Huriwa Logo

Huriwa Logo

Tuesday, 12 November 2013


Introduction: Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko is former federal Commissioner of the Nigerian National Human Rights Commission[NHRC] and the national coordinator of Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, a democracy friendly Non-Governmental body. In this interview he bared his mind on a range of issues bordering on the high state of insecurity and adopted the call for creation of state police:

What is your assessment of the security challenges affecting the daily activities of the government and the people?
The Insecurity in Nigeria is characterized by a situation of near-total breakdown of law and order all across the country and this  is disturbing. It has almost reached a near state of anarchy in some parts of Nigeria. In the entire North- Eastern states of Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, parts of Taraba and even in the middle belt states of Nasarawa, Benue and Plateau state including Bauchi and Gombe states, the type of security challenges that people face in those areas are quite enormous and it is high time that all hands must be on deck to check this trend of this insecurity and the reason why it is imperative that both the government and the members of the public are sufficiently mobilized and sensitized to play their roles collectively to see that Nigerians live in peace and tranquility is that when you have a situation where there is a total absence of peace, where there is anarchy, lawlessness and unprecedented violence including fear of the unknown, it is quite difficult to attract any meaningful investments and this insecurity and heightened social tensions created by fear of terrorists; kidnappers and sundry freelance armed hoodlums who are on rampage will force foreign investors to stay away and these kind of investors are precisely those who have the financial capacities and the technical knowhow to come into our comatose economy, they will be scared to come in to Nigeria to invest their hard earned financial assets and resources because nobody will  like to risk his or her life savings in an environment that is not peaceful and highly uncertain because every investor will like to put his or her money in a very peaceful and tranquil environment where they can maximize profit and  are sure of higher turn- over on their investment.  One of the drivers of this high state of insecurity in Nigeria is the high rate of youth unemployment and the near break down of educational infrastructure especially public educational facilities.
Nigeria is at a very terrible state when it comes to employment opportunities for over 80% of our populace and over 90% of the younger populace in Nigeria are out of job so opportunities for wealth redistribution in Nigeria is shrinking by the day and this high state of insecurity and tensed atmosphere all over the country has not helped to ameliorate these economic hardships that Nigerians face and this insecurity is not really a problem in the north alone, even in the southern Nigeria, we have manifestations of other crimes like armed robbery, kidnapping. Generally, there are no parts of the country that are immune from the high insecurity situation.  Another ramification of the bad state of security is the rise in violent sexual attacks by depraved adult males of young girls. The young girls are living like endangered species in the hands of the lawless male adults who are on the rampage of raping, maiming and destroying young girls, that also constitute a very serious security challenge because if you have a country where you cannot bring up your children in a very lawful environment, you will be scared that rapists are all over the place, that country has a very serious security challenge and ought to be addressed.
Overtime, government has been doing so much in regards to security. Do you think they are really gaining grounds over the situation?
Government has not done anything evidential by way of putting in place effective security architecture and infrastructure to seek to pragmatically bring down and minimize the  high trend of insecurity in Nigeria. Government has just been shouting in the media that they are doing so much but they have just done an aspect which is physically confronting armed terrorists that they can identify by sending soldiers to  confront those armed insurgents in the parts of the northern Nigeria. Government has also declared states of emergency in about three or four states- Adamawa, Borno and Yobe. These are hot beds of terrorism and government has adopted military tactics to seek to crush these terrorists but that is where it has ended. That is not a sustainable way to fight insecurity in any country that desires to build vibrant democracy. The most efficient strategy for fighting high crime rates is for the security infrastructure of the country to be modernized and upgraded to become sophisticated and the international borders of such countries to be effectively policed to stop the infiltration by armed terrorists and other sophisticated weapons including small arms . It is basically lies on the capacity and the ability of members of the armed forces of that particular country to see that the operatives of the Nigerian army, police and other security personnel to be adequately trained and equipped to be able to track terrorists before they strike. That is the best way to solve terrorism in the country- by having a very effective intelligence driven security mechanism, it is a very workable way of solving these challenges and most importantly, you cannot reduce insecurity by only waging air raids on identified or suspected hide outs of armed insurgents but the intelligence of the military and police must be adequately upgraded and constantly capacitated with the most up to date techniques and skills so as not to allow the terrorists to be several steps ahead of the armed military operatives. You cannot check crimes and criminality in Nigeria if the present near comatose state of our judiciary is allowed to continue. In a situation whereby several violent criminals are arrested because of one thing or the other, because of total absence of the needed manpower or resources for proper science driven investigation, these people end up being  set free in the court of law because Nigeria lacks modern and 21st century compliant DNA testing facilities and equipment. As a matter of fact, the Nigerian police force lacks all these, it is indeed empty. It is just almost close to the boys brigade we used to have in time past and that is the reason we have high crime rate and we must get those basic things in order for Nigeria to retain her right of place in anti- crime strategies.
