Thursday, 19 November 2020 15:33

[OPINION] Arresting Worsening Insecurity - Abdu Rafiu

The events of the last one month have proven more than ever before how urgent it is that we examine and reflect on the extant security architecture of our land. If bandits could dare to abduct police officers on assignment on an expressway, there is no other signal that can be picked than that war has been brought to the doorstep of not only the security forces, but of the government. There is the accustomed world-wide notion that the face of government you encounter in any community is the police. There is a sensing of a nexus between the governor and the police. It cannot be for nothing that the governor is mandated by the constitution to be the chief security officer of his state. The uniform is the staff of authority. When you encounter the police, therefore, you encounter the government in its awesome protective armour.  Flowing from that is the guarantee and confidence of protection from criminals. It is the assurance that all is well. Yesterday, reports quoting BBC stated that suspected bandits kidnapped 12 police officers of the rank of assistant superintendent more than a week ago on the Katsina-Zamfara Expressway. They were going to Zamfara from Borno State.

Equally frightening a week earlier was the storming of the home of a professor in the Faculty of Medicine, Ahmadu-Bello University, Zaria, by kidnappers. They abducted his wife and daughter. Gunmen similarly made away with five health workers from a private hospital near the Federal University, Lafia in Nasarawa State. In the same week a couple, the wife, Aisha Sadiq, an expectant mother, were killed by kidnappers in Kaduna, the same day a woman by name Ameenah Ibrahim was kidnapped, again in Kaduna State capital, the southern part of which has been suffering for a while from intractable insecurity featuring an orgy of killings and mindless destruction of property. Daily Trust Columnist, Gimba Kakanda, writing on the state of insecurity to which the Northern leaders paid highly insensitive scant attention at their meeting in Kaduna earlier in the month, told a story of two sisters who had been in the den of kidnappers for 15 days. When their brothers went to the spot with the ransom the abductors demanded, they were beaten up and they themselves kidnapped to join their sisters.

Another grim security report came on Tuesday from no less a government functionary in Kaduna than the State Commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs, Samuel Aruwa, corroborated by Southern Kaduna Peoples Union. They said that within three days, 16 persons were killed by gunmen. This is coming about the same time the Vice-Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Professor Kabir Bala, stated that eight of the institution’s students were among people kidnapped on Kaduna-Abuja Road last Sunday. An online newspaper, Everyday News, reports a similar kidnapping raid on Nuhu Bamali Polytechnic in Zaria. Gunmen stormed the staff quarters of the college. They shot one man and fled with three other persons. They entered the college about 9 pm on Saturday. The newspaper quoted the school’s rector, Kabir Abdullahi, an engineer as saying that he was in Kaduna when the chief security officer phoned him to inform him about the attack. The rector said: “It is true that suspected armed bandits have kidnapped one of my staff, Engineer Bello Atiku who is Head of the Department, Computer Engineering.”

In his own account, Aruwa the Internal Affairs Commissioner, spoke of banditry in Southern Kaduna between Sunday and Tuesday — two days ago, sweeping through Giwa, Zangon Kataf, Igabi and Kajuru Local Government areas.  The Southern Kaduna Peoples Union, corroborating the harrowing experiences in the area, said the District Head of Mazaki, in Atyap Chiefdom, Zango Kataf Local Government Area, Haruna Kuye and his son, Destiny Kuye were killed. During the raid of Sunday in that belt, a former village head in Maraban Kajuru, Kajuru Local Government Area was similarly killed. In Giwa and Igabi Local Governmenet Areas, 13 persons were killed between Sunday and Monday.

How vulnerable the country is in terms of insecurity was starkly demonstrated in the aftermath of the #EndSARS protest, indeed on the trail of an otherwise well-organised and sophisticated youth protest. Some other youths with grievances different but not dissimilar to the issues raised by the #EndSARS protesters took over and ignited mayhem across the land. The kernel of the #EndSARS protest was calling for end to police brutality by its unit specifically set up to battle armed robbery and other violent crimes. The entire police community, feeling demonised and humiliated stood aloof, pushing the citizens to help themselves if they could; not even entreaties, assurances and directives by police high command could get them back on their beats to rescue the country from mayhem, looting and horrific massive destruction of businesses and public and private properties. Nothing could have proven how exposed and helpless the country can easily be. The outcry was loud and clear to the most hard of hearing that we cannot go on like this without an alternative policing system. The present mono-policing architecture has failed disastrously if the experiences of the #EndSARS days have any additional lessons to teach us. Before the protest saga, the situation was bad enough. Several parts of the country had been turned into killing fields. Amnesty International reported that between January and July there were 1,126 deaths and 380 persons were kidnapped in eight of 19 Northern States. The occurrences earlier this week in Southern Kaduna exemplified the worsening development. Of course, the imperative of dismantling the centralised policing has been a subject of national debate since the return of the country to a democratic order in 1999 dubbed the Fourth Republic.

