President Muhammadu Buhari says that collaboration between traditional and state authorities is crucial in community policing.
Buhari, represented by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, made this submission while declaring open the 2019 General Assembly of the National Council of Traditional Rulers of Nigeria (NCTRN) on Wednesday in Abuja.
The focus of the 2019 general assembly is on the role of traditional rulers in community policing and in addressing the menace of drug abuse.
“In 2018, I inaugurated the Presidential Advisory Committee on the Elimination of Drug Abuse to address this challenge.
“ The committee has concluded its assignment and submitted its report; in order to effectively implement its recommendations on drug demand reduction, governments at all levels must work together with traditional rulers.
“But it is perhaps in the functioning of community policing that the collaboration between traditional and state authority is most imperative.
“The reasons are obvious; first, is surveillance and the provision of intelligence; as community leaders, you are much more familiar with your immediate environment than any state law enforcement agency or agencies can aspire to be from our remote perch.
He said that the vast network of confidence open to traditional institutions was uniquely-positioned to provide the government with valuable intelligence that could help detect criminal activities early and prevent or stop such before they escalated.
According to him, the second reason is the monitoring and maintenance of the community policing structures.
“By virtue of your positions, your majesties will be able to see what works and what does not.
“Ultimately, because you are largely immune from the upheaval of each four-year political term, traditional fathers can ensure that these structures of community policing are maintained and improved beyond the terms of the elected national and state leaderships.
“Third is in the moderation of the activities of all actors especially the civilian participants in community policing to ensure that the community police system does not become oppressive on the people and communities that they are to serve, and that there are no abuses of power or high handedness in the enforcement of laws.
“I thank you for your unrelenting efforts in tackling some of the deepest and most malignant social ills in our societies,’’
Buhari said that the 2018 National Drug Use Survey indicated that there were 14.3 million drug users between the ages of 15 and 64.
He said that drug use was most common among those between the ages of 25 and 29 years which were the years of peak productivity in anyone’s lifespan.
Buhari said that the figures were stark and their implications dire as substance addiction posed a clear danger to public health and public safety.
The president urged the traditional rulers to consider the complexity of drug abuse as a crime.
He said that the diversion of opioid-based medications like tramadol and cough syrups containing codeine from their prescribed medical use to the illicit market had spawned an epidemic of substance abuse and rise in related mental and neurological ailments.
Buhari called for synergy in establishing valuable prevention and resolution mechanisms; and ensuring that young people everywhere were educated on the gravity of the risks involved in drug abuse.
In his opening remarks, the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, co-Chairman, NCTRN, said that the unity of the country lay in the hands of traditional rulers.
He said that the traditional rulers knew the grassroots; hence the need to work with government in policing the communities and moving the country forward.
Ogunwusi cautioned against interference with the structure of the traditional institution.
On his part, the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mr Muhammad Adamu, in a keynote address, said that that policing strategy was changing towards community policing.
He said that in every state, there would be a committee on community policing which would be driven by traditional rulers.
The IG-P said that the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) and other senior police officers in such areas would only come to support.
He said that community policing strategy had been useful in containing banditry and kidnapping in the North-West zone of the country.
In a vote of thanks, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Abubakar, co-Chairman of NCTRN, called on the executive and the legislature to protect the traditional institution from undue interference.
“How can you formulate a law that will stop any governor or local government chairman from delving into issues of tradition and culture of our people.
“There should be a law and that will protect the dignity and respect of any traditional ruler whether he is first-class or 100 class,’’ he said.
The highpoint of the event was the unveiling of the 2020 Calendar of the NCTRN by the vice-president.