Governors yesterday came under attack, following the request they made of the Federal Government to grant them bailout to take care of security issues in their states.
The governors had a virtual meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari, service chiefs and other security heads in the country on Tuesday, and argued that the impact of COVID-19 had eroded their financial capabilities to check insecurity in their domains.
But this drew the ire of stakeholders across the country. Groups as the Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, its counterparts in the Niger Delta, the Pan-Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF and the Middle Belt Forum, rejected the requests, urging the Federal Government to ask the governors to account for previous bailouts granted them to pay workers salaries which most of them failed to do.
Also opposed to the request are Igbo elite organisation, Akaigbo Development Foundation, and a member of the 2014 National Confab, Chief Sola Ebiseni.
However, elder statesman and Afenifere leader, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, the Yoruba Council of Elders, YCE, and Public Affairs Analyst, Ayo Fadaka, threw their weight behind the governors, saying since they (governors) were already assisting the Federal Government to equip the police and other security agencies with vehicles and other tools, they deserve some bailouts.
This is not about bailout -- Afenifere
In its reaction, the pan-Yoruba socio-political organization, Afenifere, said the solution to insecurity in the country was not bailout but finding a lasting solution to the crisis.
Afenifere's National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Yinka Odumakin said: "The issue is not about money but getting to the root cause of the problem. Nigeria is in crisis. We need to deal with the insecurity crisis going on in the country. The governors say they want a bailout but Nigeria is in a crisis situation at the moment."
Let govs account for previous bailouts -- PANDEF
On its part, the Pan- Niger- Delta Forum, PANDEF, said the group would only support bailout from the Federal Government to state governors as demanded to tackle security situations in their states, if the governors will give account of the funds at the end of the day.
National Chairman of PANDEF and former Military Administrator of Akwa Ibom State, Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga, retd., told Vanguard on phone, yesterday: "You know that there was a bailout in the past to the state governments to pay salaries, up till today, some have not paid and it just went like that.
"This one cannot go that same way, there must be accountability. What we are saying is that before considering the bailout, the Federal Government should determine what aspect of security the governors want to use the money for because they neither control the police nor soldiers, it is the Federal Government that does that.
"So if the money they are looking for is, for instance, to take care of displaced persons in their states, I think the Federal Government is partly doing this, then, it should hands-off for the states to handle it. If that is what they want the money for, it should be made available to then, but it must be accounted for.
"However, if it is not that one, if they are asking for bailout so that they can look after soldiers and police, then, what is supposed to be done is to restructure the country by way of federalism because if there is restructuring today, the state governments will be justified to spend on army and police in their states.
"But if there is no restructuring, they are not in control of army and police, what are they going to do with the money since the Federal Government controls the army and police? What level of security do they want the bailout for? Do they want to buy guns for security agencies? You see, there are several questions they have to answer first.
"If it is vehicles they say they want to buy for police and army, the Federal Government can buy those things. So let us do the needful, let us restructure this country and give federalism its true colour so that things like this will just be a settled matter. If you give money to somebody that does not have the responsibility, what will he use the money for? So that is our stand."
Don't give govs security bailout -- Akaigbo Foundation
Similarly, Igbo elite organization, Akaigbo Development Foundation, also yesterday rejected the request by governors for security bailout fund, saying any money given to them would go down the drain.
Spokesman of the group, Abi Onyike, said: "The initial bailout funds sent to state governors for settlement of workers salaries, allowances and entitlements were diverted by some state governors.
"Up till today, many of them don't care about the plight of the workers who are now dying instalmentally. The call they are making for bailout funds for security may not be different from previous ones.
"The governors have become emperors; they rule their states with impunity. Workers have no rights. The citizens live like slaves under them. Some of the present crop of governors have desecrated their high offices.
"They have reduced governance to their personal estates. Whatever money you give them for security will end up in their pockets. Let the Federal Government directly fund the security agencies and procure security architecture to beef up security. Any money given to the governors will go down the drain. The situation is very terrible."
No to security bailout -- MBF
Reacting in the same vein, the Middle Belt Forum, MBF, asked the federal government to reject the governors' request, urging the governors to fall back on their security votes to tackle security challenges in their respective state, and dedicate energy to seek constitutional amendment to allow them establish state and local government police.
National President of MBF, Dr. Pogu Bitrus, who spoke for the group in Makurdi, said it was rational for the governors to have firm control of the security machinery in their respective states and deal decisively with security issues whenever such arose than seek for funds that might not yield desired results at the end of the day.
He said: "As far as I am concerned and I believe that is also the position of majority of our people, the governors should not look for bailout money for security. They have their security votes and they can take from there.
"What they should cry for is that they should have powers to be able to deploy people who can ensure security in their respective states.
"That is to say, if today what we are asking with regards to restructuring is done, they would not be waiting on Abuja to send soldiers to their states.
"Before 1966, we had native authority police and local things were handled by them. Their priority should be to have constitutional amendment to have state police in place. Let there be a restructuring of that sector, so they would be able to control their own local police to control security.
