Realities are beginning to dawn on President Muhammadu Buhari with his recent acquiescence to the imperatives of community policing. This is based on a report the Senior Executive Course 40 of the National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru, in Jos, submitted to the Federal Government, informed by a painstaking research and analysis. Towards its actualisation, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, inaugurated a 14-member panel last Tuesday and gave it eight weeks to submit its report.
The development came amid a closed-door session the acting Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, had with the Senate, where he was grilled on the worsening level of insecurity: killings, banditry, arson, kidnapping and armed robbery. He told the lawmakers that underfunding, lack of equipment and personnel shortage were vitiating the efficiency of the police. He also admitted that strategies were being reviewed, which includes “community policing” introduction at the behest of the President. Additional recruits of between 10,000 and 25,000, he stressed, would be engaged this year in line with the annual incremental policy to beef up their numerical strength.
Integral to the state police structure is community policing. Implementing this element in isolation, under the existing monolithic and corrupt policing template, will render it ineffective and inoperable. Therefore, the President should ditch his well-known disdain for state police and put machinery in motion for decentralising policing as it is done in the United States, Canada, Australia and other federal states. Even the United Kingdom, a unitary state, has 43 autonomous police forces for efficiency and effectiveness.
This paradigm is the only way the envisaged community policing will be meaningful. It was the failure of the present system that compelled the 2014 National Political Conference to recommend the creation of state police. Section 214 of the 1999 Constitution, was expected to be repealed.
While the country muddles through the extant system, there is the overarching need to increase the police budget, targeted at high-tech deployment in solving our security puzzles. Intelligence-driven policing, serious crime-mapping of states aimed at identifying the most problematic zones and correspondingly deploy personnel and equipment for effectiveness, are imperative now. A former IG, Solomon Arase, canvassed this recently. Drones, CCTV cameras, body-worn cameras and telecommunication gadgets combine to keep the police ahead of criminals in the US and other countries in the West. But these resources are effectively deployed in an environment where some police officers are not confederates of criminals who supply them with weapons and intelligence for their nefarious activities; and where corruption is not rife among the hierarchy and rank and file.
The IG should get it right: the 10,000 new police recruits, if done on the basis of the 774 LGAs, which the Senate insisted on in 2016, instead of being on equality of the states, no area will get more than 13 constables. This will not in any way help the cause of community policing as some areas in the North are so expansive. It means that the system, which allows almost 200,000 police personnel to guard public officials, the wealthy and organisations at the expense of the larger society, has to be dismantled. Every IG before now had promised a reversal of this anomaly, but never did. Adamu should dare to be different to make his job easier.
Abuse of police deployment contributes in no small measure to turning the country into the morbid landscape it has become. On Thursday, a news report claimed that 34 people were killed in Sokoto, Taraba, Edo and Borno states, as bandits, cult groups, herdsmen and Boko Haram insurgents went on the rampage. Such deaths have become a recurring decimal to the point that the citizenry and the government have become inured to them. If the Boko Haram war in the North-Eastern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe created internally displaced persons camps, it is inexplicable that a country that is not at war should have similar humanitarian tragedies in Kaduna, Benue, Plateau, Taraba, Niger, Zamfara, and Sokoto states.
Senseless killings by bandits are ravaging states in the North-West. Some rural communities are sometimes levied as much as N5 million and failure to pay results in an invasion that begets carnage and burning down of houses. The situation is so awry that even in the President’s home state – Katsina – the Emir of Katsina, Abdulmumini Usman, cried aloud to the visiting Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh, that farmers and herders had abandoned their farms for fear of either being killed or kidnapped. Usman, therefore, implored him to tell Buhari: “Nobody is safe now, whether in your house or road, wherever you are. Every day, I receive reports of kidnapping and killings from district and village heads… how do we live like animals?”
In the decade to 2018, the 36 states had spent over N2 trillion to fund the police, according to the Chairman, Nigerian Governors’ Forum, Abdulaziz Yari. This shows their relevance in internal security. However, it is a trend not likely to continue with the hollowness of their chief security officers of their states status. The position is one of responsibility, which they can exercise fully with control of their own security personnel. The fear of its abuse expressed by some critics is jejune and not in the national interest, given the incalculable damage Nigeria has suffered so far by not embracing it.
Amnesty International has confirmed that the non-presence of security personnel in remote areas makes communities vulnerable to attacks in its investigation of the killings in Zamfara State last year. It said security forces were present mainly in the state capital, Gusau. In gunmen attacks that led to the death of 42 people, 18,000 villagers who were displaced took refuge in the local government area headquarters. A total of 18 villages in Zurmi LGA were affected.
By accepting community policing, Buhari should go the whole hog and embrace state policing, which the governors are in agreement with. The three military operations in Zamfara State that he had ordered, which failed to restore order, are enough for him to shift from this unrewarding grip of internal security maintenance from Abuja.