It is cruel and shameful to attempt to play politics with matters of security. Whichever way you look at it, whatever political profit you may gain from it, no one who would escape the grave consequences of a resultant security collapse because a bandit or a kidnapper would not ask what party you belong to before inflicting evil upon you.
Without doubt, Niger state and indeed Nigeria is going through a challenging phase. Everyday we wake up to heartbreaking news from all parts of the country. It is tragic enough for all of us; whether politicians or an individual from other walks of life. What we don’t need in addition is mischief-makers trying to play politics with it.
This is not to suggest that Nigerians or Nigerlites should not lament where there is a failure of security; they should. People must react, pour out their anger on leaders –and leaders must accept the blames, listen to the lamentations because it comes with job. It is what they signed up for.
Over the last few months I have read several articles and social media write-ups from different people about the insecurity we are battling with especially in Niger state, and, I can say with most sincerity that majority of them are written from genuine concern, and a deep desire for peace.
I have also read a number of questions many are asking, but the most common one is: what exactly is the Governor doing about the security situation in the state? In all fairness, this is a most sincere question that any concerned resident of the state must ask. If I did not know, I too would have asked what the Chief Security Officer of the state is doing to remedy the situation as well.
Anybody who understands crisis knows too well that security issues are quite complicated. They may seem easy to discuss but not so easy to solve. In Niger state in particular, we have been known to be peaceful and full of respect for elders and persons in constituted authority. Even as there are scuffles here and there, as a people we generally abhor violence especially at the level we are seeing today. These criminals are not from our lands. They are only taking advantage of our vast land and accommodating nature of our people to spread violence.
But, security issues being quite and ever complicated, may seem only easy to discuss, it is never so easy to solve. What I know for sure is every security unit posted to Niger state from the federal government, from the army, the police, even the civil defence are all being taken care of by the state. Their allowances, their feeding and their accommodation are being routinely offset by the state government, while other comforts and needs many and unceasing don’t go through red-tapes to be ministered to!
Furthermore, in all the 25 LGAs of the state, the State Government has instituted vigilantes groups, funded by the government. The positive results of this initiative have been considerably high but may not be as glaring because averted attacks often go unreported.
Only a few weeks ago, in fact, the army, the police together with other local vigilantes were successful in their operations led by General Ali Keffi and DCP Yusuf Kolo supported by the state government which led to over 30 communities in Shiroro, Rafi and Mariga LGs returning back to their communities after fleeing for months from banditry and other related attacks.
In all sincerity, it is a difficult time for us all, especially those in government. Daily they’re confronted with barrage of questions and insults, sometimes, even from people very close to them and other times from immediate family members. And when you see struggling displaced persons, you are overwhelmed by a sense of guilt.
What is always difficult for people to believe is that Governors do not have the police or the Army. Not only is this hard to believe, it provokes the public to anger even as it is the truth. But even as this is true, in Niger state at least, the state government takes care of their welfare, from feeding to accommodation to allowances.
For those who understand that Governors are not Commanders in Chief, the next question that comes to mind is this: Can’t the Governor empower the vigilante groups to fight these bandits seeing as vigilantes understand the localities better and are almost always successful against bandits? Truth be told, anyone who is a keen follower knows that Governor Abu Sani Bello is doing his very best in this aspect but limited constitutional powers has denied him and his colleagues certain rights to procure modern arms for them.
Another hard-to-believe truth is this: the Governor does not have the constitutional power to procure guns for any group. Yes, it is highly illegal and contradicts the provisions of the constitution.
I am putting all these out as individual with privileged information that is a keen follower of happenings, and have got the privileged of been around the policy makers not as a government official.
If I’m asked what is the way out, since both the police and the army are doing their best and there seems to be no end in sight to this, my recommendation to Nigeria’s political leaders would be a review of the constitution currently operating in the country. I feel we all, as concerned citizens, like elder BM Dzukogi did, should approach these committees with solutions.
1. have a situation where full autonomy is granted to Local Governments.
2. Create a state police with a caveat where they are only meant to fight banditry and not to be used for political or electoral activities.
3. Find a way of legalizing the vigilante groups with a little restructuring so they can be allowed to carry modern arms since they owned and know the territories better than even the bandits.
The time for lamentations upon lamentations, blames and counter blames is over. It is time to discuss and act solutions. We’ve made noise and raise complaints long enough. We all should be part of that constitutional review process which seems urgently needed to drive desirable changes in the area of insecurity in the country. Let us agree that the document is from us, not from them, so we can at least agree on a template to apply in reworking same for a better, safer, more prosperous Nigeria. Thank you all for reading this to the end.
Abdullberqy U. Ebbo writes in from Minna,Niger state.