged human rights violations against operations of the Nigeria Police Force.”
Others are “Strengthening the Police Rapid Response Complaints Unit of the Nigeria Police and other internal complaints mechanisms of the Force to make them more responsive; Renaming the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) to Anti-Robbery Section (ARS) which was its original name and to make the section operate under the intelligence arm of the Police from the divisional, area command, state command, zonal command up to the Force Headquarters level. This wil also remove the stigma presently associated with the name SARS; and Ensuring the ARS limits itself to tackling armed robbery while other intelligence and operational units are strengthened to perform their various special tasks.”
According to Fayemi, who briefed alongside his colleagues from Ebonyi, David Umahi; Kebbi, Atiku Bagudu; Delta, Ifeanyi Okowa; Ondo, Rotimi Akeredolu; Plateau, Simon Lalong and Borno, Babagana Zulum, said while some state governors had disclosed their ability to support state and local government police, others are still battling with the challenge of paying existing workers salaries.
He said: “On whether state governors should be involved in state policing, the position of NGF on that is that we have not taken position because experiences vary. There are governors and states where their experience does not necessarily lean itself to more evolved policing to the states. There are also states where there are agitations for it, there are governors who have the views that that will work better in such states. And of course there are the economic issues relating to that. So we have the capacity at the state level to fund state policing, those are all issues that will come in play when we get to the national economic council meeting that has been called. Particularly because there is a committee that is looking into it after the submission of the report on SARS. So, we will take all of these together.” The NGF Chairman said they briefed the President on the security situations in their domains and assured him that they are ready to join forces with him to end the security challenges in the country.
He said: “the meeting was at our instance as governors of the 36 states collectively. It has to do with the security situation in the country, our concerns about what’s going on all across the nation.
“We had a very fruitful meeting with Mr. President. Of course he was not oblivious of the challenges, he gets security reports on a daily basis, he understands what the issues are. But we felt as chief security officers in our respective states, it is also important for us to at least keep him abreast of the enormity or the challenges we are facing and also highlight the concerns of our citizens across board about rural banditry, farmers/herders clashes, kidnapping, militancy in the Delta, insurgency, cultism.
“So we discussed extensively all of these issues and looked at the various ways that we felt as governors we could assist Mr. President as the commander in chief to curb these issues. Of course we were able to in the first instance look at the nexus between our economic challenges and the insecurity challenges as well. And the importance of tackling the causes of crime, not just crime on its own.
“We also looked at the criminal justice system that appears to give some room for impunity. For instance, when people commit crimes and they are not punished effectively in accordance with the statutes, it then creates an opportunity for replicating such crimes.
“And of course Mr. President was also equally concerned about that. He made it clear to us that we all knew that he campaigned on the basis of security, economy and accountability and these things are still the most germane issues on his agenda. And that he will also work with us to address questions of intelligence, of broadening community policing, of ensuring inter-service coordination among the various security agencies, of strengthening the criminal justice system, of working with our states innovatively on mechanism for addressing these issues. Be it security trust fund that brings the public and the private players together in other to fund security and increase the resources available to security institutions.
“Already, all of us are involved in funding. There is no governor that is not buying security vehicles, ammunition for police, giving allowances to our security agencies, be they SSS, or police, or in some cases the military, where the military is involved. We are already involved. It is just to ensure that we have a better and much more coordinated mechanism for addressing this.
“In conclusion, we agreed that these issues will be much more comprehensively dealt with at a special meeting of the National Economic Council of which governors are members, presided over by the Vice President, in order to terse out specifically quick wins and quick responses that can reassure and build the level of confidence of our citizens. Because, even in areas where significant progress has been made, for example in the north east, we were clearly informed by the governor of Borno, who spoke for the north east that even when you resolve issues militarily, the stabilization of the activities that must continue is critical to eventual resolutions of these challenges. Rehabilitation, resettlement and all those elements of stabilization activities must be brought to bear in order for us to have sustained peace over a long time.
“The president expressed his concerns, we thanked the president for what has been done so far. And in our states we have received multiple support be it bailout funds to address salaries challenges, if that has not been dealt with the situation would probably have been worse. Support in terms of national food security committee, support on flooding, support in the north east for insurgency and related activities. But these problems are proliferating and we need to nip them in the bud as fields commanders of Mr. President if you like in our various states.”
On the $1billion earlier taken from the excess crude account, Fayemi said that it must have been spent on addressing security challenges by the security agencies.