Gbajabiamila on policing Nigeria

SPEAKER of the House of Representatives, Rt.Hon Femi Gbajabiamila, on Wednesday, affirmed the inevitability of the restructuring imperative when he indicated that the House under his leadership would amend the constitution to give legal backing to the various security interventions in parts of the country. The Speaker, who made this known while delivering his welcome address at the beginning of plenary following the lawmakers’ resumption from the Christmas and New Year break, was speaking against the backdrop of the controversy surrounding the formation of the Western Nigeria Security Network (WNSC) codenamed Operation Amotekun by the governments of the South-West geopolitical zone to complement the work of the Nigeria Police Force.

He said: “Too often, it has seemed to me that lost in these interactions is the hard, brutal and unavoidable fact that Àmòtékùn and other such state or zonal interventions that already quietly exist in other parts of the country are a desperate response to the vile manifestations of insecurity that trouble the lives of citizens, depriving them of the peace and security that gives life meaning. I do not know that Àmòtékùn or whatever iterations of it may follow represents the ultimate or perfect solution to the problem of insecurity in our country. Nobody does that.” The speaker then expressed the belief that the localised manifestations of insecurity across the country underscored the need for unique and localised approaches taking those peculiarities into account, adding that whatever the approach adopted, it was obligatory to work within the limits imposed by the constitution.

While stating, quite rightly in our own view, that federal legislators had a responsibility to support the efforts of those acting with noble intent to protect Nigerian citizens, the Speaker called on the Leader of the House and the Minority Leader to take active steps to bring to the floor, appropriate amendments to the constitution that would ensure that “these and other righteous interventions to protect the life and property of our citizens are firmly in compliance with the laws of the land.”

It is indeed difficult to fault Honourable Gbajabiamila’s submissions, particularly taking into consideration the dire security challenges currently confronting the country. As we have stated time and again, Nigeria was never conceived as a unitarised entity giving no room for the component units to evolve according to the pragmatic realities of their existence. In this regard, it is comforting that no less a personality than the Speaker of the House of Representatives is articulating the  need for the country to be policed in the manner envisaged originally and in accordance with the dictates of the federal system of government. Instructively, the Speaker’s position aligns with the views of the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, who has also harped on the need to dispense with the warped security architecture in the country. And it is also significant in this regard that on his own part, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has often stressed the need for state policing in the country, meaning that only President Muhammadu Buhari remains opposed to state police among the topmost echelon of political power in the country. It is time he changed his opinion and allowed wise counsel to prevail.

To be sure, it is not the expectation of Nigerians that regional arrangements like Amotekun, or state police when it becomes operational, would eradicate security challenges in the country. Rather, Nigerians expect, and they surely have a right to expect, a country policed effectively in accordance with the dictates of federalism. The proposition for state, regional or local police is not meant to rival the existing police framework; it is meant to complement it, allowing the citizenry an opportunity to live safer and more secure lives. That surely aligns with the raison d’etre of the state and the fundamental principles upon which the country is expected to be built.

We endorse Speaker Gbajabiamila’s call for policing dictated by federalism. The call is both patriotic and timely, and deserves the support of all Nigerians. We urge the Speaker to work assiduously with his colleagues in the National Assembly and across the states and make state police and any other security arrangements that may be found desirable a reality.