Now, the Governors are Talking!

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A recent shift in the position of the Nigerian governors to embrace multi-level policing is a very positive development, writes Olawale Olaleye

The idea of a multi-level policing otherwise known as state police is as old as the advent of democracy itself in Nigeria. Although every attempt to bring it up had always met with stiff opposition especially the thinking that some of the governors could abuse it by deploying it more as a tool of oppression, it however appears the positive slant to the initiative is beginning to sink better and more so with the key actors.

It was particularly shocking that a majority of the governors had opposed the establishment `of state police, an idea which required an amendment to the 1999 Constitution for it to fly, during the recent attempt at constitution amendment. Thus, the bill seeking to establish it was killed as a result in both chambers of the National Assembly during the amendment votes which held last year.

But the tide is fast changing especially with the deteriorating security situation in the country. It was no wonder, therefore, that the idea gained some support recently, when the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) threw its weight behind it as the panacea for the worsening insecurity in the country.
Expectedly, the support was conditional as the forum said only states that could afford to establish their own police should be allowed to do so, while the federal police would continue to secure the others.

Curiously, this shift in the position of the governors’ forum came about the same time President Muhammadu Buhari at a meeting with security chiefs at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, admitted that the security situation was a challenge and vowed to tame it.

The meeting between the president and the security chiefs, which lasted about two and a half hours, last Monday, had no one to speak on the outcome. But a tweet by the president would later read: “Today I presided over a meeting of the Security Council. We fully understand the seriousness and urgency of Nigeria’s security issues, and are determined to implement carefully considered solutions that will not only earn the confidence of Nigerians, but also stand the test of time.”

Speaking on the new position of the NGF on the sidelines of the National Security Summit convened by the Senate, which ended in Abuja Monday, Governor Abdul-Aziz Yari of Zamfara State, who is also the chairman of the forum, said the governors had agreed to find a way to fine-tune the policy.

Although the hope that the issue was beginning to gain grounds stemmed from the position of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who at the opening of the security summit, made a strong case for states to establish their own police, which according to him, holds the key to reducing the high level of violent crimes and insecurity in the country, it is now the way to go as far as the governors are concerned.
It was as a result of this that Yari rekindled the hope, when he announced the shift in the stand of the NGF, which allows states that could afford it to have their way, thereby reducing the pressure on the current federal police structure.

“That is why we are saying that it is not all the states that are supposed to have state police. Those that can should have it. For instance, Lagos State, as rich as they are, can have state police. The number of federal police in Lagos can then be reduced (and deployed) to Osun, Ogun and other states that cannot afford it.

“If Rivers State can afford it, more federal police can be redeployed to Cross River and other neighbouring states like Enugu that cannot do it. If Kano State can do it, they can take to my state (Zamfara) that is not all that rich. It is something that we can’t take up at the same time.”

There is no doubting the fact that some people are beginning to think positive, albeit challenged by the desperate times the nation has suddenly found itself. While the arguments against the idea of multi-level policing could not be totally ignored at the time especially that the nation had just begun to find its feet at the start of the return to democracy, it is clearly the most effective solution to the nation’s security challenges given Nigeria’s heterogeneous nature.

The best case scenario is what the governors’ forum is thinking now by not just modulating the approach, but doing so to suit the nation’s complex nature in a way that allows the respective federating unit develop at their own pace. Indeed, the idea of multi-level policing is one of the beautiful characters of democracy in a presidential system of government, the United States of America being a handy example.

When people travel from states to states in America with different police officers adorning distinguishing uniforms and applying different rules as passed by the respective states, it typifies not just the beauty of their culture and disposition but particularly and most instructively, the constitutionalism of their democracy.

What the governors’ forum had suggested is just one of the many tweaking that would be required of the law eventually setting up multi-level police. It is also important that everyone is on the same page as far as the matter is concerned especially the presidency. Development cannot be stalled on account of sheer sentiments or primitive assumptions, which had been the lot of the idea of multi-level policing in the last few years.

But now that the governors had learnt or still learning their lessons in a rather difficult way, it is no longer a question of anyone forcing an idea down their throats but a necessity they have all come to see and embrace, moving forward.

From kidnapping to armed robbery, terrorism, herdsmen attacks, cultism, ritual killings, communal clashes and other related vices, multi-level policing is sure the way to go so that states can sit back with their respective security teams and put down a functional structure that would effectively contain the growing menace in their states. This latest move by the governors and the presidency is commendable.