THISDAY reports that the much-anticipated National Security Summit hosted by the Senate was convened in Abuja Thursday during which Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo threw his weight behind the creation of state police and community policing as a way of tackling rising insecurity in the country.
He equally said that the federal government’s failure to ensure security, which every Nigerian is entitled to, was not a deliberate act, but caused by the complex nature of the security challenges and the obstacles faced by security agencies in the discharge of their duties.
Osinbajo, in his address at the summit, listed some of the issues that had diminished the ability of the state to adequately secure its citizens to include an inadequate police force, inadequate funding of the security infrastructure, complexity of the security challenges, and the proliferation of small and light weapons magnified by the fall of the late Muammar Gaddafi in Libya.
“For a country our size to meet the one policeman to 400 persons, according to the UN prescribed ratio, we would require almost triple the number of our current police force.
“Far more funding for the military and security agencies is required. We cannot police a country the size of Nigeria centrally from Abuja. State police and other community policing methods are clearly the way to go,” he said.
Osinbajo stressed that every Nigerian was entitled to adequate security from government for their lives and livelihoods.
“Government fails in that responsibility often, but I must say never deliberately. Every killing demeans us as a people. Every killing undermines the authority of the state.
“The failure to protect the lives of the innocent is inexcusable and we cannot rationalise and diminish that failure of the security apparatus of government in any way,” Osinbajo added.
Despite the challenges that have constrained the security agencies, they have performed creditably well, the vice-president maintained and listed the degrading of Boko Haram, arrests of criminal kingpins and others, among the successes.
The vice-president also defended his principal, President Muhammadu Buhari, who has been criticised as being slow in responding to the killings resulting from herdsmen and farmers’ clashes, because he is a Fulani man.
“In any event, the herdsmen and farmers’ clashes resulting in deaths have been on for at least two decades. I have worked with him for three years now and I do not know of any one issue that has given him more concern, on which he has spent more time on security issues, as this particular issue,” Osinbajo said.
He assured Nigerians that the executive was working in collaboration with several states to implement workable solutions to the constant clashes between farmers and herdsmen, and to work out plans for cattle breeding and cattle rearing that may include some temporary methods.
To this end, Osinbajo disclosed that about 13 states had agreed to allocate 5,000 hectares of lands for livestock production.
He, however, reiterated that land would not be taken forcefully to create ranches or grazing areas.
“All insinuations to that effect should be disregarded. Instead, it is our view that states that are willing should co-operate with willing investors to set up commercially viable and government-supported ranches or livestock production centres for commercial use,” he said.
He, however, stated that in several states, especially in the north, there were duly designated grazing zones and grazing reserves which had been degraded and left without pasture or water especially in the dry season.
The grazing routes leading to these reserves must also be secured, Osinbajo said, for the reserves to operate effectively and operate as ranches for livestock production centres on a commercial basis, with essential services to boost animal care.
Osinbajo cautioned against giving a religious or ethnic colouration to the herdsmen-farmers’ and other clashes across the country.
Speaking earlier, the President of the Senate Bukola Saraki called for the political will to tackle the level of insecurity ravaging Nigeria.
“I daresay the political will is what is required; and it is my hope that we shall marshal it as a legitimate instrument against this problem. Indeed, there is no reason why that should not be the case.
“This is not a summit to trade blame – in no way is this a blame game. Neither is it convened so that any person or entity can take credit. We just want solutions. Solutions only. That is all Nigerians require of us,” Saraki said.
He pledged the commitment of the National Assembly to work with the executive to tackle the hydra-headed monster of insecurity.
“The sharp increase in murderous violence over and above the relatively manageable level of insecurity that has plagued our country for some time jolted us out of any last vestiges of complacency or denial. There can be no denying the horrific reality in many parts of our country today.
“People who should be neighbours are turning on one another and taking up arms. These attacks and reprisals are an intolerable cycle of hell that must be broken.
“Killings, kidnappings, mayhem and general lawlessness cannot be the new normal. We must take this country back and restore order,” Saraki said.
Saraki also urged Nigerian leaders as well as the security agencies to stop playing politics and trading blame over the killings in the country.
He explained that no one organisation or arm of government can single-handedly tackle insecurity in the country, noting: “What our country needs at this time is leadership that will work to douse the flames and reduce tension in the land.
“It is essential that we lower the barriers in our actions and rhetoric, and refrain from playing politics with a crisis situation in which Nigerian lives are being lost tragically and needlessly on a regular basis.
“To the executive, I say this: you cannot do it alone – and this is why we are all here to join efforts. It is all hands on deck. No one person, organisation or arm of government can single-handedly tackle the hydra-headed monster of insecurity.
“The Constitution makes it clear that the safety of lives and property of citizens is the responsibility of government. We in government must therefore do everything in our power to ensure that Nigerians are safe from harm and their livelihoods and belongings protected.”
The first day of the two-day summit took place at the NAF Conference Centre, Abuja, and is aimed at providing solutions to the security challenges in Nigeria.
The summit brings together a wide spectrum of stakeholders including: political leaders, security policy makers, governors – who are chief security officers in their states, security and intelligence chiefs, key persons in the nation’s security architecture, regional and socio-cultural groups, traditional rulers, civil society organisations (CSOs) and others.
The Summit will continue on Monday