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Amotekun: Community Policing Desirable, But We Must Tread With Caution, CHRICED Admonishes South-West Governors

The Resource Centre for Human Rights & Civic Education (CHRICED) has closely followed the emotionally charged national debate sparked by the launch of the South-western States Nigeria Security Network, also known as Operation Amotekun. There can be no mistaking the fact that the creation of an alternative security structure by the governors in the South West, is a reaction to the abysmal failure of the current Federal Police. It is a vote of no confidence passed on the Nigerian Police. The police function of a State is an important role, which should guarantee the safety of the life and property of citizens. In an ethnically diverse country like Nigeria, the failure of the national police to secure the country to make it safe for citizens would expectedly compel the resort to ethnic or regional options in search of solutions. Therefore, while State or community policing remains desirable, especially within the framework of true federalism and the devolution of powers, steps towards creating such institutions must take into cognisance the nation’s Constitution and should take into consideration that beyond the region, other stakeholders within Nigeria have to be carried along. Part of the apprehension of many stakeholders is not that a State policing model has been created, but that the geo-ethnic colouration given to the outfit creates fears that it might become a tool for the advancement of an ethnic agenda, which could undermine the nation’s unity. CHRICED is of the reasoned view that since it is the governors that mooted the idea of the alternative security model, they should have mobilised members of the National Assembly from their respective states to engage the parliament. This kind of process would have led to a robust dialogue and would have, in turn, created a seamless template, which could become the model for local policing across the country. Unfortunately, by limiting conversations and consultations on the take-off of the security outfit to the South West, the subliminal message being passed across is that there is a narrow plan, which is probably incompatible with the unity of the country. CHRICED makes no mistake about the absolute collapse of security under the current policing system. We know it for the fact that Nigeria’s current policing architecture cannot guarantee the safety of life and property of citizens.Nigeria is manifestly under-policed. The Nigeria Police Force has a numerical strength of about 400,000 and is tasked with the role of policing 200 million people and a territory of 923,768 km². The constant wave of violent crimes across the country, including kidnapping, armed robberies, banditry and terrorism are evidence of a policing system bereft of the capacity to prevent, detect and bring criminals to justice. No modern State can experience stability with a police architecture, which cannot guarantee basic security. Consequently, Nigeria’s policing architecture needs to be urgently overhauled to reposition it for the challenges of nation-building. In doing so, however, citizens must understand the issues so that politicians do not implement knee-jerk measures, which could, in the end, contribute to the aggravation of the problems rather than solving them. To this end, CHRICED calls on citizens to push for deeper and more inclusive dialogue on reforming the policy architecture. In doing so, any local policing template, which is eventually adopted must factor in the spirit and letters of Chapter IV of 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which guarantees fundamental human rights, such as the right to life, dignity of the human person, personal liberty, and fair hearing among others. Although the South West Governors said ‘Operation Amotekun’ is designed to complement the efforts of the regular police force in the area of combating kidnapping, armed robbery, herdsmen-farmers violence, they would have to explore ways to prevent the violation of Section 214 of the 1999 Constitution, which provides that there shall be no other police force established for the Federation or any part thereof other than the Nigeria Police Force. The formation of the outfit also raises new questions on implementation and management of security networks, especially when the reality of replicating the “executive might” in thirty-six states is considered. Nigerians across the country have to be convinced of what structures and measures are in place to prevent the abuse of such outfits by those controlling them. Importantly too, the ethnic dimension of the fears being expressed by citizens over the launch of the operation has to be convincingly addressed.What measures have been put in place to ensure those who are recruited into the outfit are not members of ethnic militias, whose activities previously undermined the unity and peaceful co-existence of the country? Already, there are reports that elites in the South East proposing their security outfit, insist it should be called Operation Ogbunigwe a reference to the killer bucket bomb used by the Biafra forces during the civil war of 1967 to 1970. Such references give the impression that the security outfits are a smokescreen for the hidden agenda of some sections of the country to push for a breakup. Our position, therefore, is that while it is desirable to devolve police functions, it has to be done in a way that does not undermine the unity, brotherhood and togetherness of our country.Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria!


Comrade Dr. Ibrahim M. Zikirullahi

Executive Director

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