Buhari signs Nigeria Startup Bill into law
Buhari

By Ori Martins

In what appeared as a shocking demand coming from an unexpected quarters, the 19 northern governors on the platform of The Northern Governors Forum, after its meeting on September 12, 2022, attended by traditional rulers, called for the establishment of state police.

The governors, who met and agreed with the Northern Traditional Rulers Council, insisted that the essence of the state police is to tackle security challenges in the region and the nation at large.

While making public the communiqué after the meeting at the Transcorp Hilton Abuja, the chairman of the forum and governor of Plateau State, Simon Lalong, revealed that the body looked into the security challenges in the north as well as other challenges pertaining to the growth and development of the region and country at large.

The Northern Governors Forum, according to Lalong, resolved it would support an amendment of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) to provide for the establishment of a state police. Lanlong noted that the establishment of a state police “will effectively and efficiently address the security challenges of the region”.

The Northern region of the country has suffered untold violence and insecurity in the past decade, and every attempt to solve it had been futile. Most security experts believe that the structure of the police and other security agencies is responsible for intractable nature of the problem, as the federal police is inadequate in both manpower and equipment to tackle the security challenge in the country.

In response to this problem, most states have set up their own security outfits to provide first line protection at the local levels but they are hamstrung by the lack of access to lethal weapons to check the bandits and herdsmen, who brandish AK-47 rifles, which has been a thorny issue between the states and the federal, whose approval is required to arm any agency.

Only recently, it was reported that President Buhari had approved the use of arms for the Katsina state vigilante to curb activities of bandits and insurgents, which has sparked a reaction from some southern governors, especially their chairman, Rotimi Akeredolu, who accused the president of double standard and open discrimination after denying such request from other states, such as Benue, and South west region for the regional outfit, Amotekun.

Apparently, the northern governors’ demand has effectively put President Muhammadu Buhari in serious dilemma. This is so because he had before now ruled out the creation of state police, as he accused states of “causing imbalance”.

In an interview with a national television station on Wednesday, January 5, 2023, Buhari answered that state governments were guilty of not doing things justifiably in their respective states.

According to him, “State police is not an option. Find out the relationship between local governments and the governors. Are the third tier of government getting what they are supposed to get constitutionally? Are they getting it?

“How many states are able to pay their workers in time? And you add the police to them? Can the states be able to shoulder the burden of the police? You cannot just give someone guns and ammunition, train him and refuse to pay him, you know what will eventually happen.”

“Let the people in local government tell you the truth about the fight between local governments and the governors.”

The crack between the northern governors and the president is that most of the governors are of the All Progressives Congress, APC. The interpretation is that both the APC governors and the president are heading for a serious showdown.

“I think that there is a sort of disagreement between President Buhari and The Northern Governors. The president is against state police while the governors are in support of it. What is more baffling is that most of the northern governors who took that decision were of APC extraction. From my view, Buhari is under pressure right now because he is at the crossroads”, Mr. Ibe Ukwu, a public affairs commentator based in Aba stated.

In dismissing the call for a state police, Buhari argued that the financial implications for the creation of state police were quite massive. Again, during one of his visits to the United States, Buhari, while fielding questions from the Hausa service of the Voice of America, narrated his reasons why state police would not work in the country.

Buhari said his grounds for strongly saying no to state police was made possible because of two points. The first, he said, was on the provisions of the 1999 Constitution. Two, according to him, is the financial status of the states.

“We must carefully look at the position of the nation’s constitution on the issue of state police before we take final decision on the matter; if the constitution allows state police, so be it. But don’t forget that many times the Federal Government gave out what we referred to as bailout to state governments for payment of workers’ salaries.

Ike Nwankwo, a principal in a private secondary school in Owerri, Imo State, countered Buhari on both fronts of his argument, thus; “I honestly and humbly do not agree with our dear president. On paper, his argument appears to be true, but when you look deeper, you will see that it does not hold any water.

“To start with, the constitution he made reference to can be amended to accommodate state police and that is the key word in the demand of the northern governors. Again, I think, for a country as big as Nigeria, it is wrong for commissioners of police in the respective states to be taking orders from Abuja. We need a state police to solve some of the problems causing insecurity”.

