President Muhammadu Buhari and state governors met on Friday in Abuja over the growing insecurity in the country.
But, the 36 state chief executives were undecided on the controversial issue of state and local government police.
The meeting came a few days after the presidential panel, which investigated alleged human rights abuses by Special Anti-Robbery Squad operatives, recommended the establishment of state and local government police, among other issues, to address security challenges in the country.
Buhari, in receiving the report of the panel, had directed the Ministry of Justice, Inspector-General of Police, Mr Mohammed Adamu, and the National Human Rights Commission to work out the modalities of implementing it within three months.
However, the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors ‘ Forum, and Governor of Ekiti State, Dr Kayode Fayemi, said governors were undecided on the issue of state police because the financial capacity of all the states was not the same.
For instance, he said while some states might be comfortable and could fund state police, others were still tied down by the payment of accumulated workers’ salaries.
Fayemi, who spoke with State House Correspondents after the meeting, stated that the resolution was that the matter and other security challenges be referred to the National Economic Council for wider deliberations.
The Ekiti State governor said, “On whether state governors should be involved in state policing, the position of the NGF on that is that we have not taken position because experiences vary. There are governors and states where their experience does not necessarily lean itself to more evolved policing to the states. There are also states where there are agitations for it; there are governors who have the views that that will work better in such states. And of course, there are the economic issues relating to that.
“So, we have the capacity at the state level to fund state policing, those are all issues that will come into play when we get to the National Economic Council meeting that has been called. Particularly because there is a committee that is looking into it after the submission of the report on SARS. So, we will take all of these together.”
He added that the governors took turns to brief Buhari on the security situation of their areas and expressed the readiness to support the Federal Government wherever possible to combat security challenges.
Fayemi explained, “The meeting was at our instance as governors of the 36 states collectively. It has to do with the security situation in the country, our concerns about what is going on all across the nation.
“We had a very fruitful meeting with Mr President. Of course, he was not oblivious of the challenges; he gets security reports on a daily basis, he understands what the issues are. But, we felt as chief security officers in our respective states, it is also important for us to at least keep him abreast of the enormity or the challenges we are facing and also highlight the concerns of our citizens across board about rural banditry, farmers/herders clashes, kidnapping, militancy in the Niger Delta, insurgency and cultism.
“So, we discussed extensively all of these issues and looked at the various ways that we felt as governors we could assist Mr President as the Commander-in-Chief, to curb these issues. Of course, we were able to in the first instance look at the nexus between our economic challenges and the insecurity challenges as well. And the importance of tackling the causes of crime not just crime on its own.
“We also looked at the criminal justice system that appears to give some room for impunity. For instance, when people commit crimes and they are not punished effectively in accordance with the statutes, it then creates an opportunity for replicating such crimes.
“Already, all of us are involved in funding. There is no governor that is not buying security vehicles, ammunition for police, giving allowances to our security agencies; be they SSS, police, or in some cases the military, where the military is involved. We are already involved. It is just to ensure that we have a better and much more coordinated mechanism for addressing this.”
He added, “In conclusion, we agreed that these issues will be much more comprehensively dealt with at a special meeting of the NEC of which governors are members, presided over by the Vice-President, in order to specifically test our quick wins and quick responses that can reassure and build the level of confidence of our citizens.”
The presidential panel, which was headed by the Executive Secretary of the NHRC, Mr Tony Ojukwu, had called for the establishment of state police among other issues.
Reporters sought the NGF chairman’s views of the $1bn withdrawn from the Excess Crude Account in 2018 for the purpose of fighting insecurity and he replied that he believed the government had utilised the money well.