Police are needed to boost the efforts of the military

For several years, well-meaning Nigerians have made persistent calls on the federal government to equip the police and enhance the protection of life and property. This call topped the demands of the six Northeast governors at a recent meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja. The governors had made a save-our-soul visit to the president following worsening insecurity in the Northeast caused by the activities of Boko Haram. “We also recommended that police should be empowered, to be provided with certain state-of-the-art equipment, armoured personnel carrier with a view to bridging the manpower gap that we are having in the Nigerian military,” the governors had said while briefing journalists on the outcome of their meeting with the president.

Ordinarily, a demand of this magnitude ought to be given an accelerated attention, especially in a situation of asymmetric warfare for which Boko Haram insurgents and other terror affiliates have now become proficient. But the attitude of the federal government to this call has not been encouraging. Meanwhile, insurgency in the region has in recent times continued to be on the rise, claiming dozens of lives of both soldiers and civilians on a regular basis. If anything, the escalating state of the insurgency is a bold statement that the military must do more to win the war, particularly under the current crop of the heads of the armed forces. A clear affirmation to that was the recent declaration by the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, that consultations with spiritual forces might be necessary to win the war. Therefore, the worsening security situation in the Northeast calls for the engagement of alternative security forces to bridge the conspicuous manpower gap in the military.

As the governors lamented, after the meeting with the president, residents of the region can no longer go to farms. Consequently, the governors said hunger and starvation have been prevalent in the region. According to Babagana Zulum, Chairman of the North-east Governors’ Forum and Governor of Borno State, the prevalent hunger in the region has become a tool in the hands of Boko Haram insurgents to lure innocent citizens into their camps. “This is one of the reasons the insurgents are recruiting more into the sect. Therefore, creating enabling environment that will enable the people to go about their normal duties will no doubt reduce the cases of insurgency,” Zulum said.

We understand that equipping the police with modern weapons, including armoured personnel carrier may not mean automatically ending the protracted insurgency. We also understand that the level of indiscipline and incompetence among the police in handling less severe matters in the country imbues no confidence in citizens that they can muster forces to bridge the expected human resource gap. But there is no doubt in our mind that it will help tremendously, particularly with systematic and strategic planning. We therefore implore the federal government to give the demands of the governors who bear the brunt of the devastating activities of Boko Haram on their citizens a deserved and urgent consideration. This must also not be done to fulfil all righteousness. It should rather be a deliberate move designed to complement the efforts of the armed forces and achieve desired results.

The continuous destruction of lives and property as well as the economies of the Northeast and attendant hunger and recruitment of the helpless victims into the violent extremist sect and seeming loss of confidence in the ability and capacity of the military to tame the insurgents, should challenge the government of Buhari to use the police to complement the efforts of the military. We task the president to treat this demand by the governors with dispatch.