OrderPaperToday– On January 29, senators of the Federal Republic of Nigeria had an intense four hour plenary session on rising insecurity across Nigeria.
The lawmakers, who had just resumed from a break, took time to share experiences on happenings around the country and concluding that they were clear signals that the nation’s current security architecture has broken down and needs urgent restructuring, review and reorganisation.
This was sequel to a motion raised by Senate leader, Abdullahi Yahaya (APC, Kebbi) on the matter. Almost every senator in attendance spoke on Nigerian security challenges, each emphasising that things are taking turns for the worse in the country.
This article notes that recent recommendations and resolutions taken by the Senate on insecurity in the country were duplicated, having been passed by previous assemblies without achieving any impact.
More votes for state policing
The call for state police by some senators was not sounded for the first time at plenary last week. Declarations in support of state and community police intensified in 2018 following a security summit held by the 8th Senate where Vice President Yemi Osibanjo openly declared his support for it.
Osibanjo said it would help tighten the security situation across the country as having a centralised system has not effectively secured the nation.
He declared, “For a country our size, to meet the one policeman to 400 persons, according to the UN prescribed ratio, we would require almost triple the number of our current police force. Far more funding for the military and security agencies is required.
“We cannot police a country the size of Nigeria centrally from Abuja. State police and other community policing methods are clearly the way to go.
“The nature of our security challenges are complex. Securing Nigeria’s over 900 sq/kilometres and its 180 million people requires far more men and materials than we have at the moment. It also requires a continual re-engineering of our security architecture and strategies. This has to be a dynamic process”, he said at the time.
In the same year, the chairman of Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF), Kayode Fayemi, in a separate security summit, declared that the quest for the creation of state police by some governors, groups and individuals in the country was not intended to undermine the existing federal police, the Nigeria Police Force.
Subsequently, President Muhammadu Buhari set up a panel for the purpose. The panel, led by the executive secretary of the National Human Rights Commission, Tony Ojukwu, in its report submitted August 2018, recommended the establishment of state and local government police.
It was, thereafter, reported that Buhari endorsed the report but a statement signed by presidential spokesperson, Garba Shehu, would later dismiss it, while his principal remained silent over the matter.
Fast forward to January 7, 2019 when Buhari expressed his displeasure with the idea in an interview with Arise TV, citing the inability of some states to pay workers’ salaries as his main reason. He, however, commended the efforts of the Lagos State government in providing security for its residents through the neighbourhood corps initiative.
“Lagos State is richer than the federal government. How many states are there that can pay salaries and you now ask them to go and form state police?” Buhari queried.
In November 23 that year, speakers of the 36 state Houses of Assembly appealed to President Buhari at the Presidential Villa to consider decongesting the Exclusive Legislative List for Concurrent Legislative List to pave the way for the establishment of state police.
The matter maintained a low tempo until the beginning of 2020 when governors of south western states decided to set up a regional security outfit known as Operation Amotekun.
But just as it was unveiled, the executive, through the attorney general of the federation and minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, declared the outfit as illegal. He would later retract that statement, saying he was misquoted and the point he was making is that the outfit ought to be backed by law.
Eventually, the federal government and south west governors, on 23rd January this year, agreed that Operation Amotekun should be structured to align with the community policing strategy of the federal government. It was then resolved that there should be a legal backing to the initiative.
When the issue came up during Senate’s debate on insecurity in the country last Wednesday, senators from the region aligned with the view of their governors on the need to make security local through the creation of state police while their counterparts in other regions expressed doubts over its effectiveness.
In his debate, the deputy Senate president, Ovie Omo-Agege (APC, Delta), expressed a similar view with Buhari, noting that some states cannot pay salaries of workers and the outfit can be misused by state governors for political witch-hunt.
In the same vein, Senator Yusuf Yusuf (APC, Taraba) expressed fear that it will be hijacked by politicians, while Senator Danjuma Goje (APC, Gombe) said it will create more problems.
On the other hand, Senators Ibikunle Amosun (APC, Ogun), Oluremi Tinubu (APC, Lagos), Tolu Odebiyi (APC, Ogun), Adeola Olamilekan (APC, Lagos), Bamidele Opeyemi (APC, Ekiti) recommended it.
Sack of security chiefs over tenure expiration, incompetence
This matter also reverberated in the 9th Red Chamber. A similar call was made in the previous Senate. It was hinged on the expiration of their tenure and ‘incompetence’ in stemming the insecurity.
At the beginning of his first term in 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari appointed the service chiefs with a May, 2019, expiry date.
The chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Gabriel Olonisakin; Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai; Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar and chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas, are long overdue for retirement, having spent more than 35 years in military service.
In December, 2019, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Army, Senator Ali Ndume, explained in an interview that President Buhari cannot change or appoint new service chiefs yet because Nigeria was in a complete state of war with Boko Haram insurgents.
However, several senators, in the debate, called for a change of baton to restore the security architecture of the country.
Senator Betty Apiafi (PDP, Rivers) said while calling for their resignation that they have done their bits and should be excused. She was supported by Sen Matthew Urhoghide (PDP, Edo) who pointed out a lack of synergy between them, while Sen. Elisha Abbo (APC, Adamawa) equally canvassed for new heads as the incumbent have run out of ideas in tackling the menace.
