BY EMMANUEL AZIKEN, KINGSLEY OMONOBI, EVELYN USMAN, IKECHUKWU NNOCHIRI & JOSEPH ERUNKE
FORMER State Security Service, SSS chief and security consultant, Barr. Mike Ejiofor, saw the summit as a good development which would help policing in Nigeria because it provided a platform where different people came with different presentations for Nigeria to have a secured country. While urging other security agencies to key into the initiative, Ejiofor hoped that the forum would lead to transformation of the country via police force.
Vanguard Editor-in-Chief, Gbenga Adefaye said Vanguard has a duty to build a just society. He said Vanguard organised the forum as part of its social responsibility towards making the country a just society. He identified the police as an action agency that does not require an intermediary.
For him, the security challenge is not beyond the ordinary stating that Vanguard believed that working together with an action agency like the police, it could make a difference.
The FCT Commissioner of Polce, Adenrele Shinaba, said the conference could not have come at a better time than this in view of current security challenges in the country and what happened in 2012.
Former IGP, Mike Okiro said policing was not a preserve of the Police alone. He said the summit was well-timed, coming at the heels of several security challenges in Nigeria. He added that it would help people within the security agencies know what they should do and enable Nigerians know that security is not a preserve of the police alone.
On social justice administration in Nigeria, Okiro said social injustice it is not enough reason for Nigerian youths to take up arms to avenge their anger but should seek better options to assuage their grievances. He said: “You can’t visit your anger on fellow citizens because of an injustice being meted on you because innocent citizens suffer the effect of insecurity most.” On the issue of understaffing of police, the former police boss said “Nigeria police is understaffed due to certain prevailing circumstances in the country.” He, however, noted that emphasis is not being laid on manpower but on technology.
For the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar, all hands must be on deck because Nigeria needs to be more serious on security matters than before, saying that the goal of the police is to ensure that all hands are on deck to ensure security. He said: “All efforts are geared towards ensuring the security of lives and property of citizens, which is very paramount to us. We now have a very serious management team in the police. We are committed to doing our duty as stipulated by the constitution. Since I came on board, I tried to address issues that have to do with human rights and justice to all, that is why my numbers are available to ensure that those who are unjustly treated get justified.”
Presentation of papers
Four papers were presented in the afternoon session following the opening ceremony at the National Security Summit in Abuja yesterday.
They are: Building Sustainable Trust between public and law enforcement agencies for effective national security was presented by Prof. Etannibi Alemika; Constitutional framework for national integration, peace and security by Prof. Itse Sagay; Reviewing the Nigeria criminal justice system for effective internal security by Mr. Okey Wali, SAN; and Inter Agency Cooperation in defending the nation against security challenges by Mr. Collins Sullivan of the United States embassy.
The discussants of the papers were CP Frank Odita (rtd.), Barr (Mrs.) Gloria Egbuji, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), IGP Mike Okiro (rtd.) and Geoff Hunter, a Special Agent of the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation, FBI.
In his contribution, retired Assistant Inspector-General of Police, Felix Ogbaidu, a lawyer, said there was no need for formation of the State Police, noting that it was capital intensive and some states would not be financially viable to fund their police units to achieve the desired objectives. “Where can our states get the money required to properly fund the state police,” he asked?
Besides, he regretted that the National Assembly was made up of some people who according to him have criminal cases hanging on their necks in law courts, advising that at the next constitutional amendment, such issues should be taken seriously with a view to disallowing people with criminal cases from seeking representation in the National Assembly.
For Deputy Inspector-General of Police, Mr Atiku Kafur, contrary to some people’s belief that the police was getting security information but blatantly refusing to act on them, the reverse was the case. He particularly mentioned the volatile areas of the North, especially Maiduguri, where he regretted that the indigenes and even traditional rulers were not forth-coming with security information that could assist and enhance the operational duties of the police.
“I denied that the police is getting information on most of the security problems but failing to act. The police act on information given but the problem the police have in these states with serious security problems is that indigenes and even traditional rulers of those areas don’t give information that could help solve most of the security problems”, he lamented.
Permanent data base
On his part, Deputy Inspector General of Police, Sulaiman Fakai, disclosed that plans were in the offing by the Nigeria Police to establish permanent data base for fingerprint and DNA, a development, he said, was to ensure there was a proper record keeping for offenders just as he said the inability of the system had helped suspects to evade proper trials at the law courts.
Colonel Tony Nyiam (rtd), in his submission, regretted that the Nigeria constitution vests the appointment of the Inspector General of police on the president of the country, saying for the Nigeria Police to perform its constitutional duties in line with set goals, there was the need to first, detach it from the executive influence.
