…Say, security agencies working at cross-purposes
…El Rufai, Fayemi loud on resource control, devolution of powers
…Nigeria’s security response strategy ad-hoc, reactive
…We’re practicing Kabiyesi democracy – Abaribe
Governors of the 36 states of the Federation, yesterday, took stock of the nation’s security response strategy in the wake of renewed banditry and other criminal activities, and demanded for immediate creation of State Police, devolution of power, and resource control, lamenting that Nigeria is currently in a season of anomie.
While they noted that Nigeria’s security response strategy is ad-hoc and reactive, Senate Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe urged security agencies, especially in the Southern part of the country to stop treating victims of criminal attacks as criminals.
Abaribe spoke on Friday alongside the Ekiti state Governor and Chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum, NGF, Dr Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State and Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State at a forum on “Strategies for pulling Nigeria from the brink”, organised by RadioNow 95.3 in partnership with NexTier.
The governors also stated that Nigeria’s security agencies have continued to work at cross-purposes, making it difficult to solve Nigeria’s complex security equation.
Governor el-Rufai, who spoke first demanded the immediate devolution of powers, saying there is need for state police and vesting the control of onshore mineral resources in the states.
He said: “Since the insurgency in the North-East pushed things to a new low, this country does not have enough soldiers, uniform police or secret police to protect state power across its vast swathes particularly the forests.
“The limited number of boots on the ground are not well equipped and are significantly lacking in the technology that can make their limited numbers matter a lot less.
Slow justice system
“The justice system operates with ethos and at a pace that does not reflect the fragility of the situation and the urgency to demonstrate that the rule of law is meaningful. Prosecutions take too long, so long that many citizens assume that the criminals have long been released, encouraging criminal conduct and raising the dangerous appeal of illegal self-help.
“The states and local governments have limited hard power but considerable options and scope for the exercise of soft power, which requires for its effectiveness the looming shadow of credible coercive power. By this I mean unless people understand that there is a strong federal government with enforcement behind this soft power, the soft power will not be exercised with success.
“We can overcome these debilitation. We are not the only country cobbled together by accident of history. We are more integrated than we think.
“In my view, we must approach organizing our country as a deliberate task, beginning with the collective decision regarding what sort of society we intend to build and the means of attaining it”, el-Rufai stated.
He said there has to be elite consensus on issues such as commitment to the rule of law and quick dispensation of justice; common citizenship and respect for residency rights; equal opportunity for all, respect for diversity as well as “the immediate devolution of powers to return the nation to the true federation of its founding fathers.
Three steps out
“I will dwell on three of the issues that I believe are critical to the immediate needs of the country to pull back from the brink. The first is the imperative for federal, states and community policing. We do not have enough police. One centralised police for the country just has not worked. Secondly, we must amend the Constitution and relevant laws to vest control of oil and gas, mines and minerals other than offshore in the continental shelf and extended economic zones in the states that already have control over land under the Land Use Act with royalties and taxes payable to the federal government and to the Federation Account. Three, we must rectify the anomaly of a Federation that has a more or less unitary judiciary.
“In addition too and in line with the foregoing points, I will recommend the following immediate decisions and actions by the Federal and State Governments with the support of our civil societies and all well-meaning Nigerians.
“The first recommendation is to implement the three key devolution proposals that I mentioned above. Give us State Police now. Vest all minerals in the states now and decentralize our judiciary now, not later.
“Two, let us be collectively emphatic about the right of every citizen to security, freedom of movement and right of residence; and that the choice of livelihood must conform with the laws of the land.
“Three, we must identify, focus and deal decisively with all state and non-state actors in deeds, in conducts that amount to challenging the supremacy of the Nigerian state and our constitution without ethnic profiling or discriminatory treatment.
“We must provide immediate and enhanced funding to acquire advanced equipment, armament and ordnance for the armed forces, police, security agencies and paramilitary agencies by drawing down from the pool of various federation funds like the Excess Crude Account, Natural Resource Account, Stabilization Account and so on, so that our security services will have the materials to face the criminals that menace us.
“Number Five. Implement the National Livestock Transformation Plan already produced four years ago to enable accelerated investments in modern animal husbandry incorporating the rapid sedentarization of herders.
“Also, there is need for the aggressive reduction of the cost of governance at federal, state and local government levels through merger of Ministries, Departments and Agencies MDAs with similar mandates and functions; and a nationwide freeze on creation of any new administrative, regulatory or executive bodies for the foreseeable future. We simply cannot afford it anymore.
