Insecurity: Why State Governors are not Chief Security Officers but ceremonial heads

Insecurity: Why State Governors are not Chief Security Officers but ceremonial heads

- in World News
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Tuesday, October 20, 2020, the EndSARS protests was at its peak and what started as a genuine agitation by Nigerians youths was teetering towards unprecedented anarchy.

In Lagos, the commercial capital of Nigeria, security agents, especially police were being attacked, with some innocent residents having the feelings that their safety was no longer guaranteed, with roads blocked and thugs, who had taken advantage of the protests, taking over some areas.

Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the Lagos State Governor, in a move aimed at arresting the ugly development, imposed a total curfew, reminiscent of the COVID-19 total lockdown on the state.

However, on the night of that fateful Tuesday, soldiers were at the Lekki Toll Plaza where the protesting youths were peacefully assembled. One thing led to the other and there was fracas.

Though controversy still rage on what actually went down between the soldiers and the protesting youths, which is not the focus of this piece, but the back and forth denials on who actually ordered soldiers to the scene of the protest.

Though the state government had said it only asked for the help of soldiers to maintain the peace and halt the gradual degeneration of the anarchy that was fast developing in the state, the controversy underscores the powers of state governors in the country’s security architecture.

Over the years, state governors in Nigeria have come under heavy criticism over their inability to provide solutions to the fast declining insecurity in the country. Those who criticise the governors hinged their arguments on the fact that they are the Chief Security Officers of their states and as such the buck stops on their tables as long as securing the lives and property of residents of their states is concerned.

This argument, however, has brought up funny scenarios, leading to a larger debate on the actual roles and powers of state governors in the nation’s security architecture.

Analysts have argued that, governors, by virtue of their oaths of office, have the responsibility to secure lives and property of citizens and residents alike, but the governors have continued to insist that the title ‘Chief Security Officer’ is a mere nomenclature that has no practical meaning.

What the Constitution Says

Though the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as ammended) confers on state governors the title of Chief Security Officer, the wordings, or caveat in Section 215 shows that the governors may afterall be right in insisting that they are mere figure heads.

Section 215(4) of the Constitution says: “Subject to the provisions of this section, the Governor of a state or such Commissioner of the Government state as he may authorise in that behalf, may give to the Commissioner of Police of that state such lawful directions with respect to the maintenance and securing of public safety and public order within the state as he may consider necessary, and the Commissioner of Police shall comply with those directions or cause them to be complied with; provided that before carrying out any such directions under the foregoing provisions of this subsection, the Commissioner of Police may request that the matter be referred to the President or such minister of the Government of the Federation as may be authorised in that behalf by the President for his directions.”

The effect of the above provision of section 215 (4) of Constitution means that a commissioner of police in a state may lawfully disobey the directive of a state governor, if such directive given by the governor does not have the blessing of federal authorities.

What Current and Past Governors said

Nyesom Wike (RIVERS)

Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike is a man known for speaking his mind, no matter who may like it.

The governor, who many see as controversial on account of his views, especially as it concerns the Federal Government, recently, while speaking on a Channels Television early morning show, said no governor in Nigeria is truly a Chief Security Officer of his state, but mere logistics officer.

According to Wike, they are only needed when it is time to support the security agencies with logistical needs, without actual commanding powers.

“I have refused to answer the Chief Security Officer of Rivers state. No, not when I will wake up to realise that the Inspector General of Police (IGP) has in fiat withdrawn all my security details. So, how am I now the Chief Security Officer of my state.

“It will amount to deceiving myself to be addressed as such when I cannot direct even the Rivers State Police Commissioner to act when he [the CP] is answerable to the IGP in Abuja”.

Seyi Makinde (OYO)

Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde, whose State, Oyo, has been witnessing aggravated crisis occasioned by herdsmen/farmers crisis, believes state governors are at the mercies of federal security agencies in enforcing laws and maintaining order.

The governor, while on a visit to the Ibarapa area of the state last week, said: Quite frankly, the governors are at the mercy of federal security agencies to implement certain laws.

“That was why we asked for State Police. In the first instance, it is a constitutional issue and, in the absence of having that, governors in the South West came together and formed Amotekun as a stop-gap.”

Speaking earlier in the aftermath of the #ENDSARS protests, Governor Makinde, said though state governors are largely referred to as chief security officers but they lack the powers to assert control over the police force.

Makinde further said it would be difficult for state governors to create the kind of change they want to see in the policing of the country.

Rotimi Akeredolu (ONDO)

Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu trended in the news recently on account of a quit order he gave herdsmen occupying the state’s forest reserves to quit. He trended even the more, when the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, issued a statement that suggested the presidency was not comfortable with the order.

However, the governor, while contributing to a debate organised by Channels Television, suggested that it was not reasonable that governors are referred to as chief security officers, when they have no power over policing within their domains.

He said: “I can assure you that I am not pleased with our security architecture in the country today. I am one of the strong advocates for multi-level policing, and that the country is ripe for it. I believe that to have a single command, for instance, for our police, can not ensure the security we need.

“For us as a state, or state governors, to be called the chief security officers without having powers does not make sense. That is one of the reasons that led to a number of us — those of us in the south-west — to create the south-west security network, which we christened Amotekun.

