The Senate has drafted two of its committees to investigate the establishment of the Vigilante Service Group by Kogi state government.
The attention of the Senate was drawn to the development by Dino Melaye (Kogi-APC) on Wednesday.
Mr. Melaye, while presenting a motion, said the establishment of the state police in Kogi contravened provision of the constitution.
“Mr. President, I bring to the senate a law passed by the Kogi state government and signed into law by the governor of Kogi state that talks about the establishment of the Vigilante Service Group. Mr. President, I have that law here, it’s already a law of the Kogi state government. By the time I perused this law, this law is in conflict with the provisions of the constitution. This law alters the functions of the Nigeria Police as stipulated in section 214 of the constitution.
“Mr. President, it is a fact that state can make laws through the Houses of Assembly as enshrined in section 4 of the constitution but the law they will make must not be in conflict with the provisions of the constitution. Mr. President, I seek your indulgence to read a section of the law passed by Kogi state government. It says that Vigilante Group will be involved in detection and prevention of crime, the apprehension of criminals, the preservation of law and order, the protection of lives and property. Will assist other security and para-military agencies in the discharge of their duties to assist other security agencies in government installations, to assist other security agencies in maintaining law and order in any economic, political and social gathering. There shall be a controller of Vigilante services. There is also a Deputy Controller-General.
“Mr. President, the most affront on the constitution is in section 15 of that law which says the vigilante Service Group shall carry dane guns, other guns and other light weapons that are commiserate with their duties and responsibilities.”
He warned against condoning such group in Kogi state. Mr. Melaye said the group are already ‘killing people in Kogi.’
“This is how it started in Kano, it was not contained, it started ravaging. This is how Boko Haram started, this is how Sara Suka started. The senate will not fold our arms and close our eyes where a governor is equipping militia to wreak havoc on innocent citizens. As I speak to you, this group is already killing in every parts of Kogi state. There is record of killings in Okene, Adabi, Lokoja and this group are carrying AK-47 and pump actions openly in Kogi.
“This will now justify the reason why uniforms and hardwares are imported into Nigeria. It will now justify why military weapons and gadgets were addressed as sporting equipment for the purpose of illegal importation. The laws of Kogi state shall not override the constitution.”
Senate Minority Leader, Godswill Akpabio, said the activities of Governor Bello is an indication of incapability of youth in government.
“Quite unfortunately it is Kogi again. Here we are at the Senate trying to make laws to enable the youth who can go to elections to be voted for and we are seeing a very youthful governor who is giving impression that we elders should continue to recycle ourselves. But I do know that the youth of Nigeria are ready.
“Having been a governor before, we were very circumspect about arming militants or arming youth because at the end of the day, even after you’ve left office, for you to retrieve that weapon. To hear that there is a law at all mentioning people to carry light weapons in a state is not only condemnable but must be looked into because Nigeria has been struggling with proliferation of arms. What is happening is almost like legalising illegality.”
Taraba senator, Emmanuel Bwacha, urged the federal government ‘to stop virtually everything and focus on security.’
“If we do not stop everything and face this matter, we will wake up one day and our country will not be there,” he said.
Magnus Abe (Rivers) called the attention of the senate to a similar group in his state.
“Mr. President as we all know, I have always been and I will remain an advocate of state policing as solution to the problems of this nation but for us to do this thing and do it well, we have to be careful.
“In my own state, Rivers, the state House of Assembly has just passed a law called the neighbourhood something bill and law provides for this people to carry arms, provides for them to take every order for the governor, makes all sorts of provisions and even provide for these corps members that even the Nigeria Police does not have. Mr. President, this problem is not just a Kogi problem, it is a Nigerian problem.”
Meanwhile, Victor Umeh (Anambra-APGA), said the vigilante group had been a success in his state. He urged the senate to limit the proscription of such parallel groups to states where they constitute threat to citizens.
“This is a very critical issue. It is very unfortunate that Kogi has been in the news for this abuse for some time now but it behoves on me to point out to this senate that vigilante service has worked in some parts of this country in helping to maintain peace in those states. Anambra is an example.
“It is important, while we condemn vigilante in some states, we have to commend them in places where it has worked effectively like in my own state.”
The senate mandated its committees on Security and Intelligence and Judiciary to invite the National Security Adviser to investigate the issue.
The committees are to also invite the Attorney-General of the federation with a view to disband this unconstitutional body.
The lawmakers however rejected an additional prayer to include Rivers state in its purview of investigation of the committees.
It is no surprise at all that one of the questions that have dominated our political space in recent time is that of: “State police: to be or not to be?”, given the orgy of violence that has enveloped the nation and the seeming inability of the police or lack of will by the powers that be to quickly arrest the situation. Although the killings in Benue and Taraba States by terrorists dubbed as Fulani herdsmen, and the most recent murderous rampage in Zamfara by those that have been widely described as armed bandits, seem to be the areas of media attention, it is a notorious fact that the killings are widespread across Nigeria.
