OPINION: APPRAISING THE WESTERN NIGERIA SECURITY NETWORK

Group of People Waving Flag of Nigeria in Back Lit

As Nigerians eagerly await the commencement of the Western Nigerian Security Network (WSNW), it is only appropriate to attempt an overview of its existence.

The WSNW is a response to the aggravated security situation in the region. The most perturbing is the spike in highway abductions that has quickly become a fad, and is also creating a local form of xenophobia against the Fulani who are mostly blamed for the abductions.

The swift action of the six Yoruba governors is commendable but we must ask important questions: the legality of the outfit, the modus operandi and even, its life span.

Yes, the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) has given an approval in principle to the governors for the establishment of a task force. I have not seen, read or heard any comments from Nigeria’s many lawyers on the legal ramifications of such a task force, so I will assume all is well on the legal angle.

The mode of recruitment, the hierarchy of command, types of weapons to be carried by the personnel, and issues of discipline are some of the concerns on the operation of the task force. I expect some hoopla on these fronts.

Already, as reported by The Punch on the 2 nd of September, there is claim of recruitment of hoodlums into the task force. I think this is only the beginning of bad behavior if the claim is true, but I do strongly wish that I am proved wrong.

The WSNW should not be another ‘job-for-the-boys’ scheme as all ventures seem to be in Nigeria.

The overseeing agency, the Development Agency for Western Nigeria (DAWN) has to get its acts together and set a standard. We demand nothing short of complete transparency: what is the size of the task force? How much is each man entitled to? How often is each man paid: weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly?

Anything short of full transparency will be unacceptable.

We also want to know the lifespan of this network. I believe it is a child of necessity sprung from the tacit admittance of the Nigerian Police Force that it is supine in frontally tackling this menace. It is true that many arrests have been made, but we have not made any convictions – what is happening?

Good police work is not only apprehensions of criminals, it is also prevention of crime – intelligence. If I were to set an agenda for the WSNW it would be to excel in intelligence-gathering. In any case, we have been told that the task force will be peopled by local hunters and the popular regional vigilante, the OPC, so intelligence should not be too much of a big deal, these guys supposedly know the terrain.

Funding of the taskforce and training of the personnel are also critical. All along state governments have made significant funding to the Nigerian police thus it should not be hard for the governors to parlay some of their opaque and humongous security budgets to the WSNW.

Osun has already declared 20 APCs to the outfit. We await all the modalities of funding. We also want to know if there will be prior trailing for the personnel or if it is simply going to be crude off-the-cuff policing.

Most importantly, we need an answer to the duration of the WSNW. Is it a perpetual force, a fixture of the Nigerian security architecture? I am a strong opponent of state policing for now, for reasons I have stated elsewhere.

A regional ‘police service’ is slightly appealing because it is less prone to abuse – not immune to it. Is the outfit being established to eliminate the forest and highway menace and will dissolve after that or will it take on further responsibilities to justify its continued existence? Many self-serving politicians will be on the alert right now and all discerning citizens have to be just as alert.

I still insist on the Nigerian Police Force. The president is overhauling the Nigerian Police. Dear Mr President, in addition to up-to-date gadgets, better training, and improved intelligence-gathering techniques, let the men and women of the police get better welfare: more humane work schedules, higher pay, good health and life insurance packages are necessary as well.

And really, I do not see the reason for a police ministry when there is a police service commission that could well remain in the ministry of interior. We need to buck wastage and duplication. At this point also, the legislature at all levels needs to discuss the need to define constitutional roles for traditional rulers.

They cannot continue to be figure heads. For any security mechanism to succeed it must be driven by innovative and all-encompassing strategies.

***Jubril Adisa writes from Lagos

 

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