The nation’s insecurity is worsening, the challenges are humongous, and the solutions have been elusive so far. The recent escalation of clashes between security agencies and local insurgents in the South East, have heightened the calls for Government to urgently rethink its strategies for combatting the security challenges in Eastern Nigeria and other hotspots like Benue State, where there are killings almost on a daily basis. The Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom, was not left out, as there was an attempt to assassinate him earlier this year in March, while seven internally displaced persons taking refuge in a Camp in Abagena, Makurdi were murdered last week. Policemen and other security personnel, have also not been spared, as several of them have lost their lives in the violence. At least five Policemen were killed about two weeks ago in Okigwe, Imo State, while others suffered the same fate of death in Rivers State. Norrison Quakers, SAN, Professor Andrew Chukwumerie, SAN and Jide Ojo interrogate the multifarious issues, and proffer suggestions on how to end the crisis
Quelling the Security Crisis in Eastern Nigeria
Norrison I. Quakers, SAN
The term – ‘Security’ is a crosscutting and multi-dimensional concept associated with safety and survival and has been subjected to different definitions, however, there is a consensus that the Government is the only institution on which lies primary responsibility and power for the safety of its territory and its people. Hence, it is expressly declared in Article 2(1) UN Charter, vis – ‘The Organisation is based on the sovereign equality of its members’. This is also deeply embedded in the conceptual structure of international law.
Central Security Framework Under Nigeria’s Constitution
Sections 33 to 35 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) grants to every Nigerian citizen the right to life, dignity of human person and personal liberty. Whilst, Section 214(1) of the Constitution provides as follows: “There shall be a Police Force in Nigeria, which shall be known as the Nigeria Police Force, and subject to the provisions of this section, no other Police Force shall be established for the federation or any part thereof.”
Section 217 of the Constitution provides – “There shall be an armed forces for the Federation which shall consist of an army, a Navy, an Air force and such other armed forces of the federation as may be established by an Act of the National Assembly.”
The State of the Nation
A peek into our fatherland today, when extrapolated against the recent hike in prices of products that form the fulcrum of basic amenities of life, will reveal that poverty has reached a worrisome peak. This ultimately is the causative factor of the agitations by ethnic minority communities and other presumably disadvantaged groups. Further, a broad look at the socio-economic and political realities in Nigeria confirms that the corollary of this is security challenges, including but not limited to the terrorism and banditry bedevilling different parts of our polity particularly in the South-East, the Region under focus.
In all the reactions of the Federal Government so far, the fundamental and immediate causes of these manifestations are yet to be adequately addressed.
The Pursuit of a Safe Haven by Regions
The magnitude of insecurity problem, has exceeded the coping capacity of the conventional security outfit in Nigeria. The South West Region has birthed Western Nigeria Security Network (WNSN) codenamed- ‘Operation Amotekun’. The Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) had earlier unveiled Northern Nigeria security outfit code-named ‘Operation Shege-Ka-Fasa’. The fast-deteriorating security situation in the Southeast states of Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu, and Imo led to the unveiling of the security outfit codenamed ‘Ebube Agu’ meaning – fear of a lion in Ibo with its headquarters in Enugu, and the responsibility to checkmate rising unrest in the region; albeit, the Eastern Security Network (ESN) which is a non-State regional force affiliated to the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) that earlier sprung up, had insisted that there is no security outfit that can be floated in the region aside from it.
Of note, though every Nigerian citizen, by virtue of Section 40 of the Constitution, is free to communalise by joining other persons to form associations for the purpose of pursuing and protecting their interests, such associations must not violate any extant law.
For Peace in Eastern Nigeria
There has not been a synergy between ‘Eastern Security Network (ESN)’ and ‘Ebube Agu’ in the Eastern Region, which has led to a series of conflicts that has worsened the security situation of the region. Consequently, the community policing initiative which many have patiently waited to berth, to no avail amid the incessant threat posed to the overall security of the region, has now turned into the nightmare of the region.
The recent killing of members of the militia group – Eastern Security Network (ESN) linked to the proscribed Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) including Ikonso, the ESN unit commander by a tactical team of the Nigeria Police, Nigerian Army, and Department of State Services (DSS) has already dealt a blow on the Biafran separatist organisation in Nigeria. Whilst some in the region regard the deceased Ikonso as a villain, others see him as a hero. Notwithstanding these contending perspectives, what remains to be settled is the antidote for the recent phenomenal wave of political assassination, murders, armed banditry, kidnapping and general eruption of insecurity in the region; this is the succour expected by the average resident of the South Eastern part of Nigeria, whether a pro-IPOB agitator or not.
Checkmating Insecurity through State Police
The brutish and bestial state of politicking by elected representatives in Nigeria, who are self-acclaimed – ‘servant leaders’ in addressing the disasters crippling our individual natural right to be happy, and challenging the narrative of opinionators that have described the Nigerian State as – ‘predatory, propaganda tilled, parasitic, patrimonial, decadent, criminalised, chronic, venal, irrational, kleptocratic and impotent’, has left much to be desired.
In the pre-independence era, the Native Authorities were in direct control of their domains. The helplessness of the centrally controlled Police in Nigeria today is such that has led to the inability to checkmate the surge in the rate of sophisticated crimes in the Eastern Region and other parts of the country.