Particularly, governors of the three mentioned States have publicly lamented their helplessness in tackling these challenges, since the hierarchy of the police and even the entire military architecture, take their briefing from the president and commander–in-chief of the armed forces, Mr. Muhammadu Buhari. After the mass burial of about seventy persons massacred in cold blood by these terrorists, Governor Ortom of Benue State reiterated his earlier statement that if the president had responded to his several messages raising alarm about an impending attack of his people and ordered the security forces to take decisive steps to curtail it, the tragedy that befell his people would never have happened.
The Zamfara State governor, Abdulaziz Yari wasn’t less vocal in the song of lamentation following the gruesome murder of eighteen people in the State. Yari claimed he gave security agencies a twenty-four hour notice of the impending invasion of communities in the State by armed bandits. Yari said, “on this particular incidence, we had intelligence reports 24 hours before it happened, that the bandits were grouping and ready to attack. I alerted the security agencies but unfortunately they sent inadequate personnel to confront these people from where they came from. Whatever humanly possible that needed to be done, we as a government have done to mitigate this disaster. But it does appear that security agencies are failing in their responsibilities. I feel let down facing the people of this state whenever I remember the promise I made to them that when the elect President Muhammadu Buhari into power, these killings will end. But unfortunately, things are now getting worse.”
These songs of lamentation by Ortom and Yari highlighting their lack of authority to deal with security challenges, and literarily going cap-in-hand to beg President Buhari for intervention, underscores the joke that the Nigerian federalism is. Under federalism, true federalism, surely governors should not be this helpless in the face of daunting security challenges, which require decisive leadership and consequential action. Unfortunately, they are. It is this helplessness of people said to be the chief security officers of their States as governors, in the face of heightening security challenges involving outbreaks of violence and gruesome killings, that makes the debate on whether or not state police should be allowed imperative and germane. It borders on the absurd to tie up a child’s hands to his back and yet put him in the boxing ring to fight a professional pugilist. That appears to be what the Nigerian style federalism has done to the governors when it gives them the intimidating resposibilities of chief security officers without commensurate authority to control the commissioner of police and his men in their states. The order of the CSO-governor becomes a nullity in the face of a counter order from the inspector general of police (IGP), at the behest of the chief security officer of the federation (CSOF).
The fears of many that governors would use these apparatuses to stifle opposition or any voice of dissent is beyond ignoring. Therefore, efforts must be put in place to strengthen our institutions to be able to make governors accountable for the abuse that they commit while in office, should they use the police for sinister purposes.
While the prevailing security predicament increases the narrative in favour of state police, no one can ignore the germane fears of many about the high propensity of this security apparatus for abuse by governors. To ignore or downplay this concern, in itself, would constitute more security risk in future than we have now, especially if we take a more than cursory look into a similar history of the intolerant attitude of many governors today to their political opposition. In a historical reflection, the first civilian governor of Plateau State, Chief Solomon Lar, toed the path of cautious optimism, noting that a “similar idea was implemented in the 1950s to late 1970s when the term “Yan Doka” was used for the state police, and the politicians of those times exploited the security apparatus by using it to intimidate, harass and oppress perceived enemies, until the creation of the Nigeria Police in 1979.” He therefore sued for a more thorough homework on the use of this organ.
However, some states already have semblances of the state police, which are doing well. For instance, the Lagos State’s Rapid Response Squad (RRS) is said to have succeeded in reducing crime rate by over 50 percent in the area. While the citizenry and public interest commentators continue to express divergent views on this subject matter, it must be noted that the present attitude of intolerance by governors, which has roundly resulted in state legislatures and their leaderships becoming appendages of state governors for fear of impeachment and sundry victimisation, does not do much service in the quest for the creation of state police. The fears of many that governors would use these apparatuses to stifle opposition or any voice of dissent is beyond ignoring. Therefore, efforts must be put in place to strengthen our institutions to be able to make governors accountable for the abuse that they commit while in office, should they use the police for sinister purposes.
To this end, the provision of Section 308 of the 1999 Constitution, which confers immunity on the president, governors and their deputies must be amended to take away criminal immunity from these public officers, with the chief justice and the National Judicial Council empowered to cause investigations of governors over alleged abuses of the apparatus of state police, and their trial if found wanting. Also Section 214 of the 1999 Constitution would need to be amended to accommodate two tiers of police – the State and Federal Police, with a clear provision defining the class of crimes to be dealt with by either tier, just like is obtained in the United States and Canada.
It is frightening to imagine that police personnel employed by states and armed to the teeth would be owed salaries for almost one year, as is the usual plight of state civil servants. The potentially calamitous consequence of a fully armed man walking the streets hungry compels trepidation for any imaginative mind.
In the United States, state police departments have state-wide authority to conduct law enforcement activities and criminal investigations. It is a given for all federating states, so Nigeria needs to brace up for this, but not before putting her house in order. To do so also mean the states must be ready and able to bear the salary burdens of running their own police departments. It is frightening to imagine that police personnel employed by states and armed to the teeth would be owed salaries for almost one year, as is the usual plight of state civil servants. The potentially calamitous consequence of a fully armed man walking the streets hungry compels trepidation for any imaginative mind.