As I once observed in this column, the plank on which the argument for variegated policing has rightly been anchored is that a centralised police system is antithesis to the letter and spirit of federalism. There is hardly any federal state with diverse people that operates a centralised police system. There is no way it will not lead to suspicion of impure motives, acrimony and hostilities. Take Belgium as an example. There are two main tiers; The Police Communale and the Gendarmerie Nationale, an equivalent of national police force. Police Communale consists of 589 municipal police forces, each independently funded by the Mayor and to whom it is accountable. Gendarmerie Nationale operates at what may be called the supra level covering the entire country with responsibility for traffic on national roads, drug, terrorism and organised crimes. There are also smaller, specialised forces — judicial police, maritime police, airport and railway police forces. In Holland, there are 148 such municipal forces. Denmark and Norway have police forces which, though are decentralised, yet are autonomous because the districts are independent.

What I am getting at is that if we have elected a federal republic, it means we have chosen what we think is good for us as a country of over 500 nationalities as discovered by the 2014 National Conference, with different culture, aspirations, values and world views. In the heat of the debate on state police from 2017 to 2018, I quoted former Governor Jonah Jang who had said: “We cannot be calling ourselves a federation and be running a unitary system of government. The two don’t work together.” He went on: “If we want to run a federal system of government we should run it properly. It is unfortunate that during the military which I was a part of, we believed in a unitary system and when we were trying to give the nation a constitution we ended up giving the nation a unitary constitution to be operated in a federal system of government. That is why nothing is working. So, if we really want to progress as a country we must restructure the country.”

Governors are the chief security officers of their states. As we have seen and governors themselves have experienced over the years, this is only on paper. This was brought to the fore by the Governors Forum under the chairmanship of Abdullaziz Yari, then the helmsman in Zamfara State. At the time he made public the position of his colleagues, as if there was need for something to bear him out and reinforce the position of the governors, his backyard was in chaos in which no fewer than 31 persons died. He did not have the instrument of coercion to put down the disturbances. On the heel of the Governors Forum stance at the time came the Nasir el-Rufai Committee Report on Restructuring.

The establishment of the state police featured conspicuously in the report. It was also thought about at the time that there was renewed thinking in the Presidency that year when Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo spoke at a security summit organised by the Senate. He had said that it would be difficult for the Federal Government to provide security for the country from Abuja in view of the fact that Nigeria had failed to meet the United Nations’ requirement of a policeman to 400 people. Governor Henry Dickson, lending his voice as governor with experience and a lawyer, said the prevailing security situation and the need for an effective response to the challenge had made the establishment of state police mandatory. His conviction is that since the personnel would be drawn from the locality that made up the state, such personnel would be able to gain the confidence of the communities in which they work and have access to valuable information required to prevent crime and track criminals. He went on to state that the police as at then had become over stretched owing to the wide ratio of police officers and men to the rapidly increase in population. These are facts made more self-evident by our experience in the aftermath of the #EndSARS protest when looting and unimaginable destruction were unleashed on the nation with no police in sight to check the hoodlums. There is manpower shortage, and there is no other tier of policing to augment. Given the size of the country, there can never be the executive capacity and efficient logistics to police the country from Abuja central point. That is the predicament into which the country has been plunged by those that can be said to be either ignorant, deliberately callous or enlightened but are of impure motives, who are not touched by their compatriots being killed or being driven from their homes for safety, carrying mats and little belongings on their heads and wandering in search of IDP camps.

Hear what the Southern Kaduna Peoples Union said: “SOKAPU is saddened by the spiraling wave of kidnapping and killings in the state. In Giwa and Igabi LGAs, 13 persons were killed between last Sunday and Monday by outlaws who seemed to be making a mockery of the state. At this point we call on Kaduna State Government to come to the assistance of thousands of IDPs in southern Kaduna. Most of them are living under sub-human conditions, especially children, women, the old and infirm in Kallah, Rimau and Geffe all in Kallah ward, Kajuru LGA, thousands of Adara IDPs are in dire need of food and medical services.’ He said the story is the same in Gbagyi of Chikun who have fled their homes. They can be found in the thousands in Unguwan Madaki and many Kaduna suburbs south of River Kaduna. These thousands can be added to figures that we have always had. As of February 2018, the total number of the internally displaced persons in the North East and North Central was estimated to be over two million. With the figure at the time Nigeria was host to the sixth IDP population in the world. Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states had the largest number of IDPs, with approximately 1.68 million. The figure excluded the IDPs in Benue State said to be 160,000. It is the shame of a nation.

For those who have been stalling the emergence of the state police, it is the same puerile, shallow argument of the state police being misused by governors, a notion dispelled by former President Ibrahim Babangida. Contributing to the debate in 2017, he said the fear of misuse is unfounded and, indeed, exaggerated. He should know. Joseph Daodu, one-time President of the Nigerian Bar Association, put it in all simplicity that state police is for law and order. Can anything be greater than simplicity? In the revelation of the living higher knowledge available on earth today, it is said that in simplicity lies greatness. It is amazing that given the all pervading criminality, the Federal Government continues to drag its feet in deregulating our police system. It is unbelievable that giving the security uncertainties, we can still afford to delude ourselves into believing that the problem of insecurity would go away without the establishment of state police. Can the misuse of the police by say a combination of three state chief executives mass up for the country an estimated displaced people of three million without other parts of the country not rising to take on the states concerned and arrest the evil and the descent into Darkness? It is a matter of common sense! Where is the love which is the bedrock of character if people die needlessly when we ignore principles and remedies that help other nations?

Next week: The concluding part.

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