It is indeed a huge burden on Buhari who came into office on the slogan of change but has since then refused to change the status quo. It is argued that Nigeria borrowed copiously from the United States of America in her present presidential system of government.

Thus, America have more than 17,00 police organs, which included federal, state, town, county, city, social and college campus (police) outlets; just as The United Kingdom, can afford more than 43 regional police agencies. However, Nigeria with huge land mass, above 300 ethnic groups, 36 states, 774 Local Government Areas and about 200 million people has just one central police.

An Owerri resident, Nze Uche Gbamokwu, put it; “It has become absolutely imperative for President Buhari to immediately support the clarion call for the creation of state police in Nigeria.

“The fear has been that state actors like the governors will abuse this arrangement, but the fact remains that the state police will still report to another higher authority. It is like having a state radio station and federal radio station.

“I was a witness to the carnage and killings in Benue and Plateau. It started in Plateau and I ran to Benue but it turned to be worst there. If there were state police, things would not have gone out of hand the way it did in those two states”.

Certainly charging Buhari on why he must re – jig the police structure in Nigeria, after watching him on a national television, the PDP national chairman, Senator Iyorchia Ayu, said; “Watching President Buhari was a ‘gratuitous waste of time’ because there was nothing new coming from him.

“It appears the continued killings in some localities of Nigeria, particularly, in the North, and more specifically in President Buhari’s home state of Katsina, may not matter to him, hence, the need to have a security system that feeds on local intelligence and nuances, which the federal police cannot adequately provide.

“To him, it appears that continuing the same process while expecting a different output and outcome is the best way to go. We ask, is he comfortable with the killings in the land while the status quo persists?”

As a matter of fact, following the much talked about drama between the Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu and a police officer, Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP) Abimbola Oyewole, who publicly defied the governor’s orders to vacate the Magodo estate swiftly brought back the calls for a state police.

The Ondo State governor and chairman of Southwest Governors’ Forum, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (SAN), in a release made available to journalists in Akure, had charged the police hierarchy to investigate the matter.

According to him; “We are in possession of a video, which has gone viral on the social media concerning the disgraceful exchange between a police officer, a CSP, and the governor of Lagos, the supposed Chief Security Officer of the state, at the Magodo Residential Estate.

“The content of the video is very disconcerting, and this is being charitable. The utter disrespect, which underlines the response of the officer to the governor establishes, beyond doubt, the impracticability of the current system, dubiously christened ‘Federalism.’

“An arrangement, which compels the governor to seek clarifications on security issues in his jurisdiction from totally extraneous bodies or persons, is a sure recipe for anarchy. We condemn, very strongly, this brazen assault on decency. We call on the IG to explain the justification for this intrusion. This is not acceptable.

“State police is a content of true federalism. It is long overdue, we can never make any meaningful progress as a nation unless we go back to regionalism where each region was allowed to develop at its pace.”

In his view, erstwhile National Chairman of the defunct United Progressives Party (UPP), and founder, All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, Chief Chekwas Okorie, enthused that the Lagos incident had once more substantiated the reason for the creation of state police.

Noting that state police and community policing were the only out of the insecurity challenges in the country as well as keeping the country united, Okorie said; “That is an outright disobedience to persons described by the Constitution as Chief Security Officers of their states.

“Some of us have repeatedly, over the years said state police and community policing is a sure way of taking security to the grassroots and that is one of the ways every citizen can be made to feel that he is part of the security architecture.

“That call has become more stringent under the Buhari administration and for reasons that have not been explained to anybody’s satisfaction, the government has paid deaf ears to this call. So what has happened in Lagos is just a similar thing to what is happening in other parts of the country. There is no way our security problem can be solved with this type of lacuna in our Constitution.”

It is quite clear that all of the demands from the Northern Governors Forum state police, the Amotekun directive from Southern Governors Forum and the call from eminent Nigerians in support of the northern governors are really giving President headache on what to do with this agitation.

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