THE Ondo State governor, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN), recently took on the Federal Government over the use of AK-47 by vigilantes in Katsina State while a well structured and lawfully established local security outfit in the South-West, Amotekun, is being denied the same tool. He strongly interrogated what was apparently a discriminatory application of the same law for different sections of the country. And he insisted on procuring sophisticated arms for Amotekun in order to enable the outfit to square up effectively with violent non-state actors who are always armed with modern weaponry. And when the Federal Government was literally forced to publicly respond to the public outburst by the governor on the double standards implicit in the granting of permission for members of the Katsina State security outfit to use sophisticated arms, it said that no state had been granted such permission. It further pointed out that the permission granted to Katsina State was for the training of its local security outfits in the use of military-calibre arms. However, the Federal Government’s response seems to stand logic on its head, and in a sense, it belies the sincerity and veracity of its claim.
Pray, why would you train people in the use of sophisticated weapons if they are not meant to use them? The Federal Government should quit playing the ostrich as the security situation in the land has assumed a grave dimension that requires all hands to be on deck in order to rein it in. Indeed, it is tantamount to gross insensitivity for the central government to continue to preclude subnationals from strong and effective participation in the security of lives and properties in their domains, even when it has continually fallen short in the discharge of the primary responsibility. The truth is that the country is facing the reality of the inevitability of functional and well equipped state security outfits to complement the clearly inadequate efforts of the federal security agencies. On this score, we urge the Speaker, House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, to honour his promise at the launch of Amotekun that the National Assembly (NASS) would tinker with the 1999 Constitution in order to authorise state police as part of the antidote to the growing insecurity in the land.
Given the heightening insecurity in the country, the task of tweaking the constitution to permit the creation of state police should be handled with dispatch. Fortunately, the northern elite which used to constitute the traditional bastion of opposition to the establishment of police at subnational levels has now started to call for state police ostensibly in response to the spate of virtually unchecked terrorism and banditry in the North. It is thus reasonable to assume that constitutional amendment to accommodate state police will be much easier this time around and that leaves the ball in the court of the NASS. Besides, it is strange that the Federal Government has yet to realise that it is in its enlightened interest to support or even champion the call for state police which promises to accord it some respite from critics who have always questioned, and deservedly so, its willingness and capacity to secure lives and assets of the citizenry.
To be sure, the usual fear that the ruling political parties and leaders at subnational levels could deploy state police to oppress/suppress their political adversaries is not unfounded but it has been grossly exaggerated. The risk is not sufficiently significant to jettison the useful idea in the face of worsening and pervasive insecurity in the country. Even under the extant arrangement, that risk is veritable and it has even crystalised a number of times when the Federal Government was fingered in the deployment of the police for political reasons. But it has never been suggested that the country should do away with the police on account of such misuse or wrong deployment. It behoves the government to institute measures to mitigate this risk by, for instance, specifying clearly what a state police operative should/shouldn’t do even when officially prompted to intervene.
It is high time the country faced the reality of the need for state police and guaranteed its functionality with the use of necessary, sophisticated weapons rather than continue with the current charade of inconsistent approach and application of variable permission for the use of weapons by state security outfits.