“Despite Nigeria’s enormous population, she is one of the most under-policed nations in the world.”
Journalist, David Hundeyin welcomed participants at the August edition of Thursday Talks, with this worry-inducing statement. Spiced with passion and controversy; this edition with the theme Conversations on Security Restructuring, moderated by Communications Consultant; Khadijah Bello, featured Security Consultant, Dennis Amachree, Public Affairs Analyst, Leonard Ebute and Investigative Journalist, David Hundeyin as panellists.
To lay the necessary foundation, Khadijah quizzed the guests on what security restructuring means to them. For Hundeyin, it referred to an essential change in paradigms, stressing that the way we maintain law and order in Nigeria is no longer working; hence the need for a restructuring. He suggested a shift to a less-centralised policing system and the adoption of self as well as state policing.
Providing a historical background to the state of the policing in Nigeria, Amachree highlighted that the police were formed to protect the colonialists during the colonial rule and upon the advent of independence, the Nigerian police were not reoriented to wear the mindset of service to the people. He explained this as the reason why police members are currently serving the elite and political class.
So where have we gone wrong with the modern-day Nigerian security?
Hundeyin, in buttressing Amachree’s viewpoint described the issues with policing in Nigeria as both doctrinal and economic issue, pointing out that reorientation did not take place, hence men of the police think the uniform makes them superior to citizens. In his words, “the police is not your friend.”
Stressing that Nigeria has a significant economic issue; meaning the country can no longer afford to police itself. He, in agreement with Amachree, also suggested community policing.
Can community policing work? Do we have a precedent success story?
The panellists agreed that this was not something that had hardly been attempted in Nigeria before, so we do not know if it would work, but it was still something we should try. Amachree highlighted that even the recently established Western Nigeria Security Network (WNSN), codenamed ‘Amotekun’ is not what it should be.
In the views of the former Department of State Security (DSS) Director, it should be intelligence and community-driven rather than people parading in uniforms. He opined that members of the community; the likes of mechanics and taxi drivers should be mobilised, warning that Nigeria had an intelligence problem and in this age of digitisation, this was an overarching issue.
On political will to tackle insecurity
Public Affairs Analyst, Leonard Ebute, took the conversations to a boiling point as he controversially stated that the federal government’s economic objective has impeded on any security measure. For him, President Buhari should go down in history, as the leader who allowed thousands of Nigerians to die because of his complacency in the matter on the ground. He posited that it seems as though these groups of terrorists were encouraged especially by the lacklustre attitude of the government.
On the aspect of involving the public better in the issue of security especially since there’s a debate about giving citizens access to information and also ensuring sensitive information are protected, Ebute, in his usual intense fashion, argued that citizens had done more than enough. He highlighted that individuals had organised their forms of security with regards to vigilante groups.
Security and the Edo/Ondo 2020 Elections
Ebute in explaining how security applies to the electoral process, pointed out that the electoral insecurity is not as bad as it is painted to be, declaring that there are only a few poll booths where there are security breaches, and that’s where the media pays attention to.
In his analysis, he noted that this would eventually lead to voters apathy; as they would continue to think that their votes do not count. He capped off his views by saying politicians have no power in places where they don’t hold influence already.
“You can’t rig places where you are not popular,” he said.
The way forward?
Hundeyin warned against the culture of throwing money at problems, declaring corruption as a serious issue especially as political leaders remain dishonest in accounting for management of the resources of the state.
“A level of accountability needs to be brought into play before there can be any real progress,” he said.
He also spoke on the role of the media in ensuring the progress, laying blame on the governments’ feet. He lamented the situation where they continue to see the media as adversaries instead of equals.
“The government seeks to control the media or label them enemies and this should not be so if we were to make any progress in the nation,” he added.
The point of decentralisation of the police was one proposition brought up several times, seeing as the current model of centralised policing was mostly inefficient. In his closing points however, Amachree pointed out that alongside decentralisation of the police, we need to look to private security establishments and synergise with them.
The panellists drew an overarching conclusion that security is a collective responsibility and that both the private and public sectors need to work hand in hand.
Thursday Talks, a monthly conversation which holds on the last Thursday of every month with thought leaders, change agents and active citizens aimed at driving conversations around the demand for good governance driven by active citizenship.
It is an initiative of Enough is Enough (EiE Nigeria), The Future Project (TFP) as well as BudgIT and is proudly supported by YNaija, the internet newspaper for smart young Nigerians, focused on the issues and ideas that matter for an evolving generation.
Toluwanimi Onakoya is a spirited writer, creative and videographer. Her biggest drive is to connect with people and depict tales using various forms of media.
Toluwanimi is available on Instagram and Twitter @nimi_onaks