"This is what they should look for and not intervention funds from the Federal Government for security. The Federal Government is already being sustained on borrowed money and they are still borrowing money. So where will the money they want come from?
"They should use their security votes for local security but cry out that restructuring should start and especially that state and local government police should be created in the states so that they can control the security machinery in their states and provide adequate security for the people.
"That is what we will support and not for some money to be given and then be used for reasons which are not known. So we will support them in terms of request for restructuring in the sense that they would require state police which they as governors, can control because with the present arrangement they cannot control military operation or what the police is carrying out in their states and that is the truth."
'Bailout request a fire brigade measure'
Also reacting, a member of the 2014 National Confab, Chief Sola Ebiseni, said bailout request was a fire brigade measure.
According to him, the Nigerian federation needs to be restructured to allow states have their own security apparatus.
Ebiseni said: "What I am saying is not that the states do not need the bailout fund but ultimately, they should allow the Nigerian internal security system be completely de-centralised."
Also, a political analyst, Mr. Ayo Fadaka said: "Nigeria is in a serious decline and this is occasioned by the deteriorating security challenges that dot our landscape.
The need for a total overhaul of our security architecture is a task that must be accomplished immediately or else what looks like an impending explosion may be our portion.
"In this regard, we all must realize that we are in an emergency period, therefore, the desire of state governors to access a bailout security fund is not completely misplaced.
"Nigeria is about the only federation that does not realise that the need for state police is instructive.
"If our security concerns have been of concern to government, by now a constitutional amendment that will empower states and local governments to have their own police must have been effected.
"However, I must commend actions on the part of some states to create security or vigilante groups to help the police and other security agencies. These security organizations created by states constitute an extra burden on their resources and, therefore, the demand for the bailout is in order."
Lasting solution needed, not bailout -- YCE
On his part, General Secretary, Yoruba Council of Elders, YCE, Dr. Kunle Olajide, said: "I'm surprised that they are not asking to go the whole hog, and the whole hog is allowing states have their own police, decentralizing the police force, because the governors are supposed to be the chief security officers of their states.
"Nigerians reside in the states ,not in the Federal Capital Territory alone. Therefore, they ought to have more responsibility in protecting the lives and properties of their citizens who are residents in the states.
"I support their request for security bailout fund but that is still an ad-hoc measure. We need to have the lasting solution and that is the implementation of the Governor El-Rufai Committee on devolution report that is, allowing for state police or local government police.
"We have had it before in this country. Well... as an emergency measure, in the interim, they should be given the bailout funds to enhance the security of their respective states.
"The argument of some people that state police would be abused does not hold water, as far as I'm concerned. The federal police is also abused. We are matured now, people are much more aware of their rights. I don't think any state governor would go out of his way to abuse his control over the state police. Not again.
"Any attempt by the governors to abuse the state police, will be resisted by the people, they will shout and the judiciary will come to the rescue of the citizens. But definitely, in a country as huge as Nigeria, with such a huge land mass and diverse ethnic groups making it up, there is no way you can guarantee security with the centralized police."
Their demand is in order -- Ayo Adebanjo
Also speaking, Afenifere chieftain, Pa. Ayo Adebanjo threw his weight behind the governors' demand.
Adebanjo said: "The demand by the governors is in order. You see, if the governors have been granted state police, allocation for the police would have gone to them instead of the Federal Government because they are in charge of security.
When we talk of all these things most people do not know the implications. Presently, they are doing the job; they buy vehicles for the police, because the Federal Government is incompetent. They should be given more money."
Ortom makes case for responsible Nigerians to carry firearms
Meanwhile, Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State has urged the Federal Government to grant licences to responsible Nigerians to carry sophisticated weapons to deter attacks on innocent citizens by criminals.
He, however, added that the policy should be backed by a strict legal framework to prevent illegal acquisition of such weapons.
This was the submission of the governor in the paper he presented yesterday during a virtual meeting convened by Centre for Values in Leadership, CVL, in collaboration with Nigeria Governors' Forum, NGF.
In the paper, titled "Insecurity and Governance Challenges in the New Normal," the governor said "governments at all levels must come to terms with the fact that insecurity is a real threat to development of the country and be willing to sincerely tackle the menace."
He also recommended adequate funding of security agencies and the continuous training of their personnel to enable them be abreast of global dynamics in the fight against insecurity.
On the herdsmen crisis, Governor Ortom urged the Federal Government to embrace ranching and enact a law ending open grazing to contain the menace.
He also advocated improved educational standards and enhanced public enlightenment campaigns to give the people, particularly youths, the needed orientation to shun negative acts and become more patriotic.
While blaming the increasing rate of crimes on drug abuse, the governor called for the repositioning of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, through training, funding and logistics to successfully confront and check the activities of drug barons and peddlers in the country.
"I would also recommend that the embargo on employment be lifted and more job opportunities created to take Nigerian youths off the streets.
"The federal, state and local governments will also have to show greater commitment to developing the agricultural value chain to generate more job opportunities for Nigerians."