President Muhammadu Buhari

By Sesan Laoye

Nigerian governors are ordinarily referred to as the chief security officers of the state. And to give teeth to this, they are encouraged to constitute and set up security committees in their respective states and also to draw upon security votes from the revenues that are in the kitty of the state.
However, as part what some observers see as a continuing trend to keep them under control, they are effectively denied the control of any real and active security outfit or infrastructure of worth.
Indeed in certain situations, senior security personnel operating in the states have been known to tell governors to their face that they do not take orders from them.
But Nigeria is increasingly being confronted by a numbing security challenge of gargantuan proportions. From Islamist insurgents in the North East to bandits in the North West and on to militias in the North Central and kidnappers and robbers everywhere, it is clear that the challenge is escalating and as such needs to be addressed most radically.
To address this, the authorities at the centre have already initiated a programme of Community Policing through which they hope to increase boots on ground while also continuing to basically preserve the status quo ante.
Going forward however, many believe that much more is needed and that the answer to the nation’s security debacle lies in a massive expansion and deregulation of the existing policing ecosystem to allow for the introduction of full-fledged state police[u1] .
Feelers by Business Hallmark suggest that in a bid to stave off continuing criticism of its seeming helplessness in providing quick wins to the expanding security challenge, the central authorities may have already given a qualified support for governors to begin exploring the early stages of the process.
While this could not be verified as at press time, the evidence from many of the states that Business Hallmark made inquiries from suggest that indeed steps are already being taken in that regard, with almost all of the states and regions in the country having already begun to move in that direction.
In Borno, the Civilian JTF is not only in place, the budget of the state captures the fact that a provision of N352million has been made for it in the current year.
In Oyo, the Amotekun force has already swung into operation and is already carrying out raids into suspected trouble spots in the state.
The Edo State Government which is already supporting the Federal Community Policing Initiative has equally announced the setting up of its own internal state security outfit. And in Delta where there had for several years been a Delta Waterways Security Committee, Operation Delta Hawk has put boots on ground and also commenced operations.
In many of the states under reference, feelers are that the structure may over time metamorphose into a full-fledged State Police outfit.
A source close to the operational structure of the Delta State Security outfit confirmed to Business Hallmark that the Commander has presently settled in, work has already started and that indeed some quick wins have even been recorded.
On its part, Bayelsa is also taking its first steps in this regard through the establishment of two internal security outfits, the Bayelsa State Vigilantes and the Bayelsa State Volunteers. Enabling laws to guide the operations of the two agencies have already been passed by the State House of Assembly and signed into law by Governor Duoye Diri while heads have also been appointed for them.
Even the South East Governors who are traditionally being seen as more subdued on this subject have recently been pushed to come out in support of this new trend for greater sub-national engagement with security administration in the country. A regional security initiative is reportedly in the works.
One state that has not done much in the area of establishing state police structures is Cross River. Attempts to get an explanation as to why this was the case were not successful as at press time. But it is however on record that segments of the state capital, Calabar have indeed had challenges with security for some time now on account chiefly of the activities of alleged cult groups’ members.
In the nation’s commercial centre, Lagos, there also continues to be a heavy reliance on the traditional police infrastructure. Though there had since been established a Lagos Neighbourhood Security Corps, feelers are that political factors relating to the 2023 presidential aspiration of Lagos strongman, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu are continuing to stall the full take-off of the regionally-established Amotekun security scheme in the state.
Business Hallmark checks reveal that one challenge that is being faced by many of the states is funding in the face of competing finance schedules.
And even as steps are being taken to address this, analysts however say that the big elephant in the shop however remains the central administration in the country which officially continues to consider any call and suggestion to restructure any of the operating systems in the country as being equivalent to a movement to dismember the nation. In this wise, it is to be recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari had in his October 1 Independence anniversary speech, sternly insisted that Nigerian unity was not negotiable.
Even calls for the deepening of efficiency, transparency, control and accountability in the Nigeria Police Force as evidenced for example by the EndSARS protests have actually only been given virtual lip treatment. While people are being asked to go to the respective tribunals that have been set up across the country to air their grievances, news that the Federal Government’s own commission set up under the aegis of the National Human Rights Commission, NHRC is at the present unable to continue sitting for logistics reasons in its Abuja division is unsettling. While sittings continue at the Lagos Centre for example, the fact that the corresponding work at Abuja has presently stalled demonstrates to some that government’s heart is clearly not in reforming the system. But is it delivering result and value as things stand now?

Errors in rendering

The commencement of the Amotekun force in Oyo State and the reported killing of one or more people in some of its operations this far have equally rankled some. For opponents of the practice of state policing, it reinforces their fear that state police systems could be subject to abuse.
But the Oyo State authorities have moved proactively to restore confidence in the fledgling outfit. One of the indicted personnel has already been dismissed from the outfit and handed over to the Police with a view to ensuring his prosecution after diligent investigations have been conducted into the matter.
In the view of some commentators, errors in rendering are not unusual in situations like this and what is needed is to ensure that the appropriate preventive and remedial action is taken as is necessary. Besides, they say, there had also been abuses in the existing national police infrastructure, much of which has not even been addressed till date.