Editor's note: Katsina-based public affairs commentator, Farida Musawa, writes on the security challenges currently facing northern Nigeria while highlighting what Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi has done in his state to ensure armed robbers, kidnappers, terrorists are kicked out of his domain.
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One of the signature achievements of Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi state in his first term in office was the way he secured the state from the vice grips of criminals -armed robbers, kidnappers, terrorists - by giving them a bloody fight to the admiration of his fans and foes alike.
The governor's achievements in the security sector were so loud that he was the darling of almost all the security agencies in the country. The Nigerian Police Force under the leadership of the then Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris Kpotum, even conferred an award of excellence on him as the 'Most Security Conscious Governor' in recognition of his qualities and his efforts at improving the security of lives and property in the state.
How did the governor achieve these tangible results even with extremely limited resources? He simply committed his security votes towards rejigging the security architecture of the state through the provision of logistical support to all the security agencies operating in the state. To start with, he launched 'Operation Total Freedom,' provided patrol vans, modern technological gadgets and returned the confidence of the people in their police. Aside that, he also provided an enabling environment for law-abiding vigilance groups to thrive in various communities in the state. These local security groups have been working in tandem with government-owned security agencies to contain criminals in the state.
It needs to be said for the purpose of emphasis that when Governor Bello took over the reins of power in 2016, Kogi was home to all sorts of criminals who had practically turned the state to a killing field. In short, the state was almost written off as a failed state taking into cognizance the high level of crimes and criminalities perpetrated in the state due to arms proliferation and youth unemployment. Even religious fundamentalists had a safe haven in the state. The Muslim Brotherhood, an affiliate of Boko Haram, had already planted its cell in the state with a view to launching its terrorist attacks but for the prompt and proactive intervention of the governor. The indices on insecurity were frightening.
Faced with the intimidating challenges of worsening insecurity, which of course is antithetical to any meaningful development and growth, a governor who was coming into office for the first time might have chickened out or chosen to dialogue with the criminals having a field day in the state. But Governor Bello was not going to buy that dialogue card. No one dialogues with criminals and terrorists, according to him. He stamped his feet on the ground and decided he has going to frontally confront the criminals and his efforts paid off eventually. Three things he did: reordered the security architecture of the state, bought better security equipment for the security agencies and activated surveillance and intelligence with the support of the public. It's the belief of the Governor that crimes will thrive in a society so long the masses condone them. To him, you need to secure the support, cooperation and confidence of the people first before crime-fighting.
Can one say it's Uhuru yet in terms of security in Kogi state? Not exactly, especially when juxtaposed with recent cases of violent crimes in some parts of the state. To this end, the governor and his team are already rethinking how to evolve new strategies to nip in the bud emerging cases of crime in the state according to the commissioner for information and communications, Kingsley Fanwo. The new security approach being considered will be citizen-centric most especially in the area of intelligence gathering and surveillance. Part of the new measures, the commissioner said, will be to embark on a massive orientation of the people on security as the Bello-led administration intends to make the people take ownership of security.
But there is one thing Governor Bello will not do: hold a dialogue with faceless criminals or pay them money so they can keep off from operating in the state. This is where some governors in the north are getting it wrong. You indirectly enable criminality when you pay criminals to stop committing crimes. Who does that? When they finish the ransom given to them, what do you think they will do again? In fact, part of the money paid them will be used to fund their criminal enterprise sooner than later. That's what, sadly, is currently playing out in some parts of the north.
Confronted with similar security challenges in Kogi, some of the northern governors, naively though, chose to hold a conversation with bandits, rustlers, kidnappers, among others, thinking that would be the solution to the nightmare of insecurity in the state. Unfortunately, the dialogue has not yielded any positive result in terms of stemming the tide of insecurity. Rather, it has been a sorry tale of wanton killings and reckless looting in Katsina, Zamfara, Kaduna, e.t.c.
With the recent upsurge in senseless multiple killings of defenceless northerners by armed gangs, one is tempted to ask what the governors in the region have been using all the billions of naira collected as security votes over the years. The answer to the query is not far-fetched: it's either the governors have not been using the monies judiciously or have used them to feather their own private financial nets. There is no state governor in the country today who collects less than N250m every month as security votes. What exactly do they use the money for?
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Agreed, it's the responsibility of the federal government to secure every part of the federation. Yet, the governors who are the chief security officers of their states have a huge complementary role to play. That's why the FG allocates to them humongous security votes from the federation account on a monthly basis. What stops the governors from spending the monies to fortify the internal security arrangement in their states through collaboration with security agencies? This is where Governor Yahaya Bello has stood out and is standing out, warts and all. The security votes are meant for securing his people, he keeps saying.
The governors must spend the security votes wisely, put in place regional security collaborative efforts if the need be, provide logistical support to the security agencies, get the support of the people to aid in intelligence gathering and surveillance and embark on massive orientation of the people on the need to eschew crime and criminalities. No society will be entirely devoid of crimes and criminals, not even in advanced countries of the world but government leaders whose responsibility it is to provide security to the people must be alive to this responsibility of theirs lest the people dub them a failure.
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