Insecurity: Giving attention to decentralising security structures in Nigeria’s Federal formation


The subject of state police has been one of the topical state-of-the-nation discourse in recent time. However, the controversies surrounding the possibilities of having state police portend a blurry reflection. The subject falls among one of those definite necessities requiring structural redefinition of refocusing the institutional orientation of Government in the Country. Hence, any profound move to bringing the subject to an institutionalised reality would demand constitutional modifications. Increasing calls have led the National Assembly, among other subjects of significance, to have state police on the list in the recent move to reviewing the Federation’s 1999 Constitution.

The overarching centralisation of security functions in the Federal Government has practically placed institutional restrictions which more or less have handicapped State Governments, and more narrowly, local authorities from taking elaborate steps to pragmatically attend effectively to local security threats, some of which assume peculiar dimensions within local jurisdictions. Hence, the prevailing framework which places security legislation on the exclusive legislative list of the Federal Government has constituted unavoidable limitations tying the hands of State Governments to legislate proactively and execute  security necessities forcefully in response to rising security threats.

The structural restrictions posed by the Constitution could be traced to why efforts by State Governments to constitute security formations within their jurisdictions have been coloured with much controversies. One locus classicus in this regard, is the crated South-West designed security outfit tagged ‘Amotekun’ by Governor’s of the geopolitical zone. The reactionary forces which rose against the security formation both from the Federal Government, and some zones of the Federation, as well as several other stakeholders, could be penned down as offshoots of the limitations giving expression to the barricades posed by the Country’s constitution. While the outfit  might have generated so much controversies with sensations of hostility, the fact that the manifestations of rising societal ravages from insecurity demand firm security necessities than the prevailing centralised security system, cannot be argued not to be glaring enough.

The collision of myriad of security threats with destabilising effects on the entire fabrics of the Country, speaks volume of the significant necessity of decentralising security structures to give stronger firmness of responsiveness to local threats. However, the prevailing structures appear to impose barricades  to giving worthwhile expression to addressing these realities. Records of how local security formations have proven effective in addressing certain local threats have established the prospect of how far decentralisation of security functions in the Federation can go in addressing the albatross of insecurity in the Country. It is however, lamentable that constitutional limitations have not given expression to such reality.

Last Friday, the Governor of Borno State, Governor Babagana Zulum, had in Owerri at a Leadership Award to be bestowed on him by the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Imo state Council,  spoken on how far local vigilante has been instrumental in tackling the numerous security challenges confronting his State. Zulum who at the function  was represented by his Senior Special Assistant (SSA) on Media, Baba Shaikeh Haruna, had stressed that local vigilante was part of the indigenous efforts put in place by his administration to protect the lives and properties of the people.

He was quoted: “We, in Borno state, have been experiencing security challenges since 12 years, however, a lot of transformation is taking place but part of what we are doing to put under control the security situation in the state is to engage the local vigilante. They have taken over the policing of the State to the extent that they had driven the insurgents far away from the State to Sambisa forest. Another thing, we have been able to do is to operate a cabinet of all Nigerians to see that nobody complains of being marginalised. If you come to Maiduguri, you will not believe it, it is even safer than Abuja. Sometimes the way people analyse the security issue in Borno, it is not the way you see it when you come to the State.”

The time to modify the existing provisions of the constitution to give expression to present realities is no more than now. It is apparent that  several existing provisions of the constitution have left in position, structures which can no longer respond to the evolution of new realities. Hence, it is glaring that the enlargement and evolution of the Nigerian society have raised complexities which in their offshooting tendencies have outgrown the structural formations of several institutions, whose working state of establishment find  expression in the Constitution. The need for the Government, particularly the Lawmakers to take awakening posture to lead the course towards modifying these antiquated provisions which in their character are by and large irresponsive to prevailing circumstances and realities, is sacrosanct. The structural formation of security architecture in the Country falls within this category of thought.

It is therefore, important for all relevant government stakeholders to awake to the necessity of instituting the processes of decentralising security structures in the Federation by channeling efforts towards constructive redefinition of the prevailing formations  by statutory modifications. Such modifications should adequately give ample perimeters to state and community policing, envisioned to proactively and responsively meet rising security challenges which may in their peculiar dimensions strategically require proximal measures of attention, which State Governments and local authorities can optimally and better legislate upon.