“Seventh, we need to forge a national consensus now, not later, to collect more taxes at both federal and state levels for the governments to be viable. This means also we must stop pretending that the regulated rates of lending, interest rates, exchange rates, prices of petrol and electricity as well as the salaries in the public sector are realistic, sustainable and will lead us to the promised land. These are decisions for here and now. As leaders, our obligation is to turn Nigeria’s moment of peril into breakthrough moments”, el-Rufai added.
On his part, Fayemi who spoke on behalf of the Nigerian Governors Forum, NGF, said he agreed with all the submissions made by Gov. el-Rufai.
He said: “I concur completely with virtually everything that my brother has put forward, but I have an added obligation as head of Nigerian Governors to share with you our perspectives collectively on these issues.
“Given this worrisome state, whether it is insurgency in the North-East, farmers-herders conflict in the North-Central, banditry in the North-West, kidnapping in the South-West and the South-East; and of course all over the country, youth restiveness across the country that led to #EndSARS that we all unfortunately encountered in October, militancy, sea piracy in the South-South, the common thread is that we are now in a season of anomie in our country.
“We have to pull Nigeria from the brink. To do this requires elite consensus as el-Rufai has just highlighted. Because when you review our interventions over the years, what is clear is that there are gaps in our security management system. There is an over-reliance on ad hoc, reactive and herd security as against proactive, development-oriented and human security response. Our security management strategy lacks a holistic, responsive peace and security architecture, which in turn leads states to put in place self-help security arrangements such as Amotekun, Hisbah and a whole range of them that have sprung up in states.
“The lack of a comprehensive peace and security framework and structure and inadequate inter-agency synergy is showing among security agencies as they work at cross purposes and undermine themselves. This is a common story we hear among our various services with regards to the Boko Haram insurgency.
“What has led to ethnic profiling more than anything else is that we hardly bring to book those who have been responsible for crimes and criminal acts in our country and we must do everything within our powers particularly in empowering our security institutions to do more and bring to book those purveyors of violence, those responsible for crime and criminality in our country. As governors, we do not subscribe to ethnic profiling. We believe that criminals come from all ethnicities. What is important is that we isolate a particular criminal.
“It is absolutely important that we eschew ethnic profiling. When we see what has happened in other parts of the world, the Jews in Germany, the Blacks in America, the Tutsis in Rwanda, it is absolutely important that to pull back from the brink, we must not do anything to exacerbate what is already a problematic situation that we have found ourselves in.”
Fayemi stressed the need for governors to pay more attention to forests and treat them as economic, developmental and security concerns.
On his part, Senator Abaribe noted that what was lacking in solving Nigeria’s current existential challenges was not ideas but the political will to do what is necessary.
He said since the North is reputed to have more landmass than the South, it would be unconscionable to ask Southerners with limited land to vacate their homes for those with large swathes of arable land.
“There has been so much talk about profiling and I agree with it and I will like us to also have a conversation along that line. If a herder is carrying an AK47 and a criminal is carrying an AK47 and both of them are in the same place, how do you differentiate them? Because, it is necessary for us to be able to draw lines somewhere.
“If the security personnel do not seem to be enough, that is not the main problem. As Minority Leader, I get calls from people to say that ‘this has happened here’. ‘These people have come and done this and we have reported to the police and when we report, we become the victims. They instead turn around to arrest us’. So, what type of training do we give to our law enforcement agencies so that they can differentiate between the genuine person who has a problem and somebody who they say is profiling a set of people?
“Another question to ask is whether it is possible for Nigerians to ignore the matter of attachment to land. I read somewhere that close to 80 percent of Nigeria’s land is in the 19 states of the North and that about 22 percent or so is in the 17 states of the South. And somebody in a forest in the South is being told to leave his land in order to be alive so that another person can stay there. How do you think the person would feel?” he queried.
El Rufai had also pointed out strongly that there were limitations to what they can do as governors, insisting that Nigerians must note the roles assigned state governors by the constitution and where the federal government holds authority. He said that Nigeria would be totally different if the constitution is amended today to accommodate the changes he recommended. He said that the National Assembly has a big role to play but unfortunately they have not lived up to expectations. To that Abaribe responded that “amending the constitution is not a difficult thing, but what we have is a Kabiyesi Democracy where what the man on top says is final”