Already the current police structure is underfunded and consequently the country is under-policed given the yawning deficit in the United Nations’ recommendation of one policeman to four hundred and fifty persons. This also adds to reasons that all hands must be on deck and we should not just jump towards the creation of state police, but we should consciously and meticulously commit all stakeholders to attaining a national consensus for its creation, while eliciting commitments from all and sundry thereof to work out the fine details of setting this security organ up. This will include ultimately strengthening the nation’s institutions and statute books well enough to address whatever teething challenges would greets its creation.
Lemmy Ughegbe is the Executive Director of Make A Difference [MAD] Initiative, a good governance and human rights advocacy initiative.
The National Council of Tiv Youths, NCTY, has faulted Arewa consultative Forum’s position on the creation of state police.
The ACF had on Monday faulted the calls for the creation of state police, arguing that it would lead to chaos.
The ACF’s Secretary General, Mr. Anthony Sani, said if created, the various state governors would abuse state police the way the state electoral commissions were being abused.
Reacting, the group president, Chief John Akperashi, said the recent attacks by herdsmen had made the call for state police necessary as governors can’t resolve killings without them.
He said, “The truth basically is that state police remain the best to ensure an effective check of external aggression.
“Governors, although proclaimed chief security officers of their states, still appear helpless in the deployment of the security agencies, especially the police.
“Certainly if the police are in the control of the governors at the affected states, this destruction and unfortunate killings wouldn’t have gone up to alarming proportions.
“The governor of Zamfara just came out to decry the inefficiency of the security formations in his state which he alleged failed him as he did everything humanly possible in mitigating that carnage.
“The governor of Benue State also stated the complicity roles of the security in his state and particularly the ineffectiveness of the police. If Ortom had had the police under his direct command, he would have achieved much more and saved more lives against what was witnessed in Benue.”
The pan-Northern socio-political organisation, Arewa Consultative Forum, on Monday expressed its opposition to the creation of state police.
The 36 state governors had endorsed the creation of state police to, according to them, address rising insecurity in the country.
The governors’ endorsement was a follow-up after Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo supported its creation.
However, the ACF noted that the creation of state police, as endorsed by the 36 state governors and Osinbajo, was a recipe for more crises.
The ACF’s Secretary General, Anthony Sani, in an interview with our correspondent in Kaduna, said if created, the various state governors would abuse it the way the state electoral commissions were being “bastardised.”
According to the ACF, sitting governors will use state police to torment perceived political enemies.
“Given the experiences where state governments use state electoral commissions and kill democracy at local government levels where no opposition party wins a seat in the local government council, there is the high possibility of state governments abusing state police with dire consequences, especially in states with many ethnic groups and religions,” the ACF scribe said.
The ACF, he said, was opposed to state police because the Forum sees the problems of police to lie in the lack of training, lack of equipment and also due to insufficient number of personnel.
He argued further that given the paucity of resources, it would not be good judgement to saddle states with additional responsibilities of state police.
He said the northern body believes that these problems could not be solved through the multiplication of security agencies.
Last week the Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo called for the decentralization of the country’s police structure while speaking on the issue of security.
Now the Nigerian Governors’ Forum have backed the call of the establishment of state police to counter rising insecurity in the country.
This was stated by the Chairman of the NGF and Governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari, who addressed journalists after the two-day summit on national security organised by the Senate in Abuja, said most of the governors had agreed that state police should be introduced.
He said though some of the governors had expressed fear about the cost of establishing state police, Yari said the new policing system would be introduced in phases.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo while making a presentation at a National Security Summit organized by the National Assembly in Abuja, has agreed that adoption of state police was the way to go in meeting security needs of the country.
He said that every citizen of the country was entitled to adequate security by government and that the security failures of the government were not deliberate.
“State police and other policing methods are clearly the way to go,’’
“We cannot realistically police a country the size of Nigeria centrally from Abuja,’’ he argued.
“As a people any killing undermines the security of the state,’’ he stated as he mentioned several killings that had taken place in different parts of the country in recent times.
He said that government had worked on some policy objectives some of which needed legislative approval and cooperation of the judiciary.
He said that the security challenges of the country were complex and nuanced that securing Nigeria’s over 900,000 square Kilometres and 180 million people required far more men and materials than we have at the moment.
“It requires a continual reengineering of our security architecture and strategies; this has to be a dynamic process.’’
According to him for the country of our size, to meet the one policeman to 400 persons approved by the UN, will require triple of our current police force, far more funding of the police, the military and security agencies.
He said the country must intensify its collaboration with the neighbours to prevent the movement of persons with small arms and disarm pastoralists and other bandits passing through the nation’s borders.
“We must avoid the danger of allowing these conflicts to turn to religious or ethnic conflicts,’’ he said adding that it was the responsibility of political, religious and other leadership elite in Nigeria.’’
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has backed the calls for decentralisation of the Nigeria Police.
“State police is the way to go,”Osinbajo said at the opening ceremony for the two-day summit on national security organised by the Senate on the spate of killings by herdsmen and other crimes across the country.
The event, which entered closed doors after the ceremony, is ongoing at the NAF Centre in Abuja.