ANXIETY over the country’s worsening insecurity has continued to generate ideas, actions, and disputes and last week, the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, held a meeting of Southwest security stakeholders, including 80 traditional rulers and security chiefs, in Osogbo, Osun State. Among the resolutions agreed upon was the use of aerial surveillance to protect Southwest forests to ensure there is no hiding place for criminal elements. The Vice President spoke to the Press after the meeting where he declared that community policing remains the only solution to tackling the country’s insecurity.
Among the traditional rulers who participated were the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, Owa Obokun of Ijesaland, Oba Gabriel Adekunle Aromalaran, and the Oluwo of Iwo Oba Abdulrasheed Adewale Akanbi. The traditional rulers were joined by the Assistant Inspector-General of Police for Zone II, Mr. Leye Oyebade, and the Commissioner of Police, Mrs. Abiodun Ige.
Prof. Osinbajo said the traditional rulers and the local communities must be involved in the fight against insecurity. The traditional rulers are an important component of the security architecture in communities and the Federal Government would keep consulting critical stakeholders across the country. “We are meeting purposely to understand the security architecture of the region, you know, we have already had consultations with the state governors from the Southwest.
We are meeting with all the stakeholders because we are working on community policing which remains one of the methods we have adopted and I’m sure you heard the Inspector-General of Police talking about recruiting police locally from their local governments — those who understand the environment, the language and the culture of the people they are policing. We are confident this method will work with the men and women on the ground in our communities,”said Prof. Osinbajo.
While we must acknowledge and appreciate the efforts of the Vice President Osinbajo on this issue, we owe it to history to mention that it should have been attempted more than two years ago. The massive security challenges the nation faces today are the penalties for our failure to begin an early search for the solution to herdsmen’s depredations and impunity.
In 2015 and to some extent the early months of 2016 Fulani herdsmen had not got out of hand, they were still restrained with a sense of proportion when they destroyed farms and fed their cattle the farmers’ crops without compunctions, and trampled acres of crops into nothingness. And because no consequences followed herdsmen’s depredations their crimes were more or less treated as non-events by those who should worry about them. Then they began to raze towns and villages and displace thousands of community members and to kill even more thousands as if they were licensed to kill. So, herdsmen act as if they were under no obligation to obey the laws of the land. Their impunity emboldened other bandits and, so, crimes festered. The Federal Government was in denial of these crimes until recent months which was why nothing substantive was done until international travel alerts began to warn about Nigeria’s insecurity.
Community policing sounds good but we must acknowledge its difficulties in the present constitutional framework. Section 214 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) makes it clear that there should be a Police Force for Nigeria, which shall be known as the Nigeria Police Force. A state governor may give orders to his state commissioner but the commissioner must obtain the support of the president or the IGP or a minister to carry out such orders. That is why some state governors often view themselves as having responsibility (they are the chief security officers of their states) without power. It has led to numerous calls for state police, a proposal that seems to enjoy wide support except from police officers themselves.
We had thought that formally changing the police structure and instituting an autonomous state policing would have gone a long way. Rich countries have autonomous policing at every tier of government – federal, state, county. Each police tier is responsible to which authority that funds it. That is as it should be.
We, undeniably, have a federal police force funded by the Federal Government with a little help from the states which reflects the kind of police we have and how the states are treated as hangers-on. Re-orientating a federal-centred police for community policing looks like a tall order, but it might be well worth the effort. If as Vice President Osinbajo says the Federal Government is able to persuade traditional rulers and in some regions, the town unions, to get involved, we might look forward to something positive.