Do you think that the security agencies in the country are carrying Nigerians along in the fight against criminality and terrorism?
 No, they do not do that. They try to make efforts to see how they can improve the military civilian relationship in the last couple of weeks. You will observe that the hierarchy of the Nigerian army has staged series of workshop and interface talk shops between some stakeholders, civil society communities and   the military to see how they can fashion out a more sustainable military cum civilian kind of relationship but that is not enough, that is just cosmetics and certainly not the best way to go about it. The best way is for the governments to re- organize the Nigeria police Force to ensure that high premium is placed on recruiting Nigerians that are some of the best in their respective fields of endeavours. The police need to be sufficiently equipped. The police need to be sufficiently equipped with people who have the academic wherewithal, who are able to withstand a 21st century crime strategies because the criminals that we have presently in Nigeria seem to be more advanced academically than the police that are chasing after them. It will not be balanced if the police force and other security outfits are filled with bunch of illiterates who ran into the Police Force as a form of last resort. The police force in Nigeria ought not be the way it is presently, it is just like a source of employment, an avenue to provide meal tickets for people who do not have self confidence. The Nigerian Police Force is supposed to be modeled after the police institutions that we have in the United Kingdom and America where we have some of the best and most educated minds joining the institution. If we have a police force that is equipped and made up of people that are educated and morally sound, and crime free individuals, you will begin to have greater interaction and greater trust from the civil populace and once this is present then the military and police will be able to build their intelligence data bank and can easily stop criminals in their tracks before they strike .
I guess this is where the government comes in. why do you think they have not duly equipped the police force even when the country can afford it?
I think in Nigeria, for over 50 years, we have never  or scarcely practiced good governance. We have never had a government that paid greater respect to the principles of accountability and transparency. If we have had this opportunity of building anti- graft institutions that will monitor how public expenditures are incurred, and managed, we would not have gotten to this stage that we are in whereby we now have a near collapsed Nigerian police Force. It was in this same kind of lawless scenario and indiscipline and lack of supervisory mechanism on the part of the government and over- sights that have allowed the Police to deteriorate to this sorry state up to the point that not too long ago, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission ( EFCC) under Mallam Nuhu Ribadu successfully arrested a serving Inspector General of Police in the person of Mr. Tafawa Balogun who was convicted by a competent law court in Abuja, Abuja High Court for theft of over 19 billion naira belonging to the Nigerian Police Force.  So it is not as though the Nigerian Police Force is so financially constrained but even the little that are provided for the up- keep of the Nigerian Police have disappeared into the private pockets of the  hierarchy of the Nigerian Police thus it is a question of having an effective mechanism for checks and balances and the National Assembly is expected to cover this yawning gap, they are constitutionally empowered to play the over- sight role but unfortunately, it appears the members of the National Assembly are not living up to the expectation of their constitutional duties and responsibilities to Nigeria and Nigerians. The respective police committees that they have as representatives in the senate and Federal House of Representatives are expected by Nigerians to keep the Police officers on their toes to ensure that whatever money they are released for the upkeep of the police, are actually spent for the purpose they were released for. As it is presently, those kinds of strict adherence to the rules of financial disbursements at the level of Nigerian Police is equally absent to the extent that even the pension funds that was created through the contributions of serving police officers who had hoped that when they retire, they would be able to get some kind of payment as pensions from what they have saved overtime, a total of over 32 billion naira was said to have been stolen just by one person not to talk about other billions of naira that have been entering into the pockets of other persons in very high offices; even a serving permanent secretary was recently indicted and even prosecuted for disappearance of billions of money belonging to the Nigerian Police Pension. So you can see that the Nigerian Police Force is not financially broke, what they lack is discipline, then the Nigerian polity as a whole is yet to see the anti- graft agency that is independent, effective and pro- active and that is fearless because if we have this kind of agency, you will see that the Nigerian Police could be professionally run.
