Lalong and security restructuring

2 years 7 months ago #6081 by patrickd

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It is ironic that Plateau State Governor Simon Lalong is faced with a storm, despite his philosophy of peace. He rushed back home from the All Progressives Congress (APC) National Convention in Abuja following June mass shootings in which hundreds of people were reportedly killed in the state, despite the presence of a special military taskforce in charge of security, Operation Safe Haven. The shocking bloodletting in Barikin Ladi, Riyom and Jos South Local Government Areas has been attributed to renewed antagonism between farmers and herders.

It is noteworthy that President Muhammadu Buhari acknowledged Lalong’s positive role when he met leaders of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in the North at the State House on July 5. Buhari observed: “We must not forget that the same Plateau State which has been crisis-ridden for years has in the past three years been celebrated for its peace. The governor’s hard work for peace and the presence of the military’s Operation Safe Haven must have had some impact.”

Buhari drew attention to three special military intervention forces in troubled zones: Operation Safe Haven to secure Plateau State, Operation Whirl Stroke 1 (OPWS) to secure Benue, Taraba and Nasarawa and OPWS 2 to secure Zamfara and Kaduna States. “These forces are supported with investigative and intelligence gathering capabilities from the Nigeria Police Force, Department of State Services and other agencies,” he added. Obviously, the scale of military intervention is a reflection of the intensity of the security crisis.

It is understandable that the latest mass killings in Plateau State intensified the question of state police and the search for an answer. In a reaction, Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State called for a review of the country’s security structure while opening a meeting of the National Executive Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) in Sokoto.

Tambuwal argued: “Whether we like it or not, there is seeming justification for state police and there is seeming justification for state governments to have some measure of control over security personnel. You call the police commissioner and that call is ignored is unfortunate and unacceptable.”

Just before the recent Plateau tragedy, Zamfara State Governor Abdul’aziz Yari made a tragic observation: “We have been facing serious security challenges over the years but in spite of being governor and chief security officer of the state, I cannot direct security officers on what to do nor sanction them when they err. As chief security officer, the nomenclature is just a name.”

Lalong is also in this category. What is a chief security officer without power over security? Lalong told journalists after a meeting with President Buhari: “We are all concerned about the killings…This issue of killings must stop…No governor will sit down and encourage or allow crisis. Even by omission, if you see it, you must address it squarely.” Given the current security structure, Lalong is faced with a clear security handicap. In other words, security restructuring may well be the solution.

Indeed, security restructuring is an inevitable aspect of political restructuring. In 2016, former Inspector-General of Police (IG) Solomon Arase had painted a picture that showed just how under-policed the country is. He had said in an interview: “When you say the number of policemen we have is 370,000, you have to take into consideration that we have traffic wardens, civilian staff, medical doctors, engineers and drivers. If you put those ones together and minus it from the 370,000, it will come down greatly. So, it leaves us with few operational policemen who we can give firearms to.” Considering that Nigeria’s population was estimated at 178.5 million in 2014, the extent of the existing policing gap is extensive.

More fundamentally, Arase had tried to dance around what may well be the primary problem. He had said: “On the recruitment of new 10,000 policemen that was ordered by the President, we want the recruitment to be state-based because we want to encourage community partnership. If we want to encourage community partnership, for instance, somebody from Kano who understands the language and culture, as a constable, he will be able to serve better and gather information in that area after training instead of taking somebody from Lagos who does not understand the culture to go and dump him in Kano and then take a young boy who has not passed through Kaduna before to be dumped in the South-East. So, we want to discourage those things and ensure that it is local government and state-based by the time we recruit.”

It is unclear whether Arase’s successor and current IG Ibrahim Idris Kpotum is thinking along similar lines. But thinking along those lines isn’t enough. The truth is that no matter how hard the authorities try to invent a substitute, there is no real substitute for state police properly so called. The concept of state police goes with federalism properly so called, which means that Nigeria’s version of federalism is an oddity because it doesn’t accommodate state police, among other essentials.

Following the Plateau killings, it is interesting that the National Assembly endorsed state police on July 3. The Senate and the House of Representatives described the country’s security system as a “failed architecture,” and backed the call for the establishment of state police to tackle the rising killings allegedly by herdsmen across several states. The two chambers of the National Assembly agreed to amend the constitution for this purpose. Specifically, the Senate has asked the Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution led by the Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, to present an amendment bill within a specified period.

Of course, it is one thing to talk about state police and it is another thing to take action in the direction of completion. It is on record that the National Assembly rejected a proposal for state police three times in the past.

To present the big picture, the Plateau problem further illustrates the necessity for a federal arrangement that will give a governor like Lalong the powers to pursue public peace, prosperity and security to the best of his ability and without hindrance by a flawed federalism.


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