The recent spate of abductions in the federal capital territory rekindles the need for Police reform, writes Bolaji Adebiyi
Pretty Nabeehah was to graduate tomorrow from one of the nation’s foremost citadels of higher learning, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. Her uncle, Sherifdeen, said she was to do so with flying colours, having obtained a first-class honour degree in her chosen field of study. This, however, will never be. Nabeehah was gruesomely murdered 12 days ago by terrorists who abducted her along with her four sisters and father, Mansoor Al-Kadriyar, from their home in Bwari, a suburb of Abuja, the federal capital territory. The dastards had demanded a N60 million ransom, releasing Al-Kadriyar 10 days after the abduction to go find the money. So impatient were the outlaws to get the blood money that they killed the bright lady just two days after her father was released to search for the ransom.
The nation was shocked to the marrow by this pathetic turn of events even though abductions for ransom had become part of national life. So moved were Nigerians that crowdfunding was set up with Isa Pantami, immediate past minister of Communications and Digital Economy, and his friends pledging the sum of N50 million. This is despite the recent law that barred victims of abduction from paying ransom. Not a few Nigerians had scuffed the legislation as a piece of trash in the face of the demonstrated incompetence of the security agencies in stemming the tide of widespread crime. Anyway, eight days after the killing of Nabeehah, her four siblings regained freedom. Between the Police and the Army, a contest ensued on who recovered the ladies. The family would later tell ARISE TV that the ransom was indeed paid. What a shame!
The abduction of the Al-Kadriyar family and the murder of Nabeehah were perhaps the jolt that Nyesom Wike, minister of the Federal Capital Territory, needed to realise that he had been gravely distracted from his primary assignment by his struggle for power in his Rivers State homestead. While he was busy harassing Siminalayi Fubara, his successor, in faraway Port Harcourt, Abuja was overrun by outlaws who abducted residents at will and sent fears down the spine of inhabitants of the seat of the federal government. Mercifully, he is back to his beat, running from pillar to post, telling the residents that it has taken this unfortunate incident to get his boss, President Bola Tinubu, to approve the purchase of tracking equipment required to trace terrorists who have had a free reign abducting citizens for ransom.
The terrorists’ siege of Abuja has only reinforced the concerns about the internal security challenges in the country, increasingly exposing the sub-optimal response of the appropriate agencies to the problem. It would seem the current remedies have failed and would require new ways of doing things to bring relief. Under the 1999 Constitution, as altered, the primary responsibility for internal security lies with the Police. Overwhelmed by the extremely violent nature of prevailing crimes, including insurgency, banditry, terrorism, and abduction for ransom, the federal government, in line with the Constitution, called in the military, especially the Army, to aid the Police. This has been the response to the rising violent crimes, particularly since 2007. Without a doubt, this has not abated the crimes, and there is a need to reappraise the approach.
Stretched too thin on internal security operations across the 36 states of the federation, with combat operations in the North-east, North-west, North-central and South-east, the military, which has less than 200,000 personnel is incapable of holding liberated spaces. Even in a war situation, the responsibility of the military is to liberate enemy positions and yield the space for civil authorities, including the Police to hold and administer law and order. The situation in the country today is that the military, rather than aid, has been forced to take over Police duties, mounting roadblocks and chasing violent criminals, not only in the bush but also in the cities. This is not working and cannot work. What can work is for the Police to be made to do its work as the lead agency in the internal security network, whereby it will enforce the law and protect lives and property; the Nigeria Immigration Service will secure the borders against illegal aliens, the State Security Service will gather intelligence to nip in the bud any threat to security, and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps will continue to guard and protect public buildings.
Although the Police have not covered themselves in glory, the solution to the problem is not to despise the institution but to seek an understanding and appreciation of its challenges to resolve them. After all, the force has the tactical squads, including the Mobile, Anti-kidnapping and Special Forces to deal with the various levels of crimes. However, its decay began with its degradation under military rule, particularly from the Muhammadu Buhari regime in 1983. Unfortunately, the need to revive it since the return of civil rule in 1979 has been half-hearted. A conscious effort has to be made to reform it. Its training curriculum has to change to meet the level of crimes, and it has to be adequately resourced with educated personnel, funding, and equipment.
In addition, there is the need to examine more realistically, the widespread quest for the decentralisation of policing in the country. A significant part of the security problems in the country arose from the centralised structure of the Police. With its headquarters in Abuja, supervising 36 state commands and the FCT as well as a thousand-plus divisions, it is not too difficult to see why the effective supervision of officers and men dispersed over millions of communities has become unattainable. The unsuitability of this structure has been a subject of intense national debate. Whilst there has been apprehension over the possible misuse of state-supervised Police, the growing consensus has been that the disadvantages of the potential abuse of state policing do not outweigh its advantages. This was why a compromise position was reached by the Governors’ Forum under the leadership of Rotimi Amaechi, then governor of Rivers State, that the states that could afford it should be allowed to proceed to establish their Police while those who could not, should be allowed to continue to utilise the services of the federal Police. This would have been in keeping with the federal nature of the country.
With the nation’s precarious security situation, it is safe to say that it is not too late to explore this compromise by setting the machinery in motion for the alteration to the 1999 Constitution as altered to allow states to establish their Police, the same way states can now regulate electricity power supply in their domain.
Adebiyi, the executive editor of Western Post, is a member of the Editorial Board of THISDAY Newspapers