Vanguard (Lagos)

23 June 2013

Nigeria: We Can Decentralise the Police Without Compromising National Security - Mike Igini

MIKE Igini is the Cross River State Resident Electoral Commissioner. In this interview, he calls for the decentralization of the policing system in Nigeria, adding that it would assist current efforts at fighting insecurity. He also frowns at any form of appropriation that is not vetted.

The failure of government at all levels to provide security has generated questions on what public officials like the president and governors do with security vote.

Indeed it is time to ask those questions, but apart from asking such questions, we also must start from the very conception of security needs as it pertains to our current needs. It is clear from the outcome in terms of security that much is being done, nevertheless whatever is being done has not been sufficient. But then it must be noted that where as there are two tiers and a local government structure of governance and we are concerned about failure of security of lives and property, it is first a failure of the LGA and state structure of governance before the tier of government that is far away.

In order of priority, we can say that we have three key security exigencies, namely the violent insurgency of the Boko Haram sect, its consequences on especially the North East geopolitical zone and the rest of Nigeria, and the rampant cases of kidnapping and the growing cases of vandalization, bunkering cum theft of crude and refined oil products. While these are top on the list, there are many other issues of security which also need to be addressed. In terms of conceptualization, therefore, we need to take a deep thought to ask ourselves about how these problems came about, why they are persisting and what can be done to eradicate or contain them. These matters require not only security hardware but also security, administrative and social software.

The disposition of the civilian democratic dispensation to solving such problems must not be as knee-jerk as the approach of the military dispensation which, being a reflexively law enforcement arm, will normally think mostly about containment and control. Under a democratic dispensation, the plural dispersal of powers between different arms of government requires more sensitivity to decisional inputs and a better understanding of the preventative aspect of insecurity which often has its roots in social maladies.

So taking these priority issues, for instance, how much of security vote is expended on understanding the problem before or after reacting to them?

Kidnapping and oil theft, for instance, require significant use of transport and communication resources, what are the gaps in the system that sustain such crime, how has the system dealt with the collaboration of security personnel and sometimes members of society who are involved with undermining the system? More importantly, when culprits are apprehended, what consequences do they face? Similarly, regarding the Boko Haram insurgency, while many people have roundly condemned the modus operandi of the insurgents, we also need to ask why the sudden upsurge of such a fundamentalist fervor and how does it find home among people who have not been deprived the right to practice their religion with tolerance of other faiths for many decades? While we prevent and remedy security problems, we should also ask if we have made room for rehabilitation of those in society who have been forced to create insecurity because there were no social safety nets to avoid doing otherwise, to do so is in our enlightened self-interest.

All these unanswered questions tell us that, while it is very important to have the security hardware to deal with widespread eruptions of insecurity, more often than not, a greater aspect of such expenditure should be preceded by security software requirements, a common agreement on social values and what levels of deviation are tolerable, professional security analyses, social analyses, the involvement of a wider aspect of society and eventually near accurate application of force where needed, as well as the application of administrative and social remedies. To do these things you cannot have the elite which considers security vote as a budgetary sleight of the hand, or the consequences will come home to roost. We therefore need a complete shift of mind-set on security at all levels both from leaders and the larger Nigerian society.

Kano State governor, Rabiu Kwakwanso, last year, said he had stopped receiving security vote, describing it as a smokescreen to divert public funds. Does this not conform with the mood of the people that security vote has not secured the citizenry

As I said earlier, much may have been done, but as long as the conditions remain insecure, all such efforts will be perceived as insufficient, because security is a binary conception. It has only two acceptable variables, secure or insecure, there is no middle ground. Unfortunately, Kano does not rank as one of the safest states these days, I would have said the governor made a very wise decision; nevertheless, it hardly matters how much is allocated to security if the outcome is ineffective.The concern of Nigerians has not been so much the amount allocated as the opacity of the process of utilizing such allocations effectively. If you say you want money to build five warships to go to war and the soldiers get to the war front to find only two ships with half the troops stranded, your own soldiers will kill you first before the enemy.

Importantly, we must keep the goal of security in mind, which is to be secure, all cases of insecurity do not require the same approach hence the quality of decisions taken is key. To divert important resources away from security is suicidal for any leadership at any level because security is the principal reason people come together to form a state. I believe the key concern of Nigerians is value for money, which boils down to three Es, namely, efficiency..maximization of security benefits from inputs, effectiveness and efficacy of security decisions and resources used.

As a lawyer, given that security vote is not provided for in the constitution, don't you think it is high-time that the spending is outlawed?

What is unconstitutional is unlawful, I do not subscribe to any form of appropriation that is not vetted, it may be done before or after it has been applied depending on the need, but it should be susceptible to scrutiny if not by a large group but by at least a specialized group, the core motivation of democratic leadership is the necessity to be accountable to electors or the representatives of the electors.

At a recent forum, Edo State governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, argued that fighting insecurity does not end at having huge security vote, adding that there are constitutional flaws like the inability to truly function as a chief security of a state vis-a -vis the control over the state police commissioner among others..what is your position on this?

He has made a very important point because the ambit of control of those who implement security should be reasonably defined at the different levels of need, for, as the basic principle of administrative control suggests, regarding the span of control of someone responsible for a task, such a person must be directly responsible to a single source of control.

However I must float a caveat, we have never heard of a local government chairperson who requires lawful use of a DPO (Divisional Police Officer), or of a state governor who requires the lawful use of a state police commissioner who did not get the required response due to his or her authority. Moreover, the most strident opposition to the devolution of policing powers has unfortunately come from those who most need the devolution.

My view is that we should devolve policing powers on local issues to give elected people at lower levels sufficient leverage on security, allowing state and local governments to invest appropriately in security infrastructure according to local needs, but we cannot dispense with a national police service at our current developmental stage.

How best do you think the public anger against security vote can be doused?

Security is expensive, to train, deploy and maintain a single security personnel is not a cheap exercise, let alone a detachment of troops, but to do so must be effective and the process of doing it should not be opaque; besides, if you are doing so to secure people why should they not know what it costs and how you have expended resources to achieve it?

Nonetheless, to douse public anger, first, expenditure on security should be effective, then the appropriate personnel to address security issues should be used when dealing with security challenges; let the security personnel do their part, but where you require sociologists, psychologists, judicial expertise, economic and political decisions, the right people should be brought in; the use of force is only one aspect of conflict management, if we do not have such a paradigmatic approach, we would find ourselves using a motor saw when what is required is a lancet. Second, security is what we do together ultimately, and I believe, therefore, that, at the root of our insecurity, is the inability to have a common understanding of who we are as a people; we are too suspicious of ourselves and hence we protect the wrong people amongst us for the wrong reasons.

If we share common values and accept the areas where we have necessary differences, it will be easier to pick out the deviants who aim to destroy all of us. When we do that, we can be like the Bostonians in the USA who all stood together, locked down their state just to pick out a few people who refused to share their common needs for security which foster prosperity. But, ironically,in Nigeria at the early stages of this Boko Haram insurgency, we saw how the same people that security men were risking their lives to protect hailed and celebrated the killing of security men and the bombing of police stations. Could the Boston bombers been killed and the other arrested if the people had not co-operated with the security services ?

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