Disturbed by the security situation in the country and the recent outrage by Nigerians calling for the scrapping of Special Anti Robbery Squard (SARS), an arm of the Nigerian police, Punch Newspaper in it’s Editorial page writes:
AT a recent charged plenary session, senators roundly condemned the collapse of the country’s security system. The Senate said that many lives were being lost in the country to clashes and crimes without a major step taken by the government to stop the killings. Regrettably, the Muhammadu Buhari administration creates the impression of helplessness in dealing with the dangerous trend.
Horrible killings have escalated in Numan, Adamawa State. Reports state that about 100 villagers have been massacred following clashes between the locals and invading Fulani herdsmen, who have a history rich in atrocities. The official response has seen Nigerian Air Force planes strafe the villages where perpetrators are holed up. This is a knee-jerk reaction. Fulani herdsmen, on the pretext of cattle rearing, are a major cause of security breaches in Nigeria. They have rendered Benue, Taraba, Nasarawa, Kaduna, Ondo, Cross River, Enugu and Bayelsa states unsafe with their wanton killings and destruction of farmland.
Nigeria is also afflicted with armed robbery, kidnapping, gangland violence, ritual killings and rape. The Boko Haram insurgency is still claiming lives despite the military’s claim of degrading the terror sect. Kidnappers have entrenched their nefarious activities on the Kaduna-Abuja Expressway. In June, they abducted 46 travellers in broad daylight. In November, they murdered a Federal Road Safety Corps official, abducting his colleagues and co-travellers. The police high command made all the right noises, but it all came to nothing.
Citizens live in fear across the country. On December 8, a gang of robbers attacked a bullion van in Asaba, the Delta State capital, in broad daylight, carting away huge sums of money. On December 6, a former Minister of Sports, Damishi Sango, his son and four others were abducted on the Kaduna-Abuja Road. They were released a few days later. Schools in Lagos, including the Model College, Epe; Babington Macaulay, Ikorodu and the Nigerian-Turkish Academy, Isheri, Ogun State, have tasted the wrath of kidnappers. In Ogun State, pipeline vandals brazenly appropriate petroleum products and kidnap for ransom. Rivers State is as terrible. It is a risk to travel in the Emohua corridor of the oil-rich state, where armed militia hijack vehicles at will.
In Zamfara, Niger, Kogi and Kaduna states, cattle rustling is pervasive. In November, Niger Delta militants abducted missionaries belonging to a medical charity, New Foundations, which was founded in 2003. Two of them, David and Shirley Donovan, were released after ransom exchanged hands; but the third, Ian Squire, was shot dead moments after singing Amazing Grace to the group. No one has been held accountable for the security lapse.
But there is enough blame to go round. The lawmakers cannot be divorced from the security breaches. They are part of the elite, who are being protected by about 110,000 police officers, out of a force of 370,000, according to police figures. Apart from being poorly funded, the NPF is infested with armed thugs who are completely ignorant of the laws they are entrusted with to enforce. As presently constituted, the force is an instrument of state oppression and exploitation.
The Buhari administration should publicly set out a clear strategy, including police reform and funding capable of attending to the population’s safety and security. While corruption has to be tackled, recruitment should be conducted transparently to prevent criminals from enlisting in the force. The IG should put a system in place to weed out bad cops.
Effective crime control depends on competent intelligence gathering. But, the Nigerian police have a poor relationship with the public, which views them with suspicion and hostility because of their history of brutality. This ought to be corrected. A healthy relationship encourages the public to feed the police with vital tips on criminal activities. Also, the closed circuit television camera, a critical tool for intelligence gathering in various parts of the world, is almost non-existent in Nigeria. In 2010, the Federal Government signed a $470 million contract with a Chinese company, ZTE Communications, for the installation of CCTV in Abuja and Lagos. Seven years on, there is nothing to show for it.
In contrast, there were 4.9 million CCTV cameras in Britain or one for every 14 people, and 750,000 in sensitive locations such as schools, hospitals and care homes as of 2014, according to a British Security Industry Authority survey. A few days after a bomb attack on a music concert in the Manchester Arena in May, police released CCTV images of the suspect, Salman Abedi, 22, who was captured on security film at Manchester Airport, Market Street and Granby Row near Piccadilly Station. Police used the footage to call for more information on him. Without an effective CCTV system, body-worn videos, drones, number-plate recognition system and other high-end technological devices, the Nigerian police would be groping in the dark.
For now, Nigeria is under-policed. A single, centralised police force for a population estimated at 193.3 million by the National Bureau of Statistics cuts an underwhelming picture. New solutions recommend themselves to Buhari and Idris.
The President should work with the parliament to decentralise the policing system, and build up capacity with armoured personnel carriers, communications equipment, helicopters and surveillance systems. Efficiency requires community policing. It is an aberration that such is absent in the country. Apart from community police forces, schools, estates, highway patrol forces, state police and local council police, should be in place as soon as possible. Ultimately, the fight against crime is about involving the community.