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STATE POLICE: GOV JANG AND OTHER NIGERIANS

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On the issue of state police: there was a time we were frustrated (as gov of Bayelsa) and we felt we should have our police, that...we would be able to manage criminality in our state better. Police from other parts of the country find it difficult to go inside the waters, but for us who were born inside the water, even in the night we can enter ordinary canoe to go anywhere--President Goodluck Jonathan Punch. August 27, 2012

"It is contradictory to call state governors the chief security officers of their states and yet don't have control over the instrumentalies of security control. The NPF has control from Abuja which is nacceptable. Crimes are essentially better controlled by local communities because it is easy for the people to know the geography, culture and crime history of the community--Gov. Kayode Fayemi June 24, 2012.

Governor's Forum Meeting.
I do not intend to drive into any controversy early in the year. However, our nation itself is one bundle of controversy, one which we are afraid of facing, although still very capable of correcting.

The constitutional review is ongoing, via townhall meetings, lobbying and lately by sms. It was while discussing one of the major issues, control of state security apparatus and issues of peace, indigene/native/ settler palaver that a report by Belgium based International Crisis Group (ICG) report hit my mail.

I will come back to the report recommendations later, but for a start, this to me and many like mind are the issues as they are.

Many argue that governors will use state police as a weapon to tackle opponents. Infact a friend specifically mentioned Governor Jang of Plateau as an example and I mentioned Fashola of Lagos as another.

These men occupy an office and won't be there forever, I explained. And to that argument is the simplistic fact that state police will ultimately help in fighting crime and crisis. Others say if federal police can be bought than also state police. Then there is the issue of are we ripe for state police?

Now state police and the Plateau, nothing really heightened the call for state police like the massacre that occurred in Dogon Nahawa, a small community in Plateau state and continuous marauding by cattle herdsmen.

The Nigerian 1999 Constitution places the task of policing the entire country. On the shoulders of the federal government. The operation, control, discipline and promotion of the police force are under the powers of the FG. Section 214, 215 explains, it is also contained under item 45 of the Exclusive Legislative List in Part 1 of the second schedule of the 1999 Constitution.

While these provisions run contrary to advocates of state police. The fact can be buttered on the American system. With the Federal Bureau at the federal level, while states and municipals have their own local police authorities, another example is the United Kingdom and virtually all of Europe.

Gov. Jonah Jang's argument throws light on the ridicule of the term chief security officer, same which Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti and most governors hold. "...I do not control the security of the state and this can be responsible for the premeditated attacks and massacre of villagers." Because on the other hand attached to the constitutional logjam is that of an institutional framework subject to abuse. Attackers know for example the time-frame for response and exploit same.

While some of us may be quick to recall the abuse of the 1953 constitution which placed police in regional hands and how the current crop may not be different.

Or others who look at the State Independent Electoral Commissions SIEC abuse and factors of jurisdiction in terms of crime and criminality.

The fact remains that we can't on the premise of our past failure, or because that did not work, or is not working, this will not work. Like the case where the Plateau state government has asked for prosecution of suspects or perpetuators of violence in the state to be tried in the state or the simple case of who pays who and how and organizational matters.

There are those who liken it to the ripening tree that contains e-voting, female president, Diaspora voting and all those things we are not ripe for but I liken those who do not want state police from my interaction on that premise of timing to an answer to of 'yes, we should not' logic' in a debate.

Infact I dare say that in a manner we are comfortable that the police is better abused by the federal government. While the fears are legitimate, which institution is not open to abuse? Jang and a few of his colleagues are saying we cannot wait for perfect conditioning while people die.

The impression is not that Jonah Jang wants direct control of police authority Plateau or governors want state police in their respective states. No, putting the records straight, it’s a request for the right of governors to nip crime, conflicts and crisis on the bud before a committee is set up.

The federal government is not being denied its security powers but let the constitution allow states have its own police.

Infact in an interaction with Jang, he tacitly put it this way, "if we must toe the line of those in that elite top 20 economies and nations, we must do the right things, they have done in combating crime...."

I recall that only in June last year in Abuja the NGF urged the FG to consider state police as a solution to the state of violence in the nation.

