We support the call for demilitarisation of Nigeria
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, has decried the extensive deployment of military personnel for civil conflicts in at least 28 states of the country. The speaker made the remarks at a workshop of security sector-related committees in the House, organised in collaboration with the Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre.
Making reference to Section 217 of the 1999 constitution, the speaker described the situation as unprecedented in peacetime. He said: “It is worrisome that Nigeria is effectively permanently in a state of emergency as the armed forces are deployed in more than 28 states of the federation in peacetime.” While the government called up the military ostensibly in accordance with constitutional provision that such could be done in aid of civil authority, the speaker said the military had usurped the functions of the police by becoming the real civil authority.
The danger inherent in this might not have manifested now, but, if unchecked, would affect the morale of the police, render it totally ineffectual, and when it becomes obvious that the military, faced with insurgency in parts of the country lacks the capacity to deploy enough men for these extraneous tasks, the state could fail. It is unfortunate that the police hierarchy does not feel worried about this development that started under military rule.
As soon as the military took over in December 1983, unwilling to accommodate a strong police force that could serve as a counterpoise, funding, training and attention to the civil force dropped. The police force was subsumed under the military and, by the time power was being transmitted to the civilians in 1999, it was a battered and weakened police that was bequeathed to the Obasanjo government.
The federal authorities must take urgent steps to redress the situation. The military men are trained to fight mainly external enemies, while the police are saddled with the task of arresting ugly situations, rein in law breakers, and bring them to justice. The rise in cases of violent dispersal of protesters and brutal attacks on citizens may not be unconnected with the anomaly introduced.
The long term effect of the development is the more frightening because the military does not even act alone in the operations and, thus, the civil authorities are being militarised in orientation.
If the current trend continues, there could be social implosion soon. The speaker should go beyond making such observations. As an arm of government actively involved in appropriation of resources, the legislature must ensure that the police are adequately funded and empowered to perform. Its personnel should be encouraged to be more assertive. Eighteen years after return to civil rule, Nigeria has no excuse being dependent on the military for everything. All governments since 1999 are to blame for failing in the demilitarisation of the polity. This has been obvious, too, in governance, with ex-generals being called to run the country’s affairs.
The explosion of various crimes in the country could be linked to the mode of policing. Decentralisation of the civil force is an inescapable option in boosting crime prevention and detection. Despite the mentality that Nigeria needs discipline which the military best exemplifies, the level of rot has grown in the Fourth Republic.
All former Inspectors- General of Police should team up with the current leadership of the police to press the need for retooling, equipping and improved funding of the police force in the interest of the general public. We should not allow soldiers to begin to have funny ideas, because that is what happens when we cannot handle internal security crises without them.