Insecurity: Where do we go from here?

Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris

Hardly can anyone deny the severity of the security challenges this country faces today, characterised by the new enterprise in town called kidnapping. The challenge of armed robbery which has been with us as part of the harvest of the civil war would not go away. Assassinations and cultism are the latter-day headaches in the land.

School children were abducted the other day in Epe. Teachers and students of the Nigerian-Turkish International College, Isheri, were recently kidnapped. The wife of Central Bank governor Emefiele was abducted. Before then we had had a retired Anglican Bishop Akinola driven away to an unknown destination after his vehicle was double-crossed. Olu Falae, former Finance Minister, and former Secretary to the Government of the Federation and a political party chairman, head of his community in Akure, was humiliated. He was abducted from his farm. Another former minister, Iyabo Anisulowo was a victim last year January. While the tension-soaked days rolled by, the kidnappers poked fun on the society. They called the police and asked them not to waste their time looking for them; all they wanted was for the police to just send to them N200million. Barrister Mike Ozekhome, (SAN) was kidnapped on Benin-Asaba Road on the outskirts of Benin. An Oba was abducted from his palace. Professor Okonjo, mother of erstwhile Finance Minister Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was kidnapped. Vanguard columnist Donu was abducted in Port Harcourt.

These are just a few in a long list of high-profile kidnappings. Only last week, a student of Caleb University was abducted from her flat. In the struggle with the unwanted invaders in the wee hour of the day, the young girl’s father received deep machete wounds. Sokoto State Police Commissioner, Mohammed Abdulkadir was reported to have confirmed the kidnapping of four persons in his domain, among them Director of Finance, Isa Local Government. From Sokoto to Calabar; from Lagos to Kano; from Oyo to Enugu; Ondo to Kaduna; or Edo to Benue; and Ogun to Port Harcourt, it is all the same, the story of unrelenting criminality.

Herdsmen are menacing farmers in Oyo, Delta and Enugu states. In Abia as well. They have shattered the peace of Benue. A visibly disturbed governor had to give the herdsmen 48 hours to quit his state. In a publication, Nigeria Conflict Bulletin: Edo State, there is a chilling report of the security challenge in the state in what was captioned ‘Conflict Risk Factors.’ The publication covers 2012 to 2015. In August last year Ikorodu residents cried out, saying they lived in constant fear. For weeks, many residents of Ogijo, Odokekere, Fakale, Odo Nla, Itapara and Igoda in Sagamu Local Government Area fled their homes when cultists invaded their communities, openly saying they needed seven persons to kill to mark an anniversary of their dark arts. And indeed, they went away unchallenged with seven fresh human bodies! A student of mass communications at Abraham Adesanya Polytechnic, Ijebu-Igbo, wrote an open letter lamenting the high rate of insecurity in the town. This arose following the gruesome murder of the head of his department who was killed in his home.

The question therefore is, where do we go from here? Exasperated state governors have been coming up with creative ideas out of the box on how they can secure lives and property in their states. Lagos State Governor, Akinwumi Ambode, seizing the initiative, has just established Neighbourhood Safety Corps. The outfit is 5,700 men strong. Since Nature abhors vacuum, as they say, he is following in the footsteps of his resourceful predecessors who, while in the saddle, came up with effective plans which have prevented the emergence of what Governor El- Rufai called self-help groups in his own state of Kaduna. The group in Kaduna included Kato da Gora, Yan Banga, Peace and Operation Flush Them Out, Vigilance Group of Nigeria, Christian Cadet group, Fityand Islam and Jibwis group. Of them all only Vigilance Group of Nigeria was known to Corporate Affairs Commission as a guards company.

Last year, the state House of Assembly enacted a bill clearing them away and replacing them with Kaduna Vigilance Service Committee. Assenting to the bill, he said the organisations existed to serve the community and assist the police, by taking distress calls on crimes being committed. But they soon overstepped bounds by setting up their own courts and appointing a Judge Advocate to try accused persons. His government therefore had to streamline things by setting up the official Vigilance Service Committee headed by retired Col. D.K.Anto.

Before El-Rufai’s outfit, various vigilance groups had sprouted like mushrooms after the first rain in the East. There was Abia Vigilance Service, Imo Vigilance Service. Indeed both in Anambra and Ebonyi states the advent of these vigilance groups were backed by law of their respective Houses of Assembly. That of Anambra created by an Act of Parliament in 2000 was the first to be armed. Dr. V.O.S. Okeke, of Anambra State University, Igbariam; and Professor Kemi Rotimi of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile- Ife, have done extensive studies on policing in this country. What all the private and state government efforts have revealed is the serious security challenge Nigeria faces, even far away from the theatre of war in the North East and the inadequacy of just one police formation to secure a geographical area of 913, 075 square metres. We do not have the executive capacity to run just one police command for the entire country to police 170 million Nigerians.

During his confirmation appearance at the Senate nearly two years ago,, Babatunde Fashola held his audience spell bound and he dropped the bombshell and a challenge: The establishment of state police is urgent and it is an emergency! He should know. Apart from facing the serious challenge because of the peculiarity of Lagos that he governed for eight years, he is known to do his homework very well. He has all the facts and figures. To contain the challenges Lagos State Government rolled out all kinds of support for the police. A security trust fund was set up to which the government and the private sector made generous donations. In the Fund’s seven years of existence, Governor Ambode says it has raised about N8 billion. A few years back, Yakubu Alkali who was then police commissioner, giving details of support the command received from the Fund, listed two helicopters, 300 patrol vehicles, among which were mobile workshop vehicles received from the state government. It also got 60 patrol motorcycles. The command additionally received two million ammunition, five fibre boats fitted with 75 HP outboard engines, 30 Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs), and 1000 AK-47. Elated former Minister Femi Okunnu said on the occasion at the yearly town hall meeting: “…the manner in which the state government makes money available to the Fund is the proper way to spend security votes.” To show how much the state had expended on security to support the police, Fashola said during the 2014 edition of the town hall meeting that when five fresh area commands were approved for the state by Abuja, his Administration had to provide buildings and equipment.

