A former Chairman of the Nigerian Chapter of Transparency International, Major Gen. Ishola Williams (rtd), has questioned the opposition by some Northern interests against the Southwest security outfit, Amotekun.
Speaking with VINCENT KALU, the retired Army General also warned that the Inspector General of Police should not be allowed to highjack the proposed community policing mechanism of the government.
Nigeria fought a civil war to stay as one, but 50 years after, the nation appears more divided than it was during the war. Why?
It is a big mistake to think that Nigeria is divided. Our founding fathers realised one very important element, which is that we are not yet a nation and we could not be a nation, but would be a country of multi ethnic groups, who would look for common interests and formed a federation based on those common interests. They were not looking for united ethnic groups or united ethnic states of Nigeria; they were looking for a federal republic of Nigeria.
This question of unity doesn’t make any sence. If you ask anybody he can’t tell you what unity means in a federal system, therefore what we should be looking for is to make federalism work, and a federalism can only work if you have a federal system with subsidiarity and proportional representation. Subsidiarity in this sence means, if a local government can perform or function, the state should not bother to do the same thing; if a state can repair a road, the federal government should not bother repairing that road, and since the communities and the states make up what is called Nigeria, the responsibility to developing Nigeria should rest on the shoulders of the states. If the states perform their jobs, Nigeria will be a better country to live in; it will be a place where people would want to come.
No matter what will be at the federal, if the states are not living up to expectations, Nigeria will be nowhere.
Therefore, anybody talking of unity of Nigeria is just talking crack. Look at all the federal systems all over the world, the America has a federal system that we copied, they called themselves, the United States of America, but anybody who goes to America knows that they are not united. What do they call themselves: African American, Latin American and Asian American, but all of them still love the United States of America. The same thing with Canada, it doesn’t call itself, United States of Canada, but a Canada of different ethnic groups, who are proud to call themselves Canadians. That is what we should be looking for.
We talk too much about unity and we have a federal system and a president with the Constitution written in such a way that allows the president to practice nepotism, sectionalism or anything he likes. So, the constitution itself is not a unified constitution. Your constitution and system allow for corruption, and it doesn’t allow for subsidiarity. Your constitution doesn’t allow for proportional representation, which means, no matter which ethnic group you belong to, as long as you have the population, you will be represented at all levels, not only in your local government, but also in your state Assembly and also at the federal level. Now, the party becomes dominant instead of individuals. So, there are certain things you just needed to do instead of just making noise, shouting, ‘unity’, ‘unity’. Unity doesn’t mean anything to anybody.
When the nation is properly restructured, people will be proud to call themselves Nigerians, when the state is working. We have a system in which nobody can blame the federal government; people in the state should know that if things are not working well, it is not the problem of the federal government. But what do you find? The state governments are allegedly not using the money given to them properly.
The talk of ‘unity’ doesn’t mean anything, when a country is working, people will be proud to belong to that country. Let us have a federal system with subsidiarity and proportional representation, which now means scrapping this presidential system and replacing it with the parliamentary system that we were using before.
Nigeria is ranked third in the 2019 World Terrorism Index, what is your view on this?
You don’t need to look at any index to know that. The problem we have in the Northeast casts shadow on every other criminal activity going on in Nigeria. In the real sense of it, we don’t have terrorism as such, but deadly crimes, deadly violence. We don’t have terrorism as such, except in the North Eastern part of the country, where you have suicide bombing, even up to an extent, that is reducing. Terrorism is a very serious issue outside the Northeast, but for criminality, deadly violence, we have problem with that.
The federal government said Boko Haram has been technically defeated, but everyday, we read about their deadly onslaught; banditry still on going in Niger, Katsina states, as well as armed herdsmen who are killing and sacking communities. When you add all these, are they not the reason for the ranking in the terrorism index?
These are deadly crimes. In policing, you have crime intelligence and criminal investigation. Our intelligence system is not working and our counter intelligence is even worse. Did we listen to the governor of Niger State the other day? He said there are people in government who are giving information to criminals. A whole governor said so. This is what I have been saying over a period of time, and in his state government, you have Ministry of Home of Affairs, and the work of Home Affairs is to do intelligence; you have police intelligence, you have DSS. Where is the gap that you have not been able to fill and through intelligence to be able to discover those moles? Why is it not working? Something is wrong; our people are not keen on looking at the element of safety; if you want to be safe, you have to work with security agencies by giving them information about criminal elements in the community. That is reason for the community policing they are talking about, although the Inspector General of Police is hijacking it, but we should not allow him to hijack it.
It is very key and very important; we should not build any barracks for them, we should not allow them to carry guns. They should stay with the ordinary people and should not be posted out of their local governments. They must be properly trained like policemen, as special constables. If we have that in place, then we can go a long away.
