BY CHARLES KUMOLU
LAWYER, activist, Mike Igini is the Cross River State Resident Electoral Commissioner. In this interview, he called for the decentralization of the policing system in Nigeria as a way of assisting current efforts at fighting insecurity, frowns at illegal appropriation of funds by public officials among other issues. Excerpts:
The failure of governments at all levels to provide security has generated questions on what concerned public officials like president, governors, local government chairmen, ministers and others do with their security votes?
Indeed it is time to ask those questions, but apart from asking such questions, we also must start from the very conception of security needs as it pertains to our current needs. Without doubt it is clear from the outcome in terms of security that much is being done, nevertheless whatever is being done has not been sufficient.
Kano State governor, Rabiu Kwakwanso had last year stopped the disbursement of security votes alleging it was a smokescreen by governors to divert public funds. Do you agree?
As I said above, much may have been done, but as long as the conditions remain insecure all such efforts will be perceived as insufficient, because security is a binary conception. It has only two acceptable variables, secure or insecure, there is no middle ground. Unfortunately, Kano does not rank as one of the safest states these days, I would have said the governor made a very wise decision, nevertheless it hardly matters how much is allocated to security if the outcome is ineffective.
The concern of Nigerians has not been so much the amount allocated as the opacity of the process of utilizing such allocations effectively. If you say you want money to build five warships to go to war and the soldiers get to the war front to find only two ships with half the troops stranded, your own soldiers will kill you first before the enemy.
Given that the votes are not provided for in the constitution, don’t you think it is high-time that the practice is outlawed?
What is unconstitutional is unlawful, I do not subscribe to any form of appropriation that is not vetted, it may be done before or after it has been applied depending on its need, but it should be susceptible to scrutiny if not by a large group but by at least a specialized group. The core motivation of democratic leadership is the necessity to be accountable to electors or the representatives of electors.
Governor Adams Oshiomhole has argued for governors to have control over state police commissioners as a way of boosting security. Do you agree?
He has made a very important point because the ambit of control of those who implement security should be reasonably defined at the different levels of need, for as the basic principles of administrative control suggests, regarding the span of control of someone responsible for a task, such a person must be directly responsible to a single source of control.
However I must float a caveat, we have never heard of a Local government chairperson who requires lawful use of a DPO (Divisional police Officer), or of a state governor who requires the lawful use of a state police Commissioner who did not get the required response due to his or her authority. Moreover, the most strident opposition to the devolution of policing powers has unfortunately come from those who most need the devolution
My view is that we should devolve and de-concentrate policing powers on local issues to give elected people at lower levels sufficient leverage on security, allowing states and local government to invest appropriately in security infrastructure according to local needs, but we cannot dispense with a national police service at our current developmental stage
How best do you think the public anger against the existence of security votes can be doused?
Security is expensive, to train, deploy and maintain a single security personnel is not a cheap exercise, let alone a detachment of troops, but to do so must be effective and the process of doing it should not be opaque, besides, if you are doing so to secure people why should they not know what it cost and how you have expended resources to achieve it?
Nonetheless, to douse public anger , first expenditure on security should be effective, then the appropriate personnel to address security issues should be used when dealing with security challenges; let the security personnel do their part, but where you require sociologists, psychologists, judicial expertise, economic and political decisions, the right people should be brought in, the use of force is only one aspect of conflict management, if we do not have such a paradigmatic approach we would find ourselves using a motor saw when what is required is a lancet.
Second security is what we do together ultimately, and I believe therefore that at the root of our insecurity is the inability to have a common understanding of who we are as a people, we are too suspicious of ourselves and hence we protect the wrong people amongst us for the wrong reasons, if we share common values and accept the areas where we have necessary differences, it will be easier to pick out the deviants who aim to destroy all of us, when we do that, we can be like the Bostonians in the USA who all stood together, locked down their state just to pick out a few people who refused to share their common needs for security which fosters prosperity.
But ironically, in Nigeria at the early stages of this Boko Haram insurgency, we saw how the same people that security men were risking their lives to protect hailed and celebrated the killing of security men and the bombing of police stations. Could the Boston bombers been killed and the other arrested if the people had not co-operated the security services ?