Do you agree with the President Jonathan’s statement of improving the welfare of the police personnel?
Well, it is a welcome development if the president of the country who is also the commander in chief of the armed forces, he is the man that gives the final directives through the inspector General  of police on how to enforce rule of law and orderliness in Nigeria. Thus, if he has suddenly realized that the police needs improved welfare, I think it is a good statement. However, we have had similar statements being made by previous presidents overtime so Nigerians now know better that some of these statements are mere political statements that are not marked by commitments and political office holders have not shown enough political will- power to match their words with actions thus Nigerians are waiting to see that the president matches his words with actions.
A lot has been going on the issue of state policing, what is your take on that?
One of the effective ways of resolving the insecurity problems that we face in Nigeria is for us to look at the possibility of experimenting with state police; these are the norms in some of the developed economies of the world. We gained our independence from the British colonial masters and most of the things that we do are borrowed from foreign practices including the presidential system of government that we practice. In same ways, even the Americans have the state police, and even though crime is very high in America, you will agree with me that the efficiency of the law enforcements is second to none in the globe. It is same in Britain where they have the metropolitan police, so these are all state police thus, if the presidential system of government that they practice in America is good enough for us, why will the state police that they practice not be good for us too?
So people who are opposed to creation of State police do not really have any point. Another major point is that for over 50 years, we have had only one single national policing institution, how have we fared in matters of law enforcement? Zero. The president has acknowledged that some of the policemen that we have are not even trained properly.  We all recall how shocked the president was when he found out the state of the police college in Ikeja. Some of the police recruits were sitting on the bare floor while some of them do not even have toilets and these are the same people we are expecting to guard against crimes effectively in the nation? It does not go that way which is the reason we have high rate of extra- judicial killings of suspects in police custody because these people are not properly trained on how to handle weapons thus slightest provocations make them to open fire on the innocent Nigerians and that is why lots of suspects in police custody are unjustly killed because the police do not have adequate facilities that will aid them carry out good investigations. Thus, state policing for now looks like the only way police deficiency could be handled.
Do you think that the states can handle all that go with state policing?
Yes, they can. And state police can go hand-in-hand with the issue of revisiting how we practice federalism as well which will give rise to revenue allocation formula that is just, fair and transparent and that will allow communities richly endowed with mineral resources to control and owned these resources and only pay royalties and taxes to the federal Government which should be used in the development of those parts that are not so well endowed. The way we practice federalism in Nigeria now, the kind of structure that is in operation in Nigeria now is confederation but criminally misnamed as federalism . But we are just lying to ourselves else how come a community that is so endowed in Mineral and Crude oil resources is the most disadvantaged, and the most under- developed and grossly marginalized part of the country, whereas other parts of the country that does not have this kind of mineral resources are doing relatively well? It is because we have a distorted kind of federalism, what stops the Nigerian federalism from allowing the Nigerian communities to control their resources and pay the kind of limited royalties in form of taxes to the federal government as it is practiced in the US? So we must have to restructure our revenue sharing mechanism and introduce legal frame work to allow for resource control.
Now, the yuletide season is around the corner. Are you of the view that the police is ready to tackle the criminal activities this yuletide?
They are not ready. The police force, we do not have a working police force in Nigeria. What we have is a ceremonial Police who are busy carrying handbags for the wives of the governors and wives of the Local Government Chairmen. That is all they do. They are also busy caging some people who are seen as opposition elements to the president. They are best at stopping the G-7 Governors that oppose the government thus they are only there to service the powers that be in Abuja so we do not even have a police Force. So for this yuletide, we are going to see the same kind of stop and search mechanism that they use to extort money from people especially those of us that will travel home to the Eastern Nigeria for holidays. They should be ready to encounter a bunch of people who just wear uniform as Nigerian police that are ready to extort money from the people and this must stop especially if we hope to avoid revolt in Nigeria because Nigeria will get to a point whereby the people will say no to all these extortionist practices by the Nigerian Police. This also is one of the reasons why we have terrorism going on in the North because they felt that the police harassed, intimidated and killed one of their members so if the Nigeria Police Force are not better structured, then the illegal activities of the Police operatives could cause a revolution in the near future.


No comments:

Post a Comment