In other areas, the primary function of Civil Defence is the protection of infrastructure, including pipelines. So what are they doing? You see hundreds of thousands of people in uniform and still we are not safe.
So, the Senate President said recently that our security architecture is not working. About two years ago, the then Senate President, Saraki, House of Representatives Speaker and the Presidency, had a security summit, and made a long list of recommendations. What is happening to the list of the recommendations, why can’t the current senate president and his House of Reps counterparts go back to those recommendations, because they were in the same National Assembly together? They should go back to those recommendations and look at the ones that needed legislative actions and take the necessary action instead of making noise.
I keep on asking, are there people who are thinking in this country, are there people who are thinking, it would not have been as bad as this. When a country is led by people who do not think you have this type of situation that we have.
Amotekun, the Southwest security outfit has been endorsed by Southeast, South-South and Middle Belt, but the core North vehemently opposed it, are they seeing what others are not seeing?
I’m not from the core North, so, I’m not seeing what they are seeing and I cannot speak for them. I don’t really know what they are afraid of, but Yoruba have a proverb that says, ‘if you don’t have an evil mind you will not be thinking of evil coming from others,’ and if you believe in the goodness of others, goodness will come on to you also. So, I don’t know what they are afraid of.
Whatever they are thinking of to me is irrelevant; what is relevant is that there are precedents, they have Hisbah, which is even a religious security outfit in a secular country, but since they are majority in Islam they decided that they needed to enforce Sharia Law, and that is why Governor Wike said Rivers is a Christian state, but he hasn’t created a Christian police force. Lagos, for example led a good example from it Neighbourhood Corps, why can’t the governors of Southwest adopt the model of Lagos Neighbourhood Corps if they had done that there would not have been political brouhaha. All of them could have adopted the model, the law and everything. Once that has been adopted, what stops them from doing inter state cooperation on safety and security?
Except from what I have been reading in the newspapers, I have not seen the paper setting it up, but it appears to me that the governors, their legal advisers and security advisers didn’t do serious homework.
How can you create a zonal security system when you don’t have one at the state level? It doesn’t make sense. The other states don’t have something like the neighbourhood corps like Lagos. Look after your state first before you think of what is in other state. The neighbourhood corps is like community police service, their job is to prevent and deter criminals, and they don’t need guns to do that, and they need to work with the police. I have been saying this in the past six years that the police as we have it now should be divided into three. There is no need for any IGP at the federal level to control all the police in Nigeria, there is no need; it has failed and there is no need to continue with it.
What we need is a separate organisation for crime intelligence and criminal investigation. Another organisation is like the mobile police, totally separate for terrorism and deadly crimes, highways and interstate. You need personnel specially trained to do that and they will be the ones to carry guns. The crime intelligence and criminal investigation don’t need to carry guns, and if they need to carry guns it is because they are going into a place where there is danger.
It has been proven from researches in so many countries that where police seem to carry guns that there is more violence, we don’t need guns. The police in the present structure need to be restructured completely now.
To have this community police and state police, we need somebody to ensure that they have the same standard and we need schools to ensure that they have the same standard of training. Secondly, there must be state police training school, and they will have to be monitored by the IGP whose job only is setting training standard, ensuring training standard, monitoring the system all over the country and reporting to the Ministry of Police Affairs and to the state government so that before the people will start misbehaving, taking bribes, there is somebody who is always checking. That is what is needed.
With Amotekun, let the other states copy the Lagos State Neighbourhood Corps at the state level. When that is set up, let them do the training, and when it is completed, that means that each state has a proper structure, then they can start interstate cooperation, which can form the security outfit they want to form.
You said earlier that the IGP shouldn’t be allowed to hijack community policing, but he has come up with his model, what is your take on that?
I said that the IGP wants to hijack community policing. So, he should not be allowed to do such thing. The senate president said recently that the security system has broken down; it is left for them to pass a law, but in the mean time, let each state pass a law that will create a police service that will be reporting to the state governor; that at the state level, the state police headquarters is at the governor’s office, and they will set up police units in all the local governments. The head of the police unit will report to director-general of the state police at the state capital. The director-general of the state police will report directly to the governor, nobody else. The only thing is that he should work with three other people, one, the head of the federal mobile police in the state, and secondly, the head of crime intelligence and criminal investigation, and thirdly, he should work with the DSS. Those are the three people he should work with in the area of security
In the area of disaster, emergency, pipeline protection and infrastructure, etc, it is the Civil Defence. The whole thing is very clear, there is no complication.
So, the model the IGP wants to employ may not yield any dividend?
It is wrong. I have recommended IGP for training, that is all he should do, not how he wants to do it now. It is totally wrong.