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Editorial

The need for public participation, consultation in establishment of State Police

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In the midst of growing consensus and demand for  state police across Nigeria, it is crucial to address  the concerns raised by certain stakeholders  regarding the decentralisation of civil security.

While there are legitimate fears that state governors may misuse their power to oppress political opponents, leading to conflicts over jurisdiction between federal and state police, and exacerbating ethnic divisions and discrimination nationwide, it is reassuring to know that the legislation on state policing can include practical provisions to prevent such abuses.

Recently, President Bola Tinubu and the 36 state governors convened an emergency meeting on February 15 in Abuja, where they agreed to legalise state police through an amendment to the 1999 Constitution, which currently grants exclusive authority to the Federal Government. Building on this momentum, the House of Representatives has initiated legislative work on the bill for state police, spearheaded by Deputy Speaker Benjamin Kalu.

The history of policing in Nigeria experienced its first fracture following the military coup on January 15, 1966, which toppled the civilian government. The coup leaders transformed Nigeria into a unitary state, dismantling the regional policing system established by the British colonialists.

Despite a brief period of civilian rule in 1979, the reintroduction of state police has eluded the political class until now. This moment presents an opportune time to rectify this historical oversight.

During the previous administration of Muhammadu Buhari (2015-2023), security breaches reached alarming levels, prompting the South-West governors to push for the establishment of the Amotekun corps, a modified version of state police.

However, President Buhari and his allies covertly and overtly resisted these efforts. Notably, former Kaduna Central Senatorial District lawmaker, Shehu Sani, has emerged as a prominent opponent of state police, refusing to endorse its establishment.In conclusion, as the clamor for state police intensifies, it is essential to address the concerns raised by skeptics. By incorporating safeguards into the legislation, we can ensure that state governors are prevented from abusing their power.

The time has come to rectify the historical shortcomings and embrace the establishment of state police as a means to enhance security and foster unity in Nigeria.

Southern Kaduna has become a hub of violence, with frequent killings, abductions, and arson by bandits. However, there are concerns that the ruling party in the state will exploit this situation to legitimize thuggery, oppress opposition parties, harass non-indigenous people, and engage in other corrupt activities. This could lead to a power struggle between the federal and state police forces, resulting in anarchy.

These fears are not unfounded, as there have been instances of former governors deploying security agents to target their political opponents, including the author of this argument. Some governors have also influenced the police to arrest journalists and critics on false charges.

This argument is supported by Salihu Yakassai, a politician from the First Republic Northern Elements Progressive Union, and Jubril Ibrahim, a professor of political science. They warn that state policing could lead to the proliferation of firearms, conflicts of interest in the security system, and pose a threat to national unity.Critics also argue that governors would struggle to fund state police.

This viewpoint is shared by Olusola Subair, a retired Assistant Inspector-General of Police, as well as many other retired and serving Nigerian police officers. However, despite these valid concerns, they are not strong enough to dismiss the idea of state policing altogether. The current security system in Nigeria has completely broken down, making it necessary to explore alternative solutions.

Additionally, these counterarguments fail to acknowledge the widespread human rights abuses, extrajudicial killings, extortion, torture, and interference in elections that occur under the Nigeria Police Force. Innocent people are often arrested for simply “wandering,” and many others are subjected to brutal treatment. With only 371,000 police personnel in a country of 220 million people, the shortage of personnel is worsened by the fact that a third of them are deployed for illegal VIP duties. This alone justifies the need for police devolution.

The year 2020 witnessed a wave of protests in Nigeria, known as the #EndSARS movement, which was sparked by the brutal treatment of young people by the police. Amnesty International reported that 15 lives were tragically lost during the attack on defenseless youths at the Lekki Tollgate in Lagos by security agents.

This incident, along with the regular misuse of federal police by governors to suppress opposition and perpetrate heinous acts, highlighted the urgent need for change. One glaring issue that became apparent was the insufficient number of police officers in the country. Many communities were left without adequate police presence, allowing criminals to operate with impunity. The situation was so dire that the Governor of Katsina, Aminu Masari, expressed his dismay, revealing that only 30 police officers were responsible for safeguarding 100 villages in the state.

This lack of security had devastating consequences, as evidenced by the alarming number of lives lost during Tinubu’s first seven months in office and the gruesome Christmas massacres in Plateau State. The mayhem continued to spread, with Katsina, Zamfara, Kaduna, Benue, Niger, and Taraba falling victim to vicious attacks by marauders. Governor Hyacinth Alia of Benue even claimed that foreign herdsmen from Niger Republic had infiltrated the state.

