Banditry: El-Rufai’s lamentation

2 months ago 32

RECENTLY, the Kaduna State governor, Malam Nasir El-Rufai, bemoaned the security architecture currently operative in the country, saying that it put state governors at a disadvantaged position. Speaking during an interview with Channels Television, the governor lamented that state governors, although supposedly the chief security officers of their respective domains, did not control security assets in any way. He said: “These are federal security assets and while they collaborate with us to some extent, at the end of the day, they take their orders from Abuja. There are some things that we want done but are not done. We have been meeting as governors of eight frontline states and we have very clear strategies and plans to end banditry but the constraints on the federal sides sometimes slow us down. But we are working together more collaboratively.”

In April this year, El-Rufai had reiterated his call for the establishment of state police to tackle the widespread insecurity across the country. Speaking at the Federal Government’s Town Hall Meeting on National Security held at the Kaduna State University, he had averred that a situation where state bore most of the burden of the running costs of the federal police was unacceptable. According to him, “Centralised policing in a federation is a contradiction. We should also devolve more responsibilities and duties to the states to enable greater accountability and minimise the habit of blaming the Federal Government for every ill in Nigeria.”

Governor El-Rufai’s averment is right on the money. Over the years, the ability of the 36 state governors to address security challenges in their respective states has been circumscribed by the centralisation of the country’s security architecture. The governors have been subject to the whims and caprices of the Commissioners of Police posted to their states from the force headquarters in Abuja and owing their primary allegiance to it.  As we noted in previous editorials, a centralised policing system is antithetical to the principles of the federal system of government. We posited that a multiethnic, multicultural and maximally complex political configuration like Nigeria cannot survive with a centrally organised and controlled security architecture.  However, as we pointed out, the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration had been playing politics with the issue of state police, with the president and his deputy, Professor Yemi Osinbajo,  taking conflicting positions on the issue even when a committee set up by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) on the restructuring of the country, incidentally headed by the Kaduna State governor, recommended state policing in very clear terms.

Of course, the president’s prognosis on state policing was based on the false assumption that the Federal Government, in a restructured Nigeria, would still have access to the same volume of resources that it controls now, whereas state policing is part of an overall restructuring framework whereby the functions of, and the resources accruing to, the centre and the component units of the federation would be radically different from the present skewed arrangement. We have not been persuaded to change our position that state policing would ensure that police personnel fully understand the cultures and traditions of their immediate environments, thereby placing them in better position to perform their duties efficiently. However, although nearly all political stakeholders agree on the need for state policing, political sincerity and commitment to the project have been lacking. For instance, the National Assembly has failed to initiate the process for birthing state police even though it has spoken of its inevitability time and again.

In April 2019, worried by the increasing level of insecurity in Zamfara State and other parts of the country, the 8th Senate reiterated the call for the establishment of state police to address security challenges in the country. Speaking during plenary, the then Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, said: “We must go back to what a lot of us have been advocating here, namely that there is a need for us to have state or community police. It is the way forward. Otherwise, we will continue to run into these problems.” The current 9th National Assembly has toed a similar path, with Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila, in particular, harping on the need to decentralise the country’s security architecture. In January 2020, Gbajabiamila affirmed the inevitability of the restructuring imperative when he indicated that the House under his leadership would amend the constitution to give legal backing to the various security interventions in parts of the country.  He noted that the state and zonal interventions that already quietly existed in different parts of the country were a desperate response to the vile manifestations of insecurity that troubled the lives of citizens, depriving them of the peace and security that gave life meaning. It is time to back up the rhetoric with concrete action.

State policing is the way to go. Indeed, state police formations ought to have been set up across the country long ago. Governor El-Rufai and his colleagues should exert pressure on the National Assembly to expedite the process of amending the constitution to actualise that noble objective. There is no need for endless lamentation when a solution is in sight.

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