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Published On: Tue, Jan 14th, 2020

Between operation Amotekun and State Police

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By Jerome-Mario Utomi

It is pedestrian knowledge that socioeconomic problems which are the product of human actions and reactions are not static. They change with time and place. What is a social or political problem in one society may be a norm in another. And what is rejected or frowned at today, may be accepted tomorrow. Of course, there are important limits to human relations, knowledge, awareness, and technological state, economic and financial resource availability, social and cultural exposures.
Globally also, inability to manage such differences and changing times by nations has at different times and places led to obstacle in international relationships; misconceptions on politics, security and economic issues. For example, what is referred to as smuggling by other nations, is perfectly legal in Singapore because they operate a free port.
Back at home, it is perfectly clear that President Muhammadu Buhari knows about this fact in leadership that human actions are neither perfect nor static. Mr. President demonstrated this believe while talking about nation’s restructuring in his well-chiseled broadcast on Monday 1st, January 2018. Where he among others noted that ‘no human law or edifice is perfect, whatever structure we develop must periodically be perfected according to the changing circumstances and the country’s socio-economic developments’.
Today such emphasis appears to have shifted, what happened in the past few years in Nigeria is a direct opposite. Decision making is currently viewed in a simple unitary way. In the estimation of the Federal Government, once a direction is chosen, instead of examining process meticulously and set the right course; one that will allow the nation overcome storm and reach safety before we can progress and achieve our goals, many obstinately persist with the execution of such plans regardless of a minor or major shift in circumstance.
A particular event that shows a consolidated example of the above claim is the recent army, police and other Federal controlled security agencies, boycott of the launch of the Western Nigeria Security Network (WNSN), code named Amotekun. An initiative of the Southwest governors adjudged by well meaning Nigerians as a perfect way of bringing “policing arrangement close to the people in their various communities.”
While we keep in mind these lessons learned from our nation’s politicization of law enforcement, and think about the broader threat of insecurity in the country which has obviously become a reality to worry about, I must quickly underline that as a nation, we will be sadly mistaken if we feel that the launch of Amotekun will take the place of, or replace the agitation for state police or act as its alternative.
Admittedly, Operation Amotekun has obvious benefits but not without a number of important concerns that need to be addressed in order to influence the prospect. Fundamentally, aside the question of constitutionality and concerns about possibility of being hijacked by the governors for personal gains, not all its parts are fully understood. Some parts are unrecognized by the vast majority of Nigerians-even among the south-westerners-the direct beneficiaries of the programme.
Again, separate from the already available evidence that perceptions majorly tend to be strongly coloured by ethnic culture and ‘tribal philosophy’ –a challenge the Operation Amotekun proponents urgently need to add vital dimension to reverse, what Nigerians, going by commentaries, would have appreciated more, is not Amotekun but an arrangement that will pressurize the Federal Government to amend the nation’s constitution to accommodate state police. Such feat in my views would more effectively rejigg the nation’s security architecture.
Even Mr.President knows about this fact and there are few examples to support this claim.
In his campaign in 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari promised to “Initiate actions to amend the Nigerian Constitution with a view to devolving powers, duties, and responsibilities to states in order to entrench true Federalism and the Federal spirit”
Similarly, in August 2019, while he played host to the traditional rulers from the Northern part of the country led by the Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence, Alhaji Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, Mr President going by reports stated that; the ongoing reform of the Police would include recruitment of more hands, cultivation of stronger local intelligence and networking with communities, traditional rulers and adequate training. This in specific terms will include recruiting more police officers from their local government areas, where they would then be stationed in the best traditions of policing worldwide. Working with the state governments; we intend to improve the equipping of the police force with advanced technology and equipment that can facilitate their work.
From the attributes of his speech, he did not only underline the importance of but underscores the virtues and advantages of recruiting more police officers from their local government areas, where they would then be stationed in the best traditions of policing worldwide.
Precisely, this form of security design was what the pro-state police and nations’ restructuring advocates demanded for –particularly as it was obvious that the vast majority of states can afford to equip their officers with the sophisticated security gadgets Mr. President listed above.
Viewed differently, if objective analysis can replace emotional discussion regarding state police, there are no federal police or state police models, but there are fundamental differences between the two. While cultural and geographical homogeneity which are strong factors and advantages of state policing are lost in federal policing, state police depend on these factors and more such as historical and friendship to keep the society orderly and without anarchy. This values no doubt makes a productive policing without disorder. And it is my belief that state governments have the capacity to fulfill this obligation.
The next question is; with this development, should we conclude that restructuring has started or are we still begging the challenge? If it has not, having seen the usefulness of recruiting, and allowing officer’s work in their familiar environments, what alternative is opened to the nation?
If providing adequate security for the masses is the government priority, it should be the collective responsibility of the country’s citizens to contribute to the success of the process. And this could be achieved only if the citizens feel they are part of the ongoing development process and has a stake in its success.This should be done with one goal in mind; that of serving the people and enhancing the status of the country.
What the people are saying is that the over blotted exclusive list has made our nation to currently stand in an inverted pyramid shape with more power concentrated at the top and the base not formidable enough making collapse inevitable if urgent and fundamental steps are not taken. Items such as; Police and some government security services, mines and minerals; including oil fields, oil mining geological surveys, control of parks, stamp duties, public holidays, taxation of incomes, profits and capital gains, and insurance among others to my mind should find their ways back to the states and the local councils.
Above all, government as a matter of urgency must learn how to base long range strategic decisions on accurate and reliable information.

Jerome-Mario Utomi, writes from Lagos via;jeromeutomi@yahoo.com

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