Nasir el-Rufai (KADUNA)

For Kaduna State Governor, Nasir el-Rufai, coping with high rate of banditry in his state has led to immense frustrations, which he expressed in a recent television interview.

According to him, governors do not have control over the security of their states, insisting that they are only Chief Security Officers by name.

“We are all frustrated. I am frustrated in my state, many governors are frustrated in their states; we are called chief security officers only in name, we have no control over cohesive instruments of the state.

“We are almost helpless. The #EndSARS protest clearly showed the limit to the control of governors over the police and the military.

“Some of us have more influence than others, but to a large extent, you ask the commissioner of police to do something and he has to clear with the Inspector-General of Police; this is the reality.

“We are not in control of the police, I don’t determine who gets posted to my state as CP and if I give him directives, he can decide to flout the directives. So, we are all frustrated.”

Just the Way it had Always Been

Agitations by state governors about their alleged lopsidedness in the security architecture of the country predates the current state chief executives, as those before them had variously complained about how powerless they were in securing their states.

This, may perhaps be one of the many reasons the nation is witnessing the level of insecurity all over the country.

Abdulaziz Yari in June 2016 (Former Zamfara State Governor)

Nigerians will recall that Zamfara State was virtually taken over by bandits who reigned supreme during the tenure of former Governor, Abdulaziz Yari. During this period, a greater part of the state was unsafe, as bandit raided villages and towns at will.

The then governor, while speaking to newsmen at Talata-Marafa, said he has no control over the security machinery in the state, leading to his dropping his CSO tag.

He said: “We have been facing serious security challenges over the years, but in spite of being governor and Chief Security Officer of the state, I cannot direct security officers on what to do nor sanction them when they err.

“As Chief Security Officer, the nomenclature in just a name,”

Abiola Ajimobi (Former Oyo State Governor)

Another former governor, who lamented his inability to secure his state was the former Oyo State Governor, late Senator Abiola Ajimobi.

The former governor, said the tag Chief Security Officer is a mockery of state governors, as they lacked the powers to perform in that role.

Ajimobi said: “I am one of the pioneer advocates of state police. There is nowhere in the world where crime is effectively combated without state police. We refer to state governors as chief security officers, but we have no control over the commissioner of police.

“Some will argue that the governor will take undue advantage of a state police under his watch. But, do they consider the challenges of having only one person controlling the police in the 36 States and the federal capital.

Babangida Alyu (Former Niger State Governor)

For former Niger State Governor, Babangida Aliyu, state governors are unable to quickly resolve security challenges in their domain because they lack control over security apparatus.

“Governors lack control over security apparatus in their domain who are answerable to Federal authorities, l remember when l was governor, l established a cordial relationship with the security agencies in payment of their allowances as well as the purchase of vehicles.”

Is State Police the Way Forward?

With the current spate of insecurity in the country, there is a renewed call for state police in the country, call that has been persistently rejected by the federal authorities and those who say such an idea is replete with inherent dangers.

Leading the charge for the creation of state police in the country is former President, Olusegun Obasanjo, who had in time past, especially while in the saddle as President, opposed the idea.

He said: “Why can’t we now have state police? I have been to a country like Colombia, in the last five years, at least a dozen times. They did exactly what we did. They moved from local and state police to national police. But now, they have gone back to state police or provincial police. Why can’t we do that? If we do that, there will be no need for Amotekun.

“I was watching the governor of Taraba not too long ago. He was saying Nigeria will have no peace and security until we have state police. I believe that the time has come when we should talk of state police and allow it to be. The governor of Taraba said the national police have been overwhelmed, and I believe he is right.

“There will still be the need for federal police to look after federal territories and what I call major entry points – international airports and international seaports. The Federal Government can have mobile police and station them in strategic places, and only deployed when the state governor requires for it.”

An analyst, Shogo Adeniyi, while responding to a poser from DAILY POST, said for a major opponent of state police like Obasanjo to make a 100-degree u-turn on the issue, means things have truly gotten to a head.

According to him, despite arguments against state police, notably the possibility of abuse by governors, the merit of having it outweighs whatever dangers there maybe.

He said: I know there are fears, and honestly, they are not misplaced. However, I like to believe that those fears are not in any way greater than the good inherent in having state police in Nigeria.

“We are talking about the best ways to secure lives and property and whatever can be done to achieve this needs to be done. And obviously, state police is one of them.”

Lending his voice to the call for state police, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, while hosting representatives of the South-West Caucus at the House of Representatives, said the time has come for states to have their police forces.

He said: “When we came up with Amotekun, people were scared they thought it was state police, but we stood our ground and Amotekun has come to stay. You have a duty to us, to our people and that has to do with the issue of state police. The time is now. This rampant security challenge is virtually everywhere. This issue of state police, we need to pursue it.

“If we have the state police, we may not need Amotekun. It will be a great fight for our people. We must stand together.”

Analysts believe taht whatever the case is and whatever way the Federal Government sees it, state police may just be the way out of the present quagmire, as at least, state governors may be able to proactively nip in the bud, the many cases of insecurity confronting their states!

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