At the closing of the two-day summit on national security organised by the Senate, state governors and the federal parliament have agreed to allow states to have their police.
They backed Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo who stated at the opening of the event on Thursday that state police was “the way to go.” Participants, who included the leadership and members of the Senate, governors and service chiefs, as well as community, religious and traditional leaders, also raised the issue of restructuring and true federalism at the summit.
Strong indications emerged after the summit that some issues raised might come up as amendment bills to alter the constitution.
Speaking with journalists at the NAF Centre Abuja venue, Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum and Governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari, said governors called for the decentralisation of the country’s police.
He said, “The takeaway from this summit is that the Vice-President raised some of the key discussions on that day – 17th August, 2017 – about state police. Yes, the state police issue is something that we have agreed on in 2011 and 2015 during constitution amendments.
“Today, we have reiterated the position of the Vice-President and the position of the security summit that we held in August that there is the need for state police and we say it is the only answer.”
Yari recalled that a participant asked how state police would succeed when the military had been deployed in communities where there were agitations but failed.
The governor said his response was that the military were trained for external aggressions and not for internal security operations.
“Internal security is supposed to be handled and managed by the police but the police of today are inadequate. There are about four million people in Zamfara State but we have less than five thousand policemen. If you look at the ratio, it is far below international standards. Therefore, we, the governors, agree that we can fine-tune the issue of state police,” Yari added.
The governor dismissed the fear of possible abuse of state police by governors as raised by some of the participants. He said the judiciary had been operating freely under governors, which was an indication that state police would also grow under the control of the states.
Yari also noted the fears expressed by some states governors on the cost implication of having state police. He said the new system would be introduced in phases, starting with states that had the financial capability.
Also, the Minority Leader of the Senate, Godswill Akpabio, said most of the participants agreed on the decentralisation of the police.
He said the lawmakers might review the constitution to effect devolution of powers and accommodate state police.
He noted security had been centralised, adding that the population of the country had increased from 60 million in 1960 to 200 million, noting that “the number of policemen cannot police the entire country and provide security for Nigerians.
“Therefore, there is the need to decentralise that aspect and that comes under devolution of powers. We may need to review the constitution to bring security under the concurrent list of the legislature so that it will be easy for the states to set up something that will be in line with proper guidelines. State policing has been accepted by all and sundry. I have not seen anybody speaking against it. I think that is one major thing we can take out of this summit. The centralisation of the police can no longer work with the kind of population that we have today.”
The former Governor of Akwa Ibom State also said the participants agreed on establishment of ranches and grazing reserves as the grazing routes created for nomadic herdsmen had been blocked with structures due to development of towns and cities over the years.
“The implication now is that with the current population growth in the country, there is now a lot of competition among the cows, the grass and infrastructure. If the routes do no longer exist, we have to modernise the system,” he added.
Also, Senator Adamu Aliero, a former Governor of Kebbi State, said the stakeholders had an extensive debate on the spate of insecurity in Benue State and other parts of the country where people were being killed by herdsmen.
“We all decided that measures must be taken to stop further killings and the only way to do it is to have synergy between the security agencies. Even the governors have agreed that state police is the way to go. It is quite consistent with what the Vice-President has suggested,” he said.
In his submission, Senator Victor Umeh said some participants at the 2014 national conference, who were also at the summit, decried the non-implementation of the report produced by the confab.
He said, “At the summit, issues of the national conference of 2014 came up. Why can’t we implement the recommendations of that conference? Some of the leaders who came here were at the national conference. You talked somewhere and abandoned the resolutions somewhere, only to come here and start to talk again. When are the solutions going to be found?”
Umeh also said ethnic nationalities and geopolitical zones expressed their grievances at the meeting, especially the alleged marginalisation of the South-East in federal appointments and proposed stoppage of amnesty programme for militants in the Niger Delta.
He said, “Those who have not been treated well, when they are complaining; don’t think because you are comfortable today, others are making noise. If you find grievances that are genuine, find a way of addressing them.”
Buhari promises solutions to security challenges
President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday said his administration was working on solutions that could stand the test of time to tackle the nation’s security challenges.
He added that he was committed to ensuring that such solutions would earn the confidence of Nigerians.
Buhari made the promise in a message he posted on his verified Twitter handle, @MBuhari, shortly after he held another round of meetings with the nation’s security chiefs.
He said he fully understood the seriousness of the security issues bedevilling the nation.
“Today, I presided over a meeting of the Security Council. We fully understand the seriousness and urgency of Nigeria’s security issues, and are determined to implement carefully considered solutions that will not only earn the confidence of Nigerians, but also stand the test of time,” the President wrote.
Buhari also said one of the resolutions at the meeting was that security agencies must take intelligence gathering and sharing more seriously.
He said the Department of State Services and the Nigeria Police Force were specifically directed to wake up on the issue.
He also promised that all those arrested in relation to killings in parts of the country would be prosecuted.’’
He wrote, “Our law enforcement agencies must at all times stay ahead of bandits and criminals, wherever they are across the country, by efficiently gathering, sharing and acting on credible intelligence. I am assuring (you) that we will give them all the support needed to succeed.
“Let me also assure (you) that all persons arrested so far, including those arrested for illegally possessing arms, will be duly prosecuted.”
The meeting which was also attended by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo was held at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha; Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali; Minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Dambazau; Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama and the National Security Adviser, Maj.-Gen. Babagana Monguno (retd) , also attended.
The meeting was an expanded one as the number of participants was extended to accommodate the heads of the Nigeria Immigration Service, Nigeria Customs Service, Nigeria Fire Service, Federal Road Safety Corps, Nigeria Prisons Service and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps.
These are apart from the service chiefs and the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, who meet with the President regularly.
Service chiefs who attended the meeting are the Chief of Defence Staff; Gen. Gabriel Olonisakin; Chief of Army Staff; Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai; Chief of Naval Staff, Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas; and the Chief of Air Staff, Sadique Abubakar; Director-General of the Department of State Services, Lawal Daura; and the Director-General of the Nigeria Intelligence Agency, Ahmed Abubakar.
None of those who attended the meeting was willing to speak with State House correspondents when approached for comments.
As of the time of filing this report, the Presidency had not issued an official statement on the meeting.