The result of this huge investment, according to Governor Ambode, is that as of August last year, crime rate in Lagos had gone down by 70 per cent. Visiting Ambode, Inspector General Idris Ibrahim testified to the success of the initiative of the Lagos State Government. He said when he was commissioner of police in Kano, “We had to travel to Lagos to understudy the Security Trust Fund. It has served as a model for other states of the Federation.” Ambode replied, pledging more support from his Administration. As a matter of fact implied in his response is a welfare package for officers that might be posted to Lagos. But the Lagos State Governor has gone a step further: It has trained 5,700 young men and women under its Neighbourhood Safety Corps initiative to enhance security at the grassroots level; they are to assist the police, gathering intelligence to prevent commission of crimes and to facilitate the arrest of criminals. The corps has also been trained in mediating disputes, in the art of negotiating peaceful resolution and balancing communal interests in resolving disputes. Channels Television says it is the beginning of the state’s whistleblowing scheme as the governor said “any valuable information given to the corps would attract handsome rewards from the state government.’’

To further demonstrate how concerned state governors are about security in their domains, Kano State Government has donated 25 patrol vehicles to the police. Recently it facilitated the recruitment of 2000 youths into what is now controversial Peace Corps. The government paid N83million for their application forms —N3million for the forms and N80million for training. The government provides office space and accommodation and training. In Kaduna, Sunday Baye, the commandant said the Peace Corps organisation had recruited 4,363 men and women. He explained that Peace Corps are unarmed. “Our training includes parade, drills, first aid, training and lectures.’’ Although the Senate has passed the bill seeking to legalise the corps, awaiting the President’s assent, the headquarters in Abuja and the Kaduna arm have been shut down.

The point being made is the growing yearning by the states and communities to be in control of their own security and they are demonstrating capacity for same. In 2004, in recognition of the imperative of another layer of policing apart from the Federal police, the Federal authorities approved the sending of some officers from the Nigeria Police to Britain to train in community policing.

Joseph Daodu, SAN, shouted himself hoarse when he was president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), pressing for the establishment of State Police. His sound argument was that State Police is for law and order. Former President General Ibrahim Babangida has lent his voice to the call for state police. Former Vice President Abubakar Atiku is not left out. They cannot see why in this day and age the Federal Government has shown contempt for the possible emergence of a state police. Babangida and Atiku should know. Babangida said the feared abuse by politicians is exaggerated. In any case, the Federal Government itself has been known to misuse the police. Mbu, a fine officer and the son of Matthew T. Mbu, the youngest of Balewa’s Ministers cannot be easily forgotten by gladiators in Rivers State. Only about two weeks ago, the Inspector General, Ibrahim Idris countered the executive order issued by Governor Sam Ortom— issued in a fit of provoked anger.

In any case it is not all the time that a mature, even-handed leader will mount the saddle at the centre. And it is not all the time that a state will have an immature person with proclivity for abuse as governor. Even where there is misuse and abuse, it can only be for a while, but the essence for the establishment of state-controlled police will endure. Can we also say because four or five states will misuse their police, the remaining 31 states should be denied the establishment of state police? The point ought also to be made that the establishment of police by the states will not be tantamount to the abolition of the Federal Police. In any case, states which are not keen do not have to establish a police force. In the First Republic, there was no Regional, Local Government or Native Authority in the Eastern Region as we had in the West and the North. Abeokuta was a sovereign nation for 20 years and 11 months before the amalgamation of 1914. It had its government known as Egba United Government . It had its own police set up in 1905. In the present dispensation, states that do not have the financial muscle to run a police formation of their own can collaborate with others in their zones.

We may wish to learn from other lands where security is taken for granted. Take Belgium as an example where there are two main forces: The Police Communale and the Gendarmerie Nationale. Police Communale is made up of 589 Municipal Police Forces, each independently funded by and accountable to the local town mayor, and with power to operate only within their particular municipal territory. Gendarmerie National operates at what we may call a higher level, encompassing the entire country with responsibility for terrorism, organised crime, drug and traffic on national roads. In that country there are also smaller, specialised police, marine police, airport and railway police forces. Kemi Rotimi cites the example of Holland, Denmark and Norway from his extensive study. In Holland, there are 148 municipal forces. Denmark has national and districts which are autonomous and independent and there are 54 district formations supervised by District Police Chiefs. In Germany there are 16 State Police forces, each independent of the other in management and funding. In Australia, there are eight state police forces each managed and financed by its own state.

In some countries, big cities have their own police. In Britain for example, the City of London has its own police force and the greater London has Metropolitan Police. The case in the United States is very well known. Universities with a student population of 5000 are expected to have their own police.

The 2014 National Conference recommended the establishment of state police in its most exhaustive report so far on how to reposition Nigeria to make her work and safe. The governors are yearning. Different organisations concerned about the level of insecurity in the land are crying out. The trio of Bola Tinubu, Fashola and Ambode has proven that disciplined state police can be run in Nigeria, too. It was done before, it can be done again. All we pray is For President Buhari to get out of his fortress, dust up the Conference Report and read it…and save Nigerians from prowling kidnappers, armed robbers and assassins.

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