The fact of the matter is, there is no federal system in the world where our own police structure is being practiced. Reason should prevail; it’s not an emotional or Plateau or Jang thing or Fashola

problem.
It is at this point I looked well at the ICG report on the Jos crisis. I will not repeat what we know or the arguments of the parties in the conflict but I am privileged to outline the recommendations vis a vis the position of Plateau and most Nigerians on the handling of security.

The conflict precedes Jang the current governor. There are several escalators_; CAPACITIES OF INSTITUTIONS HAVE BEEN STRETCHED WHILE STATE ACTORS HAVE BECOME COMPROMISED AND CONFLICT ENTREPRENEURS THRIVING.

We don't want state police but we have joint task-forces, have they been effective? If a state under the federal system, cannot be protected by the federal police, federal army and other forces: why are we scared of trying a tested solution.

Within a larger context Plateau, has become a fault line, Muslim/Christian, natives/settlers and actions are scrutinized for all sorts of coloration, instead of mutual beneficial right.

Thus, the underlying crisis has been inflamed basically because of the constitutional and institutional disequilibrium. The call for state control of police is premeditated on my whole argument above:

INSTABILITY IN RECRUITMENT, DEPLOYMENT, INTELLIGENCE SHARING, AND STATE-TO-STATE TENSIONS FUEL BY ETHNO-RELIGIOUS COLORS AND FEDERAL-STATE CONFLICT ON JUDICIAL MATTERS.

I EQUALLY HAVE HIGHLIGHTED THE JURISDICTIONAL MATTER LIKE THE DEMAND FOR THE RETURN OF SUSPECTS. THE NEED TO PUT TO ACTION VARIOUS COMMISSION OF INQUIRIES AND PANEL REPORT, THE STATE NEEDS THE SUPPORT OF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT.

THERE IS A RISING IMPUNITY BECAUSE OF THE CENTRALIZED CONTROL OF SECURITY, INADEQUACIES IN JUSTICE ADMINISTRATION, URPSATION OF LEGISLATIVE, JUDICIAL AND EXECUTIVE POWERS. THERE IS LITTLE THE STATE CAN DO LIKE I WILL HIGHLIGHT BRIEFLY AT THE END, WHEN THE MEDIA PLAYS A LESS THAN COMPLIMENTARY ROLE.

THIS EXCLUDES STRAIN ON THE ALREADY LEAN PURSE OF THE STATE GOVERNMENT ASSISTING FEDERAL POLICE AND SECURITY. AND YET THE STATE IS FACED WITH REFUSAL OF SECURITY CHIEFS TO SHARE BRIEFS._

Before I end, let me say while the Plateau crisis has been on for 13years. It is a crisis that has taken various facet, in recent times the Boko Haram agenda has sought to find home on the Plateau with an aim at Islamization by creating states in the North under strict Islamic laws, in doing this, the casualties has cut across creed, ethnicity, faith, class and region with multiplier effect.

The young persons who have made themselves available could be situated in rising poverty of the 1980s that created the youths fermenting the crisis.

It is not a Jang and others crisis but one which when we include the above Boko Haram factor, we begin to appreciate the bigger picture. And why the government calls for control over state security.

I am also in the know that most of these attacks on Plateau are funded and supported from both inside and outside the state. For example I am aware of several insiders that are part of past and the present government that have continued to thwart the peace process by continually fighting the efforts of the administration. For example: how does one explain an sms intercepted by sources soliciting that media propaganda is unleashed on the people and government of the state or why would a media group in the state be sponsored by a neighboring state to the SouthWest for lobbying favorable and slanted reports.

This excludes outright funding by agents and sympathizers or conflict entrepreneurs, many of which even when the state security apparatus gather intelligence it is handicapped in action.

I am encouraged by the fact that a lot has been done in terms of putting peace in place. Confidence building, addressing the key mutual distrust, I hear of the wonderful job of the "Operation Harmony". It does not come with the saying that total peace has returned, but the peace-building effort is taking giant strides.

My call is for an encouragement to the people of Plateau, her government and people of Nigeria to embrace peace. Like Jang said to me some two years ago… "What do I benefit hating anyone, more so a group. I practically grew up with Muslims...besides I won't be governor for life, my policies, suggestions and that of my government are with the benefit of hindsight".

Maybe with that I want to say my school of governance doesn't congratulate a governor for doing a job he's paid to do. But I sincerely congratulate Jang for doing a job he's not empowered to do.

Written By OTHMAN NANPON ALALMIN [1]_

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