Damilola Oyedele in Abuja
Senators on Wednesday decried the rising insecurity in different parts of Nigeria, and resolved to institute a high powered roundtable discourse on how to review the current security infrastructure in the country to address contemporary challenges.
The lawmakers were however divided on the clamour for the creation of State police for effective policing of communities.
The Senate said an ad hoc committee would be charged with the responsibility of thoroughly exploring the situation in conjunction with security agencies, and make recommendations to address the inadequacies.
The resolution followed discussion on a motion over the killings and arson which occurred last weekend in several local governments in Zamfara State.
Lawmakers for about two hours, in contributing to the motion argued that insecurity has become a national monster which requires a holistic approach for resolution.
The Senate therefore suspended all other items listed on the order paper to adequately debate the matter with Senate President Bukola Saraki calling for recommendations on solutions.
Senator Kabiru Marafa (Zamfara APC) said killings have been going on for years in Zamfara on a daily basis.
â€œWhat is more worrisome is the proliferation of arms. Our youth are forced to bear arms, even in the state capital, you see people bearing arms without hinderance. Unless something is done, I foresee that axis becoming heavily militarised,â€ Marafa said.
In his contribution, the Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu said the same matter of killings by bandits in Zamfara have been addressed on the floor of the senate several times.
â€œAnd this will not be the last time unless it is addressâ€ Ekweremadu warned and emphasised that insecurity has assumed a national dimension which threatens the economic development of the country.
He cited tension in Benue (over the grazing law) and threats by the Niger Delta Avengers to resume attacks on oil installations.
â€œCentralised police is not helping matters. Marafa just said people are bearing arms on Zamfara. Why wonâ€™t they when you have 350,000 policemen for 170 million Nigerians? We must decentralise the police and address the insufficiency,â€ Ekweremadu urged.
Senator Adamu Aliero (Kebbi APC) argued that community policing and establishment of vigilante groups would help address issues of criminality.
Aliero also advocated that the military should be deployed to some of the crises areas as the criminals are better armed than the police.
â€œThere is nothing wrong with federal police, but their posting should be to their states of origin,â€ he argued.
Opposing the call for decentralised police, Senator Danjuma Goje (Gombe APC) said in instances of clashes by groups in the state, the police may be prone to bias.
He noted that the attacks in Numan, Adamawa State might have more casualty figures than is currently being reported.
â€œIt is no longer news when you hear that people are killed, this is alien to our society,â€ he said.
â€œState police may not necessarily solve the problems. For instance, the victims in Numan were killed by people from the same community, which means if the police were there, they may take sides,â€ Goje said.
His position was supported by Senator Dino Melaye (Kogi APC) who harped on the need for intelligence gathering by the police.
He opposed state police which he noted would be prone to abuse and cited the case in his state where he alleged that vigilante groups move around openly with pump action rifles.
â€œIf the situation is not arrested, the elections in 2019 and 2020 in Kogi would be volatile,â€ Melaye said.
Senator Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom PDP) however said state police can be regulated centrally to ensure it is not subject to abuse by politicians.
Senator Magnus Abe (Rivers APC) in his argument raised the critical issue of funding.
He noted that the challenges of insecurity would remain as long as the police remains underfunded.
â€œIf we need N500 billion and we provide N5billion, it would not work. We also need to redesign our security architecture to protect lives and properties otherwise we would continue to have these controversies,â€ Abe noted.
Presiding, Saraki said the Senate must seize the opportunity to consider how the issues of insecurity can be addressed.
He announced that the composition of the adhoc committee to spearhead the discourse would be announced at plenary on Thursday.
â€œWe need to confront this issue. We cannot be coming here all the time to condole or condemn, that is not enough. I hear a lot of people saying the military should be deployed, but the military is overstretched,â€
â€œThe good point here are that we must examine and redesign the security infrastructure and also the issue of funding.This is a commitment we make this morning, we would face this head on. We cannot continue this way and people would be dying,â€ Saraki added.