It is no longer news that the security situation in Nigeria is worsening. In all the geopolitical zones, sundry crimes such as insurgency, banditry, kidnapping for ransom, herdsmen’s menace and other forms of criminality have become the order of the day. Now, no day passes without discomforting news of killings relating to these security problems.
On Wednesday, no fewer than 42 students of Government Science College, Kagara, Rafi Local Government Area, Niger State, were snatched from their hostel. Gunmen stormed the school at out 2.15am, shot dead one student who tried to escape and took away 42 of them. The students are still in captivity and no group has claimed responsibility. President Muhammadu Buhari has charged security agencies to make sure they rescue the students. He also told them to step up their game in the task of protecting the country and the citizenry.
Kidnapping of students from their hostels is becoming a fad in the country. The government of former President Goodluck Jonathan saw it once when Boko Haram insurgents abducted about 272 schoolgirls from Chibok, Borno State. Inº April 2014, after the reopening of schools, to enable students take their final examinations, insurgents stormed Government Secondary School, Chibok, at about 11am. In a seamless operation, the insurgents took away the students, majority of whom were Christians. Between then and now, some of the students escaped from captivity. Some others were released. And some 112 of them are still being held. The assurance of President Buhari, during his electioneering in 2015, that he would get the students back if elected President, is still a pipe dream.
It is really sad that, almost six years since President Buhari has been in the saddle, abduction of students from their schools has increased. Under his administration, there have been about four major kidnapping of students. In May 2017, suspected militants abducted six students of Lagos State Model College, Igbonla, in Epe, Lagos. Also abducted in the attack were the principal of the school and a teacher. The kidnappers were so audacious that, before striking, they allegedly wrote the school giving notice. A few weeks after the abduction, security men rescued the students in the Aboto creeks of Ondo State.
In 2018, at least 110 schoolgirls were kidnapped from Government Girls’ Science and Technical School, Dapchi, in Yobe State. Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the kidnapping. The abducted students were released a few days later, with the exception of Leah Sharibu, a 14-year-old Christian girl who alleged refused to denounce Christianity. Three years down the line, Boko Haram is still holding Leah captive.
Last December, more than 300 schoolboys of Government Boys’ Science Secondary School, Kankara, Katsina State, were abducted from their hostel. The gang allegedly arrived on motorbikes and took away the boys. Luckily, the boys were released a few days thereafter, but the blight cannot be erased.
It is really unfortunate that, despite what is becoming a pattern, which is that gunmen now target schools, the government has not risen to the occasion to nip this in the bud. Boarding schools are still without security, with the students left vulnerable. So worrisome!
Apart from the fact that kidnappers are running riot in the North, bandits are also having a field day in the zone, with Zamfara and Katsina states most affected. Bandits attack villages, abduct and kill Nigerians at will. They also destroy property. Boko Haram insurgents are still operating with reckless abandon. From Borno to Yobe, to Adamawa, insurgents are killing villagers, attacking military bases and convoys. The situation is so bad that the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammed Sa’ad Abubakar III, could not hold himself back. He lamented and declared that the North had become one of the most dangerous places to be or live in.
Down South, criminal herdsmen are holding the South-West, South-South and South-East to ransom. They have taken over forests, acting as kings in other people’s land. They take their cattle everywhere and the animals eat up farm crops of helpless farmers. Some elements among them are engaged in kidnapping for ransom, sexual abuse and rape. Some of them are just thirsty for blood, as they visit villages with mayhem for having the audacity to complain about their impunity. The menace of the herdsmen has made governors in the South to ban open grazing of cattle, leading to heightened tension.
Whenever there is kidnapping of students or the killing of villagers, President Buhari has always vowed that government would not allow it to happen again nor tolerate it. He has said this severally, but security is not getting any better. The President now sounds like a broken record. Recently, he told the new Service Chiefs that the country was in a state of emergency and, therefore, they should arrest the bad security situation. Although the government may be trying its best, it is obvious that its best is not good enough. Nigerians do not feel safe wherever they are. They are not, in the true sense of it, safe.
The Senate, while condemning the latest abduction of students, urged President Buhari to declare a state of emergency on security. Senators demanded holistic action on security, with Senate President Ahmad Lawan declaring: “I believe that there is need for something new, a different initiative on especially how to protect our schools.”
I think a time has come when the Senate and the National Assembly in general should stop lamentation and take actions that would help in fighting insecurity. It is not enough to ask President Buhari to declare a state of emergency. If the President does declare a state of emergency on security, what would change? It would just be mere talk. The fact is that our security personnel have been overstretched and are becoming overwhelmed. We do not have the number in the security apparatuses to do much more than we are doing. There is no way a country of 200 million population can fight crime successfully with less than 400,000 policemen. Four hundred thousand policemen are insignificant, going by the level of criminality in the country.
The Senate, nay the National Assembly, can help in raising the population of policemen in the country by using the instrumentality of the law to cause the implementation of state police. I feel strongly that state police would help Nigeria in tackling insecurity. Many other Nigerians, including elected governors, feel the same way. The National Assembly should engineer the amendment of the portion of the Constitution that centralises policing in the country. The state Houses of Assembly would take it up from there, and also put their imprimatur on such amendment. What is needed is the approval by the National Assembly and at least 24 Houses of Assembly for the Constitution to be amended to accommodate state police.
Whatever is being done now in helping the police, be it community police or vigilance groups, is tokenism. What is required is the total reorganisation of the police architecture to accommodate state police. If the Constitution gives the states the impetus to have their own police force and they go ahead to implement it, the population of policemen in the country would increase. If the states were to recruit 20,000 policemen each, for example, the country would have additional 720,000 policemen. And some states have the capacity to employ more than that. The states would also equip their police, provide logistics and others.
I am persuaded that policing in Nigeria would be better done with the combined efforts of the federal and state police. The self-help that geopolitical zones are trying to evolve, with the establishment of such outfits as Ametokun in the South-West, should serve as a precursor to state police. The country will have nothing to lose by constitutionally allowing state police. Rather, it will have more to gain. If states have their own police, they would have the capacity to implement the guarding of schools by armed policemen, for instance, to stop kidnapping of students. They would have the personnel to complement the efforts of the military in fighting insurgency, banditry and kidnapping. A situation where we have well-armed and well-equipped police patrols every two kilometres across cities in the country would definitely deter criminals.
Federal lawmakers should give direction in the agitation for state police. The National Assembly should not wait for the executive to take the initiative. It should show the light and let the people follow. An effective amendment of the Constitution to empower state police would go a long way in tackling insecurity in the country.