Thu. Jul 25th, 2024

The Criminals Must Not Win, Mr President

By Dan Agbese

SMS: 08055001912

Alhaji Dikko Umaru Radda, governor of Katsina State, North West Nigeria, launched his local security outfit, Katsina Community Watch Corps, on October 10. He rose to the existential security challenges facing his state. The insecurity in his state has been particularly pathetic. By his own admission, 24 of the 34 local government areas in the state face serious security problems. He put it diplomatically. Those 24 local government areas are controlled by bandits. He shares his authority with non-state actors giving him and his people daily trauma and sleepless nights. It could not be worse.

Insecurity in the state predates the Radda administration. But they have assumed a wider and truly worrying dimension with implications for the security of lives and property of the people. Alhaji Aminu Masari, the immediate past governor of the state, reportedly twice went to President Buhari and pleaded with him to declare a state of emergency over the enveloping insecurity in the state. He reportedly told the president he could not cope with it. As far as we know, Buhari did not accede to the governor’s request, nor did he take any serious steps to free his own state from the bandits and other criminals.

Radda has taken a positive step to assert his moral and legal authority in his state. He has joined other states in the country that were forced by the circumstances of the nature of our federalism to set up similar local security outfits to save their people. Lagos was the first to do so with the neighbourhood police. The other states in the south-west geo-political zone saw the sense in it and collectively set up Amotekun.

Buhari’s attorney-general and minister of justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), promptly challenged it as unconstitutional. He knew his principal did not support it. But Buhari attended the launch of his own state security outfit. Perhaps, out of power, he now appreciates the sense in placing emphasis on security as primarily a local matter that cannot be adequately dealt with by the single-tier policing system imposed on the country by the military. To continue to rely on what does not serve the country any longer must be the definition mental blindness.

Radda’s decision to follow the steps of the south-west and Benue states is a welcome development for at least three good reasons. One, the state governors are challenging the contradictions of an over-arching federal might in a federal system that prevents the federating units from taking responsibilities in line with the letter and the spirit of federalism.

It bears repeating that the most important duty imposed by the constitution on the three tiers of government is security. It is found in section 14 (2) (b) of the constitution. It says: “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.”

By implication, a government that cannot fully and faithfully carry out this very important function loses the right to be called a government. No part of the country is secure today. We are living with our hearts beating loudly in our mouths as bandits and kidnappers roam the land, killing, maiming, and making life brutal and short in a nation that seeks to sup at the table of civilised nations and peoples.

Two, in chipping at the granite of federal might as it concerns the policing system, the governors admit that the single-tier policing system has not served the peculiar security needs of each state. The constitution that confers on them the title of chief security officers of their various states takes away from them the power to so function. They are weak and empty-handed chief security officers.

Three, the single-tier policing system has become a hindrance rather than help in securing the country and its people. It has served its time and must now be rested in favour of a more desirable and more effective two-tier policing system consistent with the letter and the spirit of federalism.

Our current insecurity makes it urgent for state governors to be chief security officers of their various states in law and in fact. The generals imposed the single-tier policing system perhaps in line with one national army, one national navy and one national air force. They scrapped the native authority police and created a single-tier policing system, the Nigeria Police Force. They gave it a constitutional backing in section 194 (1) of the 1979 constitution midwifed by them and recaptured it in section 214 (1) of the current 1999 constitution, also midwifed by them.

The provision stipulates that “There shall be a police force for Nigeria, which shall be known as the Nigeria Police Force, and subject to the provisions of this section no other police force shall be established for the federation or any part thereof.” No president wants to breach this constitutional order. The nation bears the burden of single-tier police force poorly funded and poorly equipped to serve over 216 million people in this vast country.

The military apologists tell us that Nigeria is not ripe for state police. They conveniently forget that Nigeria was ripe for native authority police in the first republic. The country was younger then than that it is now. A single-tier policing system in a federal system of government is a huge mistake. This has been argued time and again, but our political leaders love to skirt around problems that hobble the nation and yet expect to make Nigeria great.

Now that Radda has put the debate back on the front burner with his 1,466-member corps, he has challenged President Bola Tinubu to hasten to resolve the matter in favour of a two-tier policing system that adequately serves our internal security needs. It would be a disservice to the nation if President Tinubu does not take steps now to amend section 214(1) of the constitution to allow the states to set up their own police force to complement the Nigeria Police Force.

The need for a state police is no brainer. The current state security outfits must be seen as temporary measures to address the desperate security situation in the country. They cannot substitute for a formal state police with the capacity to secure the states.

In 1988, the Babangida administration, worried by the increasing wave of organised crimes in the country, appointed a six-man committee of the Armed Forces Ruling Council on internal security. It was chaired by Rear-Admiral (later Vice-Admiral) Murtala Nyako. One of its terms of reference was “To examine the possibility for the decentralisation of some of the security agencies to state and local government levels, to enhance crime prevention.”

The committee thoroughly examined the operational inadequacies and ineffectiveness of the single-tier Nigeria Police Force and recommended “a total decentralisation by way of restructuring of the Nigeria Police Force into a three-tier force” – federal, state, and local government. Said the committee: “At the state level, each state shall be allowed to establish and operate its own police force to be called State Police Force (SPF).” The functions of the state police, according to the committee, would be: “policing the state capital and some major cities in the state; prevention of crime and enforcement of the state laws and regulations.”

The vote for a state police has a long history. The Babangida administration did not follow through with this thoughtful recommendation. I wish it had. It would have saved the nation tons of insecurity problems, and our country would be relatively safer and more secure today. The debate on true federalism has consistently featured the need for state police, also known in official lingo as second-tier policing system.

President Goodluck Jonathan, attracted by the beaten path, set up his own national constitutional conference in 2013 to help chart a new path for our federal system of government in line with new thinking on best practices in federalism and constitutional government. Two critical issues featured in that conference, namely, resource control and state police. The conference responded positively to the demands for both and duly recommended a second-tier policing system. Jonathan again followed the tradition established long before him. He put the report on a government shelf, there to be forgotten. To be fair, in setting up the conference, he did his duty to his country. If he so much as read the report, he would have breached the sacred tradition of our leaders treating important reports and recommendations sought by them with contempt.

The ball has rolled into Tinubu’s court. I am sure he needs no one to persuade him that his gallant efforts to rescue the national economy from hell will come to nought if the country and its citizens are not secure and safe in their homes, on the roads and in their offices. The dead do not benefit from a booming national economy. Unsafe citizens are cannon fodders on the fringes of life and death.

 

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