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Still On The Scramble For Regional Security Outfits

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In this piece, MARY AMODU writes on the quest for regional security outfits and its impact on nationhood.

The quest for regional outfits to contain insecurity challenge in the country has set off discussions bothering on altering of the political status quo along lines of regionalism on the one hand and abuse of security apparatus by thepolitical class on the other hand.

Evidently, the security situation in the county has been worrisome. The rate of kidnapping and banditry generatesuproar within the polity, sparking protests in some cases for a  call to action by all stakeholders.

With security as a pivotal responsibility of government, most of the state governors resorted to forging a regional outlook to tackling the security challenge.

So far, the South-west, South-east, North-east, North-central and South-South have kick- started moves to establishing a security outfit  with a regional slant. These moves have come with raised eye brows over suspicions bothering on political intent.

The South-west regional blazed the trail as it states, namely Ekiti, Ondo, Osun, Oyo, Ogun and Lagos launched the now famous security outfit, Amotekun.

According to them, the network is expected to complement the efforts of the Nigerian Police Force in combating kidnapping, armed robbery, and other security challenges in the region. The security network agreement was reached in Ibadan, Oyo State in June 2019, at a regional security summit.

The initiative which enjoyed the backing of traditional rulers and other critical stakeholders however came under scrutiny over its posturing as state police and later over its legal framework.

While the attorney general questioned the legal basis for such regional outfit, the Police was worried about the structure the security outfit will take with regards to whether there will be a clash operationally.

Also, Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) which earlier accused governors of the south-west of recruiting only Christians into Amotekun which it had described as a militia, made a u-turn days later, saying it is now seeing positive signals in the Western Nigeria Security Network code-named Amotekun.

While the Ohaneze-Ndigbo and other southern southern socio-cultural organisations lauded “Operation Amotekun”, a northern group, Northern Youths Council of Nigeria (NYCN), in a statement by its national president, Alhaji Isah Abubakar, kicked against it describing it as a military wing of the Oodua Peoples Congress, (OPC).

Speaking shortly after the inauguration of the security outfit, the Lagos State coordinator of OPC, Alhaji Mutairu Adesina, described the group’s comment as inciting and capable of causing unnecessary tension in the country.

After much back and forth, the legal framework for Amotekun was channeled through the states’ legislatures even though they still had a central operational control.

While the Amotekun initiative seems to have laid the legal standard for such regional establishment, other regions are yet to pick the pace set by the South-west so far.

As the Amotekun debate raged, a Coalition of Northern Group (CNG) had announced the establishment of a security outfit known as “Shege-Ka-Fasa”.

Announcing the establishment of the outfit on Wednesday at a news conference in Kaduna, Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, spokesman of the group, said the CNG had written to the Northern States Governors Forum (NSGF) to support the group.

He said the if the northern governors and leaders from the region fail to give the necessary support, the CNG will obtain the required legal backing for the outfit from the relevant federal authorities.

However little or nothing has been heard from the agitation so far as it seems most of the governors from the region have not paid much interest to them.

In the South-south region, Governor of Delta State and chairman of the South-south Governors Forum, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa had disclosed that most of the governors in the region have been working individually at state level, to curb the various security challenges.

He said, “But we thought that it would be best as a region if we come together to collaborate with ourselves, especially when we realise that share boundaries. Talking about the issue of herdsmen/farmers clashes, they come through similar routes. They come from one state and can progress to another”.

But a Coalition of Niger Delta Agitators (CNDA) criticised the move to create this type of security outfit in the region, accusing some of the South-south governors of corruption.

The group said the motive behind the security outfit is to strike perceived enemies or the opposition. But Okowa, in a swift reaction said it was normal for people to turn whatever you do into politics even if the purpose is good.

The six governors of North-east states held a maiden meeting recently with security as their major agenda. According to the senior special assistant (Media and Publicity), to Gombe governor, Ismaila Misilli, the meeting also discussed other regional challenges bordering on the economy and infrastructure.