Under the current dispensation, the sole institution responsible for enforcement of law is the centralised Nigeria Police Force, as captured by Section 214 of the Constitution. However, a cursory appraisal of Section 2(2) of the Constitution, will lead to the infallible conclusion that State Police accords with the principle of Federalism on which Nigeria fashions her Constitution.
The recommendation of State Police into the Nigerian policing system, as a solution for the curbing of the incessant security conundrum in the country, once more comes to fore since Nigeria is a Federation. Regrettably, the Nigeria Police Force is structurally deficient as at today. Remarkably, in the United States of America whose template of federalism is theoretically similar to ours, there are Federal, State, County and Municipal Police.
Interestingly, the major opponents of State Policing have always relied on the likelihood of abuse of power by the respective State Governments, however, this challenge is not peculiar, since as of today, wherein the operational control of the Nigeria Police Force is centralised, being in the hands of the Inspector General of Police Force, who in turn, is answerable to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Police rascality is common knowledge. Regrettably, those on the other side of the fence are often too quick to puncture this argument. But, judicial notice has even been taken of this. Uwani Musa Abba Aji (JSC) in KURE v C.O.P. (2020) VOL. 301 LRCN PG. 105 @ 135AF noted-
“The Police have muzzled the rights and freedom of Nigerians, even where cases are clearly outside their jurisdiction, power or corridor. If this is not curbed, everybody including the judicial officers will suffer always from floodgates of civil matters being hijacked by the Police and transmuted into crimes. If this is not tackled, everybody would have suffered in the merciless hand of the police who has become a law unto itself in this country”
Way Forward/Taking Cue from Global Best Practices
In 2015, the United Nations launched 17 Sustainable Development Goals to make people’s lives happier. On July 19, 2011, the United Nations General Assembly passed UN resolution 65/309, Happiness Toward A Holistic Approach To Growth. Today, the sole ambition of the average Nigerian, is to elope in pursuit of happiness in other climes. Our teeming younger generation are apparently confounded, hence resort to despicable immoral and illegal conducts to practically stay alive. There is also disaffection amongst patriots.
Whilst divergent reasons have been adduced for the state of insecurity ravaging the country, and in particular, Eastern Nigeria, in resolving the nagging issue, there is need for a proactive leadership to check the rising spate of poverty. The Governments of all States, including those in the Eastern Region, should deploy means of uplifting the standard of living of Nigerians. Good leadership is important; for instance, the State Governors who are duly entitled to certain amounts of allocation as security votes, should render proper account.
There is also an urgent need to checkmate lopsided political appointments, to stem agitations by ethnic nationalities.
In the face of the deploring security situation confronting the nation at this time, there is definitely a need for re-conceptualisations of national security; advocating for non-recognition of any State security outfit in Nigeria is not in the best interest of the country, in view of the principle of true Federalism. State Police should be considered and Vigilante groups established for the protection of lives and property, as guaranteed by the Constitution. Police must operate within the ambit of the law.
There must be collaborations between States and the Federal Government on security matters; the National Assembly should accordingly, legislate for State security outfits to bear arms, since Item 2 of the Exclusive Legislative list of 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria confers on the National Assembly, the powers to legislate for the whole nation concerning arms, ammunitions and explosives.
Government should deploy funds, for a technological and manpower boost of the security infrastructure. For the extant security framework, there is need for an improved security budget, equipment and training.
Norrison I. Quakers, SAN, FCArb, Constitutional and Human Rights Lawyer, Lagos
South East Security Crisis: A National Problem
Professor Andrew Chukwumerie, SAN
It is all over the country. I think one of the sources of the problem is the fact that though the State Governors are recognised by the Constitution and the laws as the Chief Security Officers of their States, the same Constitution and laws deny them the power and reality of being the Chief Security Officers of their States. While a Governor may instruct the Commissioner of Police, for instance, on a security issue in his State, the Commissioner may well ignore the instruction from the Governor and wait for confirmation from the Inspector General of Police, or by extension, the President. In the same way, the Governor cannot instruct the GOC or other equivalent of the armed forces like the Navy or Air Force.
The Way Forward
The way forward is to make the Governors the Chief Security Officers – the decentralisation of the nation’s security architecture. I have not been a fan for State Police but with the way things have gone, State Police now appears attractive and inevitable. It may have its drawbacks, but for effective policing in the country, State Police involving community policing should be embraced.
Another way forward, is the restructuring of the country. On this, it seems to appear that several parts of the country are at one, at least in theory. Whilst some parts of the country seem very serious about restructuring, some parts seem to pay lip service to it. The end result is that, there are several meanings and interpretations of restructuring.
In my view, restructuring must be along the lines of the six geopolitical zones now existing in the country. It seems that the old regional arrangement is hardly acceptable now, as people in the South-South can hardly accept to come under a regional government, or its equivalent, in the South-East. The restructuring must, of course, involve finance and revenue. Along with, a panacea for most of the problems facing the country, is for the adoption of place of residence in preference for place of origin/extraction. If somebody has lived in a place for five years, nothing should stop him adopting that place as his place of origin. Finally, Nigerians must be delivered from tribalism and sectionalism. That is not something that can be legislated upon. Unless we are delivered from tribalism and sectionalism, whatever else is out in place may just fail.
Prof Chukummerie SAN writes from Owerri.