The killing of about 200 people on the Plateau on Christmas Eve has once again highlighted how helpless Nigerians have become in the face of the nation’s rising and intensifying terrorism. A national newspaper captured the tragedy thus: “Of the number, 148 were killed in Bokkos Local Government Area, 19 in Mangu Local Government Area, and 27 in Barkin Ladi. 1,290 houses were burnt down in Bokkos council, one house was razed in Mangu LGA and that of Barkin Ladi was yet to be ascertained at press time.”
Nigerians need to start demanding more seriously the measures required to protect their lives. The country’s police and military have tried their hardest, but not much is improving, and it seems like the forces are at their breaking point.
The military and law enforcement agencies have been battling various challenges around the clock, including insurgency, banditry, and terrorism. Their valiant efforts have produced outcomes that demonstrate that commitment and resolve alone are insufficient. Some gaps need to be filled, and many of these gaps also point to serious, structural flaws in the country’s security architecture that must be urgently addressed if things are to improve. These structural problems prevent the country from responding to insecurity effectively.
The police are the primary security agency in every nation. If the police are not doing a good enough job of protecting the citizens within, then all the other security agencies—which are essentially ancillary—will never be able to operate efficiently. This is the foundation of the nation’s insecurity that must be rebased.
The fact is that the Nigerian police force is woefully insufficient to adequately police the 220 million people, over 250 ethnic nationalities, 8,818 wards, 774 LGs, 36 states, and federal capital territory that make up the country. This inadequacy extends to training, equipment, motivation, and organisational structure as well. There are only roughly 370,000 police officers and men in Nigeria, of whom 150,000 do not carry out routine police work. They serve as bodyguards for big men and women and guard banks, offices and government buildings. Nigeria’s current police strength of about 370,000 officers is grossly insufficient based on a ratio of one police officer to about 600 citizens, which is the global standard.
Nigeria comprises more than 250 ethnic nationalities, each distinguished by its unique language and culture, forming a federal environment. This means that up to 250 different ethnic nationalities were inadvertently bunched up as a federation during the colonial era and intended to function as a federal system; Nigeria has in reality abandoned federalism in favour of a unitary system.
State Police and Fiscal Federalism are two fundamental components of a typical, functioning federation. Simple research on the 26 federalist nations in the globe can be used to confirm this assertion.
Only Nigeria, one of the 26 nations that practise federalism, has a centralised police force. This is the major reason the Nigeria Police is ineffective.
The argument against the establishment of a state police in Nigeria has always been the state governors and other state actors’ probable exploitation of the state police. However, despite its validity, this fear is not proactive. The federal government, in particular the president, the speaker of the house, or the president of the senate, should commission a technical study to provide them with recommendations on how to best administer community and state police with minimal or no intervention from state governors. For instance, what are the prerequisite structures that must be put in place before community and state police are implemented?
This suggested course of action is more proactive than letting Nigerians perish in large numbers and leaving them to their fate. The horrific story behind the Plateau Christmas Eve killings is that the terrorists reportedly told their victims they would attack, and when they did, they allegedly stayed in some school for a considerable amount of time without the police or military answering the numerous distress calls from the besieged communities. Furthermore, some press sources state that a different community has also been written similarly for a future attack.
A lot of people have been calling on the government to let Nigerians own higher-grade weapons, like military assault rifles. This is a misguided and unnecessary demand; what is needed are state police and community police, not citizens brandishing military assault rifles; a citizen in need of such a rifle should join the state police and community police; that way, it will be proactive and beneficial. Another thing that Nigerian ethnic nationalities should think about is filing a genocide lawsuit against the government of Nigeria, which has prevented them from being able to defend themselves and has also been unable to defend the citizens in almost all parts of the country while their attackers bear military assault weapons. This is genocidal.
Genocide is the deliberate extermination of a people, either whole or in part. Any “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group” was classified as genocide by the United Nations Genocide Convention of 1948. Without a doubt, the International Criminal Court has jurisdiction to intervene in ongoing cases of genocide against numerous ethnic minorities in Southern Kaduna, the Plateau, and other locations, since they have fulfilled the basic criteria for genocide. The ICC can compel the federal government to permit citizens to defend themselves through the State and Community Police or by self-help.
The truth is that Nigerians have not explored the international legal options to force the Nigerian government to grant them the one essential fundamental human right—the right to life—which is fulcrum upon which every other fundamental human rights rests. It is enforceable and actionable.
Also, deballed behaviours are also being displayed by state houses of assembly and governors. They must band together and demand specific changes to the constitution that will allow community and state police. Rather, they make politically charged remarks and erratic, ill-advised pronouncements that are ultimately meaningless babbling.
This dispensation’s governors further compounded the problem by establishing vague ‘police’ structures like Amotekun, Ebube Agu, and various vigilante groups. These structures are amorphous because their ill-equipped and poorly trained operatives cannot defeat the highly skilled and well-heeled terrorists, bandits, and other violent non-state actors present in most regions of the country. It is not just possible without the right equipment, motivation, and training and legal framework.
Therefore, if the president and the leadership of the national assembly continue to show no concern for the issue of state and community police, one reiterates the call on the current state governors to utilise their governors’ forums to initiate constitutional amendment for the creation of state and community police. Section 214 of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution states: “There shall be a Police Force for Nigeria, which shall be known as the Nigeria Police Force, and subject to the provision of this section no other Police Force shall be established for the Federation or any part thereof.” Thus, no proper police force can be established in Nigeria unless this extant constitutional provision is amended first.
Security is local. If the country’s growing insecurity is to be controlled and ungoverned areas that are currently held by terrorists, bandits, and other violent non-state actors are to be reclaimed, Nigeria Police Force must be immediately decentralised by the creation of state and community police.
It is like living in a fool’s paradise to assume that the country’s current security framework will be able to eradicate insecurity. Those standing against state police and community police should sincerely answer: which is better, leaving things the way they are or giving the state and community police option a try?
· Dr. Law Mefor, an Abuja-based forensic and social psychologist, is a fellow of The Abuja School of Social and Political Thoughts; [email protected]; Twitter: @Drlawsonmefor.