By Chimdi Maduagwu
I am impressed by the recommendation of the sub-committee of the National Delegates Conference on Securities for the creation of Ministry or Department of Homeland Securities. This is good emulation; I do not want to say, imitation because the American essayist RW Emerson advised that “imitation is suicide.” Once more we are in the process of following the footsteps of those we have always pretended to follow.
The difference, this time, is that we want to emulate rather than imitate. America is the country we want to follow after. She has a very impressive Homeland Securities System, including Customs and Border Operations (CBO) and Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). I will be surprised if there was any one in the National Conference who has not been to America. So it made sense to all of them when Homeland Securities was mentioned. For many of us, we are used to “Internal Affairs,” which not too long ago metamorphosed into “Interior.” We need to know their perspectives of Homeland Security so that we can be rest assured it will work.
Nigeria is our home, no doubt about this and by security; we mean safe-keeping or protection (of our homeland). I propose that we look at this from a double perspective. The first view should be protecting our home from external aggression; and the second, more like, safeguarding our home from ourselves. What I understand will then entail an omnibus organization of precautions; protective as well as defense measures. I then wonder: who will be responsible for the tasks associated with the proposed organization. Right now, my imagination has gone wild, traversing existing units and departments of government like the armed forces (sorry, this is a specialized arm of government that is solely charged with defense against external aggression), the police; the prisons, customs and immigration services; land, air and water transportation; civil defense and other organized security units, which represent government interests; emergency management agencies; drugs law enforcement, agriculture and food administration and several others like them. Believe me; my thoughts are greatly influenced by the establishment in 2002, by President George Bush, of the Department of Homeland Securities in USA.
That was an immediate aftermath of the September 11, 2001 (9/11) bombing of the twin towers, World Trade Center in New York. The government of USA merged about 22 hitherto different departments, units and sub units into the present Department of Homeland Securities.
We waited to have our own bitter pill before thinking of a reorganization of our security system. The surge of Boko Haram has thrown a challenge to the existing system. The same evil of terrorism that prompted the US to do what have heard spotlights on this department nor deliberate policy statements by both government and nongovernmental organization. Prisons have continued to be areas where convicted persons are punished. In other words, the convicted persons are written off and disowned by the society. In prison, they are forgotten. I have an idea that modern criminal justice system has a benevolent side and is capable of reforming, sometimes. This means that while jail houses could be punitive, there is also a possibility that the same houses could reform and transform formal criminals to productive citizens. I am very passionate about this possibility. When I walk the streets of our major cities, like many other citizens, I am taken over by fear because I see many unclassified criminals walking freely. This suggests to me that we are all sitting on a volcano. They commit crimes that are not reported and drive fears deeply into the populace; they could, through some sinister acts obtain wealth and prominence, become party members, contest or sponsor elections and get into high offices and endanger the polity; and my reaction is: can’t something be done? Will the new idea of homeland securities be able to take care of them? Well let me not go into deep analyses and exemplifications because I am convinced that many people know what I am saying. I will go straight into my suggestions.
If we have a police system that has a strong relationship with “grassroots” then securities will be more approachable. We should be able to creatively deduce means of dealing with security issues at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels. Maybe we could adopt the American system of “Localism.” In simple terms, allow locales to manage their primary securities. Permission or approval should be given for the establishment of local and community policing. Formal police departments ought to exist, first, at the local government level (primary), then the state (secondary) and also at the federal levels (tertiary).
The security of the generality of our citizens is more important than the selfish argument on victimization and intimidation of individuals perceived as opponents of those in power both at the state and local government levels. By the way, it appears I am proposing the local government police, which people have not talked much about hitherto. This will then be a precursor to the establishment of modern jails at the local government, state and federal levels. It will also mean establishment of more courts and appointment of more judges.
If this becomes the case, then implementation of the rule of law and dispensation of justice would have been taken care of. No one will ridicule our country any more.
We would have become, as they would say, civilized. I understand this will require huge investments on the part of government. But let me again remind all that there is hardly any citizen of this country today, who lives in the city or any growing community who does not spend “reasonably” on security; either on street or other forms of community security arrangement. For this reason, it will not be strange to all of us if a little more is demanded of us as part of our contribution to a better security arrangement.
Once the grassroots are secured, then the rest will be in place. The state, which should handle the secondary matters, could be entrusted with more complicated issues like those involving road transportation, robberies of higher magnitude etc, while the technical cases, especially felony and other crimes against the country at the local and international levels should be handled by the federal authorities at the tertiary level. If this framework is activated and properly expatiated, there is likely going to be a measure of success in the management of our dear nation’s homeland security.