These horrifying statistics only worsened under the leadership of Tinubu’s predecessor, Buhari, with a staggering 63,111 reported killings, according to SBM Intelligence. Former Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo repeatedly advocated for the implementation of state policing, recognizing that law enforcement is a local responsibility.

He emphasised that Nigeria, with its vast size, cannot effectively police the entire country from a centralized location like Abuja. It is perplexing that Nigeria stands alone as the only federal entity in the world without devolved policing. In contrast, all other 24 federal countries have embraced this approach, including Germany, Australia, Brazil, Belgium, Sweden, and Switzerland, where policing is decentralized to regional or state levels.

In light of these circumstances, it is evident that Nigeria must embrace innovative solutions to address the pressing issue of security. Devolving policing powers to the states would not only ensure a more efficient and localized approach but also empower communities to take charge of their own safety. It is time for Nigeria to join the ranks of other federal nations and adopt a progressive and effective system of state policing.

The policing system in Canada consists of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and municipal police forces. The RCMP enforces federal laws and provides policing services in most provinces and territories. Municipalities also have their own police forces. Nigeria should learn from federal countries like Canada and the United Kingdom to improve security.

The issue of jurisdiction and funding should be clearly defined in the law to address concerns. The United States has the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which collaborates with various enforcement agencies to combat crime. Nigeria is facing a security crisis, and establishing state police forces could be a solution.

However, clear guidelines and limitations should be put in place to prevent undue influence. The payment of state police officers should also be taken seriously.

Editorial

Addressing the socioeconomic factors contributing to suicide rates in Nigeria

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The tragic incident that unfolded in the Magboro area of Ogun State, where Victoria Idowu, a 49-year-old woman, took her own life by hanging herself on a ceiling fan, is a poignant reminder of the deep-rooted issues surrounding mental health in our society.

The discovery of her lifeless body by her son upon his return from a church service emphasises the devastating impact of such actions on loved ones and communities at large.

This unfortunate event, coupled with the recent case of Deputy Commissioner of Police Gbolaha Oyedemi, who also tragically ended his own life, sends shockwaves across the nation. Oyedemi’s untimely demise, particularly given his position within the Force Criminal and Investigation Department in Lagos State, raises questions about the unseen burdens individuals may carry, even in seemingly successful and accomplished lives.

These incidents compel us to confront the pressing need for enhanced mental health awareness, support systems, and destigmatisation efforts within our society.

While the reasons behind such tragic decisions may remain elusive, it is imperative that we foster an environment where individuals feel empowered to seek help without fear of judgment or ostracisation.

As a nation, we must prioritise mental health initiatives, invest in accessible counseling services, and promote open dialogue about mental well-being in homes, workplaces, and communities. Only through collective action and compassion can we hope to prevent further loss and support those struggling with mental health challenges.

The intertwined tales of Victoria Idowu and Deputy Commissioner Gbolaha Oyedemi paint a harrowing portrait of despair echoing across Nigeria’s landscape.

Idowu’s final act, discovered by her son amidst the echoes of church hymns, and Oyedemi’s perplexing departure, once the trusted aide to a former governor, unveil a somber truth: suicide’s haunting grip knows no bounds.

Their stories, etched with the weight of societal expectations and personal demons, illuminate a troubling trend veiling Nigeria in sorrow.

From the seasoned to the youthful, lives are lost to the silent whispers of despair, leaving behind unanswered questions and shattered hearts.

In the shadows of these tragedies, Nigeria grapples with a growing epidemic, where the specter of suicide looms larger with each passing day. The reasons, as diverse as the nation itself, intertwine threads of societal strain, economic woes, mental anguish, and a dearth of solace in the face of adversity.

Yet, amid this darkness, one truth shines unwaveringly: suicide, however tempting, is not an adequate solution. It is a plea for help lost in the silence, a cry for understanding drowned in the noise. In the face of despair, let us extend hands of compassion, build bridges of support, and shatter the silence with voices of hope. For in unity, in empathy, lies the beacon of light guiding us through the darkest of nights.

In 2019, the tragic loss of a university student in Lagos to suicide, amid the weight of academic pressures and depression, stirred conversations about mental health awareness within educational institutions.

The following year, the untimely demise of a renowned Nigerian musician, who was discovered dead by suicide in his Lagos home, cast a spotlight on the silent struggles faced by celebrities and public figures battling mental health issues.

Similarly, in 2020, the distressing case of a young woman in Abuja, who took her own life after sharing troubling messages on social media, underscored the crucial need for accessible support systems for individuals grappling with mental health crises.

