A Challenge to the Status Quo


Why should a state governor provide virtually all the logistics needed for the operations and efficiency of the police and yet does not have any authority over them, asks Davidson Iriekpen

Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, last Wednesday stirred the hornet’s nest, when he held the federal government responsible for underdevelopment of states across the country due to its overbearing attitude. He argued that the dysfunctional agencies of the federal government were responsible for the slow pace of development at the state level.

Addressing the Executive Intelligence Management Course (EIMC) 9 at the Institute of Security Service (ISS) in Abuja, in a paper titled: ‘Institutional weaknesses and challenges of development in Rivers State,’ Wike said state governors should no longer be addressed as chief security officers, but mere chief logistic officers, who only provide logistics for federal security agencies and do not get anything in return. The governor called for the reforms of relevant federal and state institutions to ensure that they contribute to development rather than impede it.

He contended that the federal government agencies had been turned against state and local governments as they merely constitute themselves into a stumbling block because they deliberately embark on unconstitutional activities that stall development. He noted that the centralisation of security and the poor use of the security agencies have negatively impacted on the development of Rivers State, with several anti-people measures instituted to work against the peace of the state.
Wike reiterated that the manipulation of the electoral process by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has become extremely worrisome, with the state denied representation at the National Assembly while the state House of Assembly has not been fully constituted. He pointed out that the most shocking is Tai Local Government Area, where INEC has plotted to sneak in concocted results for cancelled polls.

“The federal government is simply too overbearing with too much powers and resources at its disposal. We know the recurrent rifts between the federal government and the states over development issues, including revenue sharing, resource control, excess crude oil account, appointments into federal agencies and arbitrary location or withdrawal of federally-funded projects.

“Developments in Rivers State in the last few months point to the capture of the state’s security system by some special interest groups in their attempt to overawe the state government and achieve their political agenda.

“Thus, frequent transfer of the Commissioner of Police and other Director of the State Security Service has become a norm. I am presently working with the fifth commissioner of police since I assumed office barely a year ago. Indeed, things have gone so bizarre that senior officers, who have had political brushes with me, now head every sensitive police formation in the state.
“Federal government agencies have been turned against state and local governments, and have constituted themselves into a stumbling block by deliberately embarking on unconstitutional activities that have been stalling development in states.”

Wike’s fears manifested last February when in one fell swoop, Fulani herdsmen killed over 400 persons and burnt scores of houses in Agatu, Benue State, over grazing rights. Thus, the hapless villagers became internally displaced persons in their own land. The state Governor, Samuel Ortom, was just as helpless as the victims.

Finding himself in the horns of a dilemma, he raced to Abuja to brief the presidency. Ortom demanded improved security to contain the contagion. “I think the situation in Benue, especially in Agatu, is getting out of control,” a bewildered Ortom told journalists in the State House. Yet, as governor, he is the chief security officer of his state without as much any control.

Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State had a similar experience on April 25, when the same Fulani herdsmen descended on Nimbo community in Uzo Uwani Local Government Area, killed over 40 people and razed a church to the ground, in an early morning raid. Ugwuanyi wept when he visited scenes of the attack. Motivated by the seeming helplessness of all the security agencies, he set up a Neighbourhood Watch or vigilance group as some choose to call it, to protect his people.
Two months after the mayhem, the police have yet to explain how a planned massacre of which they received an intelligence report, illustrated at an emergency state security meeting the governor presided over, still took place. Ugwuanyi’s demonstration of loss of faith in the federal police is being copied by his peers.

Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State has had to mobilise hunters in his domain for self-help when he saw that police and other security agencies in his state have failed him in helping to protect lives and property.

Since 1999, governors have been at the mercy of the federal government and its security agencies. While they provide virtually all the logistics needed for the efficiency of the police, they do not in most cases get anything in return than what can pass for sheer intimidation.

These logistics which run into billions of naira include operational vehicles, communication equipment and armoured personnel carriers, amongst others. Yet, the commissioners of police and heads of security agencies are not answerable to them. Sometimes, so obdurate are some of the security chiefs that they tell the governors to their faces that they take orders from ‘Abuja’ and not them.

It is against this background that many analysts are today calling on the federal government to restructure the country by amending the constitution to allow for a multi-level police system rather than a police force, whose boss sits in Abuja and hardly on the ground to know what is happening in the states.

In the case of Rivers State, since he assumed office, Wike has provided every logistics needed to enhance the capacity and efficiency of the police and other security agencies in the state even far more than the federal government itself, which owns the agencies. This is in spite of the politicisation of security in his state by the federal government particularly during elections.
Nevertheless, the governor has not relented in his quest to make the state safe and peaceful with the provision of logistics for the force. Some of the governor’s direct initiatives and investments in the last 14 months to advance the protection of lives and property include the procurement and donation of over 67 patrol vehicles fitted with communication gadgets to the security agencies.

There were also the repairs of Armoured Personnel Carriers for the police and further directive to local government councils to institute direct release of logistics to Divisional Police Officers to enable policemen promptly respond to security challenges. No doubt, these logistics which come with huge financial costs have enhanced the visibility and operational efficiency of the police in the state.

Other initiatives meant to curtail the increase in cult-related violence across communities, armed robbery, kidnapping and oil theft are the amendment of the Rivers State Kidnap (Prohibition) Law No. 3 of 2009, to provide additional penalties such as the confiscation of assets derived from kidnapping and other related activities; instituted a N1million reward for any person that gives useful information that leads to the arrest and successful prosecution of kidnappers, armed robbers and other homicidal crimes in the state.

He also instituted a N5million compensation for families of any police personnel, who lost his or her life while fighting kidnapping and armed robbery in the state; provides regular logistics support, including fuelling of vehicles to the security agencies for their operations in the state; and ensured the re-opening and functioning of the courts to guarantee the prompt trial of criminal cases.

The governor is working to improve the state’s criminal justice system by sending an executive bill on the state’s criminal justice reforms to the state House of Assembly. The law, when passed will strengthen the criminal justice system and ensure the prompt and fairer dispensation of criminal justice in the state.

He has also directed and encouraged all local government caretaker committees to give priority attention to crime fighting and the maintenance of peace and security in the local government areas in collaboration with security agencies, traditional rulers and vigilante groups, even as he has inaugurated the State Security and Peace Committee with improved funding to all military and para-military agencies.

To curb the destructive predispositions of cult groups and the threat they constantly pose to peace and security in the state, Wike recently requested security agencies to carry out a total clampdown on cultists and related criminal behaviour in communities across the state.

He directed heads of tertiary institutions to take measures, including arrest, prosecution and summary expulsion, to stamp out cult and related activities in all state-owned tertiary institutions; requested traditional rulers to join forces with the security agencies and local government chairmen to enforce the state’s anti-cultism law and eliminate cult activities in their communities.

What the governor has done – which is also what almost all the state governors are doing – has no doubt indicated that the federal government is unable to equip the police properly to safeguard the lives and property of the citizenry. This funding aspect of police administration is, among others, the strongest argument in support of multi-level police. This matter has been a favourite subject matter among the elite for many years. Today, with the upsurge in crime especially such opportunistic crimes as armed robbery and kidnapping, the subject has become even more relevant.

What the governor has done – which is also what almost all the state governors are doing – has no doubt indicated that the federal government is unable to equip the police properly to safeguard the lives and property of the citizenry. This funding aspect of police administration is, among others, the strongest argument in support of multi-level police