By Patrick Anum
The Delta State Governor and vice-presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, gave a fresh perspective on the state of insecurity in Nigeria at the 2022 annual conference of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria, ICAN, in Abuja, recently.
He recommended the adoption of state police as the solution for the growing insecurity in the country. The call for the creation of state police is not new. In September, the Northern Governors Forum along with the traditional leaders, were making a strong case for the establishment of state police. They explained that it was the only way to effectively tackle the lingering terrorism, insurgency, banditry, kidnapping and wanton destruction of lives and property in the region
In the past Southern Governors have also reiterated that State police is the only solution to solve the country’s security challenges. Rotimi Akeredolu, governor of Ondo and chairman of the forum, has said in the past that the forum would continue to demand the devolution of powers to the states.
To stress this need, there has been National dialogue to this effect. During the National Confab, Delegates on the June 26, 2014, adopted the resolution in support of the establishment, funding and operation of state and community police based on state laws. Of course, none of the confab resolutions was implemented.
From a Middle Beltan perspective, more thought has to be given to the implementation of State Police since its implementation would partly solve the conflict in some areas of the Middle Belt such as Benue, Kogi, Plateau, Taraba and Nassarawa. However, it may escalate the conflict in others areas. A way around this would be to have a pre-implementation plan for the other areas of the Middle Belt such as Southern Kaduna, Southern Gombe, Adamawa and Southern Borno and Southern Kebbi given their history and the colonial legacy left in the region.
The pre implementation will identify gaps that State policing would not fill, possible solutions and special strategies for implementation of state policing laws in the area.
An example of such laws would be the creation of more states in places like Southern Kaduna and Southern Gombe. Special considerations for minorities in Southern Kebbi and Southern Borno and Adamawa would have to be taken to protect minorities in the region – if state creation in these areas are opposed.If State creation is opposed, and State policing is implemented with the current structure, one can only imagine the carnage that would result in an area like Kaduna where we already see the rising tensions between SOKAPU (Southern Kaduna Peoples Union) and El Rufai. SOKAPU and El Rufai have traded blames over the causes of the conflict in Kaduna State. However, a look at the activities in the State paint a picture of who is really to blame.
El Rufais activities include demolishing the only Church in Kaduna State University despite the establishment of six (6) mosques in the area. He has also reiterated that he paid killers in Southern Kaduna from State coffers while ignoring the possibility of collaborating with security agencies to arrest and detain marauding killers in his state.
Lastly, under suspicious circumstances, he has restructured the traditional system in Kaduna leaving people in southern Kaduna marginalized in their own local governments.
Looking at the larger picture, not only SOKAPU have had issues with El Rufai –
in 2017, the Nigerian Union of Journalists declared Kaduna State ‘the most lethal state to practice journalism’ and warned that ‘…such attacks( in the state) may not abate soon’.
The state under Governor Nasir Elrufai has seen at least ten journalists and online commentators arrested and/or imprisoned such as Jacob Onjewu Dickson, Leadership Newspaper’s Midat Joseph, Vanguard’s Luka Binniyat and Steven Kefas. Abubakar Idris (AKA Dadiyata) an online critic of the government who was picked up since August,2019 is yet to be found dead or alive. One only prays that such power be restricted till a state is created for the people of Southern Kaduna
Gombe is another State that gives us an idea what State policing powers could mean for minorities in the State.
There have been continuous cries by minority groups in the State owing to the State Government’s continuous interference in the traditional activities in the State. In March 2021, the State Governor, Muhammed Inuwa Yahaya tried to influence who was being installed as the Mai Tangale in the State despite being from another ethnic group entirely. Infact, reports have it that Members of the Tangale traditional council were either in detention or have had to flee the state.
Another individual Alhaji Danladi Sanusi Maishanu whom the Governor tried to impose on the Tangale people had not even ascended the throne when he started making efforts to replace their cherished Emblem which previously was a snake on a hill – with the moon and star emblem.
Critics have wondered if it is for this reason why the Governor of the State, Muhammed Inuwa Yahaya has been so interested in who ascends the throne of the Tangale people?
What should be noted is that giving more powers to these individuals would spell doom for the Middle Belt people without the requisite restructuring. What is needed is restructuring to give the people of the Middle Belt control of their land in places where they are being threatened by rampaging herdsmen, bandits and militia and even political leadership
Solutions include a recognition of a Middle Beltan region as a block, more states for the ethnic nationalities in the Middle Belt who have been marginalized and forced off their lands – a reconciliation of National laws relating to indigenes and settlers to protect minority groups in their land and THEN – the adoption of State police.