Then, in 2021, the heartbreaking loss of a teenager in Kano, driven to suicide by the torment of bullying and harassment at school, sparked urgent calls for concerted action to address both bullying and mental health concerns among students.

These poignant examples serve as reminders of the pressing imperative for heightened awareness, robust support networks, and adequate resources to combat mental health challenges and stem the tide of suicide across Nigeria.

Nigeria faces a sobering reality according to the World Health Organization, grappling with one of Africa’s highest suicide rates, with a notable portion of victims being young people. Worse, the ratio of psychiatrists to population is 1:800,000.

However, there’s a beacon of hope: fostering mental health awareness and education emerges as one of the most potent tools in combating this crisis. Despite prevailing stigmas branding mental health issues as taboo or indicative of weakness, dispelling these misconceptions can pave the way for a more compassionate and supportive society. By shedding light on mental health challenges, we can dismantle barriers to seeking help and foster understanding for those battling depression and suicidal thoughts.

Moreover, addressing the recurring tide of suicides demands an overhaul of mental health services accessibility nationwide. Presently, many Nigerians, particularly in rural areas, face insurmountable hurdles in accessing vital care and support. By bridging this gap and ensuring equitable access to mental health services, we can extend a lifeline to those in dire need, fostering a nation where every individual’s well-being is prioritized and safeguarded.

Governments, healthcare providers, and non-governmental organisations could work together to expand mental health services, train healthcare professionals, and integrate mental health into primary healthcare systems.

To effectively combat the pervasive issue of suicide in Nigeria, collaboration between governments, healthcare providers, and non-governmental organisations is paramount. Together, they can expand mental health services, equip healthcare professionals with necessary training, and integrate mental health into primary healthcare systems.

Establishing robust support networks is crucial for individuals grappling with mental health challenges and suicidal ideation. This entails offering accessible avenues for seeking help, such as helplines, support groups, and online forums. Education initiatives should empower friends, family, and communities to recognize signs of depression and suicidal behavior, fostering environments of support and understanding.

Furthermore, advocating self-care practices like exercise, mindfulness, and relaxation techniques equips individuals with tools to manage their mental well-being and mitigate the risk of suicidal tendencies.

Addressing the persistent scourge of suicide demands a holistic approach that delves into its root causes while providing effective interventions and support for those in crisis. Through concerted efforts to promote mental health awareness, improve access to services, foster support networks, and empower individuals, Nigeria can forge a path towards suicide prevention and cultivate a healthier society for all.

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Editorial

Nigeria’s National Identity Card initiative: A misguided venture

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The recent announcement by the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) regarding the launch of a new national identity card with payment functionality epitomises folly.

While touted as a solution to streamline identification and financial services, the collaboration between NIMC, the Central Bank of Nigeria, and the Nigeria Inter-bank Settlement System appears to be a misaligned endeavour.

In a nation burdened by limited resources and an array of urgent challenges, Nigeria’s pursuit of grandiose projects with questionable benefits is a luxury it cannot afford.

Despite its surface appeal, closer scrutiny reveals a troubling trend of duplication, bureaucratic inefficiency, and a glaring gap between governmental aspirations and citizens’ realities.

This venture echoes previous attempts to overhaul the national identification system, notably the ill-fated 2006 concession awarded to Chams.

That endeavour, marred by allegations of collusion and technical sabotage, squandered over $100 million, leaving a bitter legacy of failure. In light of this history, skepticism abounds regarding the prospects of the current initiative.

As Nigeria grapples with pressing socio-economic issues, including poverty, insecurity, and inadequate infrastructure, it is imperative that resources be directed towards initiatives with tangible benefits for the populace.

The proposed national identity card, with its payment functionality, appears to be a misplaced priority in this context.

Rather than embarking on ventures with dubious returns, Nigerian authorities must prioritise accountability, transparency, and citizen-centric policies. The nation cannot afford to repeat past mistakes at the expense of its long-suffering populace.

Furthermore, the purported justification for the new card – facilitating access to “multiple government intervention programs” for the financially marginalised – falls short when juxtaposed with the formidable hurdles Nigerians encounter in simply linking their National Identification Number (NIN) to vital services like mobile phone accounts or bank facilities.

The pandemonium and exasperation prevalent in these endeavours, resulting in citizens squandering valuable time and resources, should stand as a stark warning regarding the government’s competence in executing such extensive identity management schemes.

