The proliferation of various forms of task forces by the Federal Government and state governments has indeed become a major headache for all Nigerians. They are now so many that it is difficult to identify which one is genuine and which is not, while citizens reel under their jackboot. Such uncertainty, ultimately, not only tends to create confusion but also constitutes an open visa for chronic opportunism and arm-twisting, especially in a country characterised by an excruciating level of unemployment and insecurity. By implication, rather than boost local/national security, as their promoters claim, these outfits most certainly complicate it.
To begin with, it is crucial to note that no matter how hard some persons have tried to rationalise their existence, the many task forces are unnecessary. This is against the background of the fact that there are already in existence several institutions saddled with the task of performing those duties for which these task forces are now supposedly set up, most notably security on the roads and traffic control. Traffic control, after all, is one of the important functions of the Nigeria Police and there is a specialised unit dedicated to that. Granted that these task forces may complement the work of state agencies, the main problem is that such outfits are highly unstructured, lacking adequate institutionalised mechanisms of accountability and control and, as such, no more than platforms for extortion, blackmail and sundry harassment.
It is against this background that the existence of such outfits appears tenuous and untenable. For example, it has been argued in some quarters, both the official and unofficial, that these so-called task forces not only serve to fill a certain vacuum, most especially the provision of security services, including traffic control, and also help in the generation of employment opportunities for many.
While this seems arguable, it reveals in bold relief the declining capacity of the Nigerian state to adequately fulfill its security and economic responsibilities to its citizens. For one, relying on highly unskilled, unprofessional and inadequately regulated task forces for security services in whatever form tells a lot about the failure of security agencies and personnel in the country. Officially, Nigeria is said to require at least 1.2 million men and women for the effective policing of the country, but currently has about 300,000. This is grossly inadequate, with a 300 per cent shortfall. More importantly, many of these outfits have constituted themselves into a serious public nuisance. Many have proved to be highly unprofessional, unduly aggressive, alarmingly corrupt, incurably extortionist and generally unpatriotic. Worse still, against the position of who see them as avenue for providing gainful employment, the employees of some of these task forces are so grossly underpaid, with university graduates earning a paltry N15,000 in most cases. This, of course, is a perfect illustration of how much at their wits’ end Nigeria’s leaders are over the matter of youth unemployment. No vision. No creativity.
As matters stand now, there is need for an urgent intervention to redress the situation. Increasing the number of police officers in the country can only be the starting point. For, if the country has even five million men and women in the police force, without effective regulatory instruments, this will still not work. The way forward, therefore, is for Nigerians to stop playing the ostrich, admit that the nation’s current structure is not truly federal, not working and blatantly deceitful. Therefore, there is a need to decentralise everything, beginning with the police, for greater efficiency. This is pertinent considering the fact that most of these task forces are created by states across the federation to deal with issues the Nigerian security agencies have failed in.
More importantly, states currently make laws without the corresponding security institutions for the enforcement of these laws. And there is hardly any state in Nigeria today that is not complaining about its inability to control the security agencies in its domain. While some have opposed the strong advocacy for a decentralised police force on account of supposed high level of political intolerance often attributed to state governments, the need for enforcement mechanisms for state laws cannot be overemphasised. And, above all, the crisis in Rivers State at least showed how even the Federal Government can abuse the apparatuses at its disposal.
It is gratifying that the national conference has begun and the hope is that this anomaly, part of a failed super structure, would be one that the conference would deal with.