The police should be freed from the executive, be it federal or state. The police have to be owned by the people, that is, the community. In addition to the Federal Police, there should be State or Local police. Those who need them should have them while those who don’t should stay”, he said. But his view was instantly punctured by the Force Headquarters’ image maker, Frank Mbah, who argued that Nigeria was not ripe for establishment of state police, citing the abuse of conduct of election at the local government level in the country by state governors as example.
He denied that state police commissioners were not carrying directives from their state governors, saying the police commissioners could only ignore such orders only when they were considered to be in bad faith. “The situation with Nigeria today, does not encourage state police. The reason we have not had elections at the local government level today is that state governors have exclusive powers to appoint state electoral commission chairmen. It is easy to buy 10, 20 or 50 vehicles for the Federal Police than to fund the state police”.
He was promptly supported by Comrade Amechi Omagbitse, leader of Itsekiri Ethnic Nationality, who argued that Nigeria had not matured for establishment of state police, noting that state governors would capitalize on it to victimize perceived opponents.
Exoneration of judiciary
Joshua Alobo a legal practitioner, made frantic efforts to exonerate the judiciary from blame. According to him, “This issue of justice is like a two-way traffic, the impunity is not limited to the judiciary alone. The Police force is the reason for the current insecurity we are facing today because of the manner they handled the situation between leaders of the Boko Haram sect and the government, that is the main reason for the current insecurity.
Likewise, the National President of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Chief Okey Wali, SAN, added, “Yes, a lot has been said about the attitude of judges and lawyers, but most unfortunately I was not given enough time to address all of that in my presentation.
One of the problems lawyers are facing is that no matter the crime committed, an accused is assumed innocent until proven guilty. It is a case of professional misconduct for a lawyer to turn-down a brief on mere assumption that someone is guilty.
Meanwhile, the summit received added piquancy after one of the guest speakers and renowned constitutional lawyer, Professor Itse Sagay, SAN, while presenting his paper lambasted kidnappers as worse than members of the Boko Haram sect. Sagay said: “I have more respect for Boko Haram than kidnappers. Why? Because they have principle they are fighting for unlike kidnappers who to my assessment are mostly greedy and lazy people.”
Before Sagay could regain his seat, another SAN, Chief Mike Ozekhome who was selected as a discussant on the topic, took the rostrum and expressed contrary view, insisting that unlike Boko Haram, kidnappers hardly harm their victims after collecting ransom. He said: “I disagree that Boko Haram is more likeable than kidnappers. For instance, Okonjo Iweala’s mum was kidnapped recently but immediately the ransom was paid she was released.”
Ozekhome further disagreed that a territory should be created for the Boko Haram sect as was suggested by Sagay. He argued that section 214 of the Constitution should be amended so as to remove “Force” from the Nigerian Police. Likewise, he canvassed for the creation of state police which he said would help in curbing the heightening wave of violence and insecurity in the country.
Sagay was to return to clarify that he was not excusing the atrocities of Boko Haram members, but only making his repugnance on the activities of kidnappers who he said were fighting for nothing other than money. Besides, Ozekhome was of the view that the police should be unbundled, noting that it is currently over centralized.
On state of the nation, he said: “Corruption today has become the 37th state in Nigeria aside the Federal Capital Territory; in fact, it is the richest state in the country today. Today, we don’t even hear of millions again, it has elevated to billions. In fact we have already graduated to trillions as was seen in the fuel subsidy brouhaha and very soon, we may reach the zillion.
“I think the National Assembly is not helping us too much, in 2000 and 2001, Nigeria carried Gold, Silver and Bronze medals in corruption as released by the Amnesty International. The truth is that we don’t need a bi-cameral legislation. Is it not a pity that 85% of our national budget is not spent on capital projects but on re-current expenditures? For me, I believe that three legislators per state are enough to keep us in this country,” he added.
Nigeria Police cannot do more, justice favours the rich – Femi Falana
The paper presented by the National Bar Association, NBA president, Barrister Obi Wali, SAN on “Reviewing the Nigerian Criminal Justice System for Effective Internal Security” was discussed by civil rights lawyer, Femi Falana, SAN who made one of the most applauded presentations.
Falana said: “The Nigeria Police Force cannot do more than it is doing today in terms of promoting the criminal justice system in our country. The criminal justice system is virtually dead now, in fact we can say that it has been hijacked by the bourgeois, the rich people in our society and that is why only the ordinary people are heralded to jail everyday. “
About 90 per cent of prosecution in our country is done in the magistrate courts, area courts and sharia courts mostly by police prosecutors.
“There is deliberate manipulation of the criminal justice system and any country that allows the rich to hijack its laws cannot have peace and stability and that is what has happened in our country. You cannot have good governance where the culture of impunity has been institutionalised.”