Moreover, if the concern is the proliferation of identification documents in Nigeria – from international passports and driver’s licenses to voter cards and the existing national ID card – this newspaper holds that this mosaic of identification systems not only spawns unnecessary confusion and bureaucratic headaches for citizens but also casts doubt on the government’s capacity to efficiently orchestrate and amalgamate these diverse platforms.

Instead of tackling these persistent issues head-on, the introduction of yet another identity card appears to be an ill-conceived effort to reinvent the wheel, with scant consideration for the practical challenges confronting Nigerians in their daily lives.

In a nation grappling with limited resources and a plethora of pressing needs, the decision to allocate billions of naira to this new card project is both confounding and deeply concerning. Many would argue that the government’s time and financial resources could be more effectively directed towards enhancing existing infrastructure, fortifying public services, and confronting the numerous socioeconomic challenges plaguing the country.

From the dire state of the healthcare system to the ongoing insecurity that has resulted in significant loss of life, there exist far more urgent issues warranting the government’s attention and, critically, its constrained financial resources.

Moreover, the assertion that the new card will facilitate access to “government intervention programs” for the financially marginalised raises concerns about introducing yet another bureaucratic barrier for vulnerable Nigerians.

Instead of introducing a new identification system, the government’s focus should be on refining and strengthening existing social welfare programs, ensuring they are accessible, efficient, and tailored to meet the needs of the populace.

The government’s ambition to distribute the new card to approximately 104 million citizens is cause for concern. Undertaking such a monumental task without a clear and comprehensive plan is likely to result in further delays, logistical complexities, and a considerable squandering of public funds – resources that could have been channeled towards making tangible improvements in the lives of Nigerians.

In essence, the rollout of the new national identity card with payment functionality reflects a recurring pattern in Nigerian governance: the inclination towards grand, top-down initiatives that often fall short of addressing the underlying issues fueling the country’s challenges.

Instead of pursuing this dubious venture, the government’s focus should shift towards strengthening existing identification systems, fostering better coordination among government agencies, and prioritising investments in areas directly impacting the lives of Nigerians.

As a nation, we must resist the temptation of embracing flashy new projects that promise quick fixes to complex problems.

Achieving genuine progress demands a nuanced, collaborative, and evidence-based approach that acknowledges the distinct needs and challenges of diverse communities.

It’s high time for the government to abandon this latest identity card scheme and redirect its efforts towards more impactful and sustainable initiatives that truly serve the citizens it is sworn to uplift.

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Editorial

Articulated vehicles and the scourge of avoidable deaths

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Nigerians across the country continue to die utterly preventable deaths thanks to a lack of political will on the part of its leaders. It is an ugly fate thrust upon its citizens to live in a country whose economy is built upon the blood of the ordinary people, not out of sacrifice, but nonchalance. Articulated vehicles wipe out families, dreams, and human capital in one fell swoop. Press statements from the leaders are not enough. We need the May 2024 immediacy of the Tinubu administration in this sector too.

Last week, a falling container killed a woman in the Ogudu area of Lagos. The woman was inside a car when the fully loaded 40ft Mack articulated truck fell on it, leading to her instant death, according to the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA).

In October 2023, a businessman identified as Akuma Kalu, was crushed to death by a 40-feet container that fell on his car along the failed portion of Etche-Ngokpala road in Etche Local Government Area of Rivers state.

In September 2023, five women died in a fatal accident that occurred in the early hours of Friday at Odumodu Junction, Nteje, Oyi Local Government Area along Awka Road, Anambra State. As usual, the container of the truck fell upon the bus carrying these people, killing them. We could go on and on. The story remains the same: tragedy upon tragedy.

Every year, the Federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC, does sensitisation with little result to show for it because the arm of the law is too short to punish offenders at the root of the problem. The constant assault on the senses has led to a desensitisation on the part of the populace. Month after month, another story of a truck that erases a family, or multiple families because its brakes fail, or its container is overturned. The combination of the death of empathy on the part of leaders and the emotional exhaustion of the citizens will lead Nigeria down the path of a dystopia.

The governors of each state have a responsibility to institute laws to protect the indigenes. This, the Federal Government must also do nationwide. The FRSC has rules and regulations for trucks. The Government needs to only enforce these rules. Enough of blaming the trucks themselves because they are not the evil entities. The lack of accountability and a weak system perpetuates the dilemma.

The political class should not wait until Nigeria happens to one of their own before acting as is usually the case. Most cases bear the mark of immediate fatality. By the time a family member experiences it, it would have already been too late. We have hope that this administration will do what it takes to restore hope to the common man. Time to act is now.

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