He said attorneys general of the state have been directed to collaborate with security agencies towards enhancing security.

In the South-east, its governors, had at a meeting early this year end in Enugu State, resolved to launch a regional security outfit.

They affirmed their commitment towards concluding the establishment of the Joint South East Security Outfit to tackle the daunting security challenges in the region.

The chairman of the South-east Governors’ Forum and Ebonyi State Governor, Dave Umahi, disclosed this to reporters after the first meeting of the forum in the year 2020.

He said the leaders have written the Federal Government in this regard and were equally satisfied with the arrangement that would lead to the enactment of the law to back up the programme in all Houses of Assembly across the region.

Similarly, governors of the six North-central states have concluded plans to kick-start the framework for effective community policing to tackle the issues in the region.

The decision was taken in Lafia, the Nasarawa state capital, at the just concluded Northcentral Security Summit.

While the prospects of regional outfits has provoked debates over security situation in the country, it has also reignited questions about the political system in the country.

Although Nigeria is recognised as a federal system of government, the debate over whether or not the federating units have the right kind of balance for effective governance has lingered.

From demands for decongesting the exclusive list to a clamor for the six geopolitical zones to be given a constitutional recognition, the pros and cons of such demands have nonetheless been tied to  safeguarding the unity of the country.

But with the recent spate of insecurity in the country, the move to establish security outfits with a regional coloration was instructive.

In same measure however, the quest for such  security outfits has also sparked the debate over control or political manipulation.

The executive director of Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, was more concerned about the impact of insecurity which has given life to the regional outfit.

He said, “Present security situation in Nigeria is worrisome and alarming. The lives and properties of Nigerians are not being protected as enshrined in the constitution.

“So, as a result of this securities has resulted to fear and uncertainty. Many groups, individuals as well as some stateshave lost confidence on the capacity to manage and deal with certain insecurity in the country. Therefore, the agitation for regional security outfit and State police has become a dominate competition in the Country.

“I think if the Nigeria government is serious and committed in dealing with insecurity which is possible to achieve certain measure to calm the level of increasing insecurity but some are orchestrated by people who are in government, so first government must carry out a security sector reform.

“Currently, instead of security outfits to provide safety and security, there is competition and also corruption in the sector and the safety of Nigerians have been compromised because when security personnel are involved in corruption, exhortation, connivance definitely there is no way Nigerians will have confidence in the security system,” he said.

On his part, political analyst and former adviser to elder statesman, Chief Bamanga Tukur, Chief Olukayode Akindelesaid, “It is a confirmation of failed governance and poor leadership. If we were to give regional security, it should have been a clear initiative of executive arm of government with clear structure and legislation. Everything is political as long as we are human beings.

“Its implications are enormous since executive arm of government did not lead in the concept therefore each region will now manipulate it to suit their regional agenda rather than in the best national interest. It is a whirlwind that its effect is unpredictable,” he added.

On his part the former president of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Peter Esele, said the concept of regional security or even state police was not bad in itself but that “they should draw their power from the law and not from the governors.”

He added, “As it stands the police are beholden to the executive and the powerful people and not the law. People have raised questions about the regional outfit about how inclusive it will be. But we must all know that the resort to regional outfit is because there is no statehood and some people still see themselves as tribesmen which ought not to be so. If things are working the way they should, we won’t be talking about these regional outfits.

“However, we need to have a good framework to ensure that the police is not hijacked by the governors,” he added.

Convener PLAN Nigeria Group, Bello Osaretin El mikado, believes that the prospect of regional security outfits might not augur well for the national integration.

He said, “Its portends a very bad signal for the unity of Nigeria and invariably an indication of failure in governance system where the centre can no longer guarantee the safety of her citizens, so every region is resorting to self help.

“No matter how good intentions of the regional security outfit by some regions are, which might be very necessary to their peculiarity but it has been politicised and has now triggered all the regions scrambling to have their regional outfit, it goes to show the total distrust that exist in Nigeria,” he said.

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