Yet another security summit
Convening security summits appears to be the only solution the Red Chamber can offer in the fight against increased killings in the country.
In the 8th Senate, through an ad-hoc committee led by Senator Ahmad Lawan, then majority leader, held a national security submit in 2018 which was attended by Osibanjo, security stakeholders, traditional, community leaders, among others.
20 recommendations from the summit were received in the chamber as follows:
“The nation’s basic security infrastructure must be comprehensively reviewed and strengthened. The Nigerian political structure must be a major factor in the review of the nation’s security apparatus.
“The security challenges of the nation must be isolated from political partisanship, and ethno-religious sentiments. Political activities must not fuel the further deterioration of the nation’s national security.
“The national security structure must be revised by the Presidency to address the gaps in coordination, collaboration and synergy. Additionally, clear lines of authority and responsibility for national security issues must be identified.
“Ensure that there is further recruitment to increase the capacity of the Nigerian police, military and other para-military agencies (who are currently overstretched) to deal with the current national security challenges.
“Ensure that the collaboration between federal security and law and order agencies must be reviewed in order to reduce the exposure of citizens to extra-legal influences.
“Investments by the federal government must be made in order to incorporate technology into the core of Nigeria’s national security architecture and management.
“Nigeria must reduce its dependence on importing its basic security equipment and must immediately develop its internal research and development capacities in order to meet our basic national security needs.
“The Nigerian judiciary must operate with the highest standards of justice in order to ensure that citizens have confidence in our judicial system’s ability to freely and fairly dispense of justice.
“The nation must examine options other than the use of force in its response to national security issues. The nation must develop strategies to improve the chances of resolving conflicts without resorting to the use of force.
“The nation must immediately develop a strategy to limit the proliferation of firearms and other light weapons amongst the citizens.
“Nigeria must assert its sovereignty amongst its neighbours, particular in the areas of arms control, drugs, terrorism, transhumance and economic sabotage. Additionally, all international commitment that impact our domestic national security must be reviewed.
“The international community has demonstrated its willingness to support Nigeria in the fight against violent groups. In this regard, the nation must improve in areas that inhibit its support from the international community — particularly in the areas of human rights, accountability and transparency.
“The presence of millions of IDPs in the North-East and millions of others who have had no education or strong social links presents a potent threat to the present and future security of the nation. The nation must immediately develop careful policies and initiatives that are aimed at addressing the reconstruction, rehabilitation, and development of the North-East and the development of the uneducated members of our society.
“The national growing population may become a major threat to its future, unless substantial and sustained investments are made in the areas of human capital development, particularly education and health. In this regard, a visionary strategy must be developed for the national economy that is aimed at providing quality education, skills development and employment for our nation’s young people.
“Corruption and wasters are threats to our national security. In this regard, a strong political will, effective policies and improvements must be made to ensure the efficiency of institutions.
“The entire focus of governments across all levels must target poverty reduction, as poverty is a threat to national security. All current policies must be re-evaluated to ensure that they are effective.
“The nation must develop its knowledge and skills in managing its extensive forest reserves in order to turn them into assets. This is because the nation’s demographic indices indicate shifts in our population size, composition, land use and impact of the environment on human economic activities.
“There is a need to generate the strong political will to improve the policy, legislation, regulatory and enforcement capacities to reduce the damage of the production, importation and consumption of illicit drugs in the nation — which represent a major threat to national security.
“Government with the state should work out a strategy to integrate the Almajiri system with the formal western educational system.
“Federal government should provide low-interest rate loans for herders to develop ranching businesses in the country.”
17 months after that summit, on July 16, 2019, the Senate, during one of its security debates, resolved to hold another “all-inclusive and encompassing National Security Summit that would come up with very robust and far-reaching resolutions on how to nip in the bud, the current security challenges across the country.”
This was after senators debated “State of Insecurity in the nation and Gruesome Murder of Mrs. Funke Olakurin who is the daughter of the Afenifere leader, Pa Reuben Fasoranti by gunmen.”
It, however, did not see the light of the day till the chamber went on Christmas break.
But it was resurrected as part of burning issues to be discussed by the chamber, hence the creation of an ad-hoc committee led by the Senate leader, Yahaya Abdullahi, with a report expected within two weeks.
Summon of security heads
In the past, security heads were invited by the Red Chamber to discuss the state of Nigeria’s security and while some appeared, others did not, choosing instead to send representatives. The chief culprit is the former inspector general of Police, Ibrahim Idris, who ignored the 8th Red Chamber on four occasions.
This forced the chamber to pass a vote of no confidence on him, describing him as an enemy of democracy and unfit for public office. It is a new assembly and a different IGP who has shown willingness to partner with the 9th Red chamber to resolve security issues.
However, Nigerians are beginning to lose patience with the ‘talk shop’ around the insecurity problem. The question now is how exactly the legislature plans to address rising insecurity in the country that will produce fruitful results and lead to an end in the mindless killings across Nigeria other than debates and security summits.