WORRIED by the pervasive insecurity in the South-West geopolitical zone, the governors of Lagos, Oyo, Osun, Ekiti, Ondo and Ogun states attended a security summit in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, last week, making a compelling case for the establishment of state and council police to complement the efforts of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF). The governors, who rose above partisan affiliations to condemn the activities of killer herdsmen that have made the highways unsafe for travellers in the zone, spoke at the Stakeholders’ Security Summit for Southwestern states organised by the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN). Noting that insecurity had created palpable fear in the minds of the people, the governors declared that they had a bounden duty to reconfigure the zone’s security architecture and harness the potential of security agencies to rid the region of insecurity.
Describing the problem of insecurity in the South-West as the proverbial snake on the roof of a building that could not be ignored, the governors noted that the Ife-Ibadan highway was fast becoming a kidnappers’ den. As they argued, the advantages of state and community policing far outweigh the qualms of critics. Pointing out that security issues required the efforts of all stakeholders, the governors agreed to set up a joint regional border patrol and cooperate in intelligence gathering among the six states. In their view, a peaceful atmosphere is fundamental to societal growth. The governors also harped on the need to reform the criminal justice system and increase the efficiency and effectiveness of all criminal justice institutions.
In order to underscore the seriousness of the security situation in the zone, all the governors were at the summit in person. It is indeed commendable that the governors came together to forge a common front on issues agitating the minds of people in the South-West. Time and again, we have harped on the nexus between such synergy and the progress and development of the Yoruba people and, by implication, Nigerians as a whole. To say the least, the South-West, like every other zone in the country, is plagued by security challenges, many of them with very grave consequences for the country’s corporate existence. Armed robbery and kidnappings are rampant. Travelling on the highways has become a nightmare, as nomadic herdsmen kidnap people at will, shooting indiscriminately at motorists and causing panic and apprehension. The felons kidnap men and women and subject them to harrowing treatment. Going by the chilling accounts by survivors, the terrorists rape daughters before their parents and wives before their husbands, subjecting them to unbearable agony and collecting ransoms before setting them free or killing them in cold blood even after collecting ransoms.
Given the appalling realities in the South-West, the DAWN summit in Ibadan could not have come at a more auspicious time. The summit demonstrated quite clearly that the country cannot be secured using the current centralist structure and, in any case, if the activities of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) had previously been circumscribed by the claims that there is no consensus on state police, the summit helped to undermine such claims. Now that the governors of one of the six geopolitical zones in the country have come out publicly to back state police, it is time to stop playing the ostrich on this very important issue. Both the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition parties have, at various times, pointed out the need for state police. Governors in all the six geopolitical zones of the country have also given their support to the advocacy and it remains to be seen how long the Muhammadu Buhari administration would keep holding out against this lofty ideal in spite of its open endorsement by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
We urge Governors Seyi Makinde, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Kayode Fayemi, Dapo Abiodun, Rotimi Akeredolu and Gboyega Oyetola to take the discussions at the summit to their logical conclusion. They must walk the talk. As Governor Akeredolu warned last week, matters should not end at the summit. In the next six months at least, Nigerians have a right to expect concrete gains from the summit. The governors should set up a committee to work out modalities for community neighborhood watches and vigilantes to assist extant security agencies while putting mechanisms in place to achieve state police. As we warned in previous editorials, however, state police should be pursued as part of a comprehensive restructuring package through which the Federal Government would shelve some of the powers and functions it arrogated to itself during military rule and in defiance of the practice put in place by the country’s founding fathers. We commend the governors for their avowed commitment to the peace and security of the South-West and urge them to collaborate with their colleagues in other zones by way of peer review mechanisms. It takes such commitment to make the country safe and secure.