The National Economic Council rose from its day-long retreat on National Security, with a consensus on a raft of issues aimed at tackling many of the security challenges in the country.
The retreat featured presentations on the National Security Situation; Terrorism in the North East; Herders/Farmers Clashes; Ethno-Religious Crises; Regional Agitations for Secession and Hate Speech; Kidnapping; and Security Challenges in the Niger/Delta.
It was convened to review current security challenges across Nigeria with a view to finding lasting solutions to identified problems.
Indeed the Acting President has already directed the immediate implementation of the Federal Government Community Policing Programme in a bid to shore up protection of life and security in the country.
This is one of the highlights of the one-day retreat on National Security by the National Economic Council, NEC, composed of all 36 States Governors, the FCT Minister and the Central Bank Governor. The Vice President chairs the Council which meets monthly.
Besides the Governors, the retreat was attended by the Chief Justice of the Federation, Justice Walter Onnoghen, several FG officials including some members of the Federal Executive Council, FEC, the National Security Adviser and security and military service chiefs. Experts in the field of security studies were also invited to participate in the discussions.
HATE SPEECH WOULD NOT BE TOLERATED
At the opening session of the retreat, the Acting President had declared that the FG “has today drawn the line on hate speech.”
According to him, “hate speech is a specie of terrorism. Terrorism as it is defined popularly is the unlawful use of violence or intimidation against individuals or groups especially for political ends. The law, that is the Terrorism (Prevention) Act 2011 (as amended), defines terrorism as inter Alia, an act which deliberately done with malice which may seriously harm or damage a country or seriously intimidate a population.”
AT the end of the retreat which lasted over 7 hours long discussions, the following issues were highlighted:
There was a clear conclusion that policing the country and the entire law enforcement generally, cannot effectively continue without devolving policing and law enforcement out to the States.
But it was also noted that while the idea of State police requires constitutional amendments, the Community Policing Model must now be enforced.
According to the Acting President, “we must enforce a model that democratizes security in such a way as to include everyone in the process of protecting themselves, securing their own lives and the lives of people in their community.”
Continuing he said “the simple advantage of the arrangement is that it means that it would involve the ordinary citizen in ensuring his security and that of his community. It must involve all local leaders, all structures of civil society. And on every street, the police ought to have one or two persons who can contact the police at short notice.”
The presidential directive to the Inspector-General of Police initiating community policing is pursuant to the provisions of section 215(3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, as amended and section 10(1) of the Police Act Cap. P19, LFN 2004.
According to section 215(3) of the Constitution, “the President or such Minister of the Government of the Federation as he may authorise in that behalf may give to the Inspector-General of Police such lawful directions with respect to the maintenance and securing of public safety and public order as he may consider necessary and the Inspector-General of Police shall comply with those directions or cause them to be complied with.
Also section 10 (1) of the Police Act, “the President may give to the Inspector-General such directions with respect to the maintaining and securing of public safety and public order as he may consider necessary, and the Inspector-General shall comply with those directions or cause them to be complied with.”
The roll-out of the Community Policing Programme is intended to enhance crime prevention and control, improve intelligence-gathering capabilities of the police and deliver quality and people-oriented policing.
The programme will involve the community partnering with the police to uncover and solve crimes through a process involving Town Hall Meetings to assess security situation and security priorities of the communities, the performance of the police and the nature of the support the communities can provide to improve the quality of policing.
COORDINATION OF SECURITY & INTELLIGENCE
Also at the NEC retreat members highlighted the need for a more effective coordination between the security and intelligence agencies building a security community that is well synergized, without which optimal performance of different security and intelligence agencies might be difficult.
According to the Acting President “I think that is a very crucial point, practically everyone has mentioned this point and there has to be a more effective coordination between the security agencies and the intelligence community.”
PROMPT ARREST AND PROSECUTION OF PERPETRATORS
The retreat discussed concerns about the delay in the entire criminal justice system and NEC members concluded that prompt action by law enforcement agencies is imperative.
NEC members urged prompt action in the arrest and prosecution of perpetrators of terrorist acts, kidnapping and purveyors of hate speeches.
To facilitate this, the designation of special courts was also advocated and the consensus was that judicial and executive arms of the Federal and State Governments will be working together to establish such courts.
The FG will also be helping States develop a template on how such special courts would be established, and managed.
HERDSMEN AND FARMERS CONFLICT
NEC members recognized the conflict is essentially a problem of land use, which has however taken an ethnic and religious coloration.
It was agreed that both the FG and States need to properly define the problems and eschew the ethno-religious construction of what is otherwise an economic challenge.
NEC members stated that it would be useful bringing the different groups together-herdsmen and the farmers -to meet and discuss, and also work out some of the issues that concern them.
On matters of national unity, the retreat demonstrated a resolve and the Acting President described it thus: “I think with respect to the ethno-religious crisis and agitations, I think what we all seem to be agreed on is that, while people have the right to express their views, those views must not compromise democracy and must not compromise the integrity of our nation.”
Continuing he said “however a person choose to express his views, we cannot compromise, the constitution cannot be compromised. And that is why I have made a point about hate speech and that our national unity is important, it is crucial. Without national unity and territorial integrity of our nation, we won’t even be here much more talking about it.”
FUNDING OF SECURITY AGENCIES
While issues about the funding of security agencies and provision of equipments also featured in the discussion, NEC members agreed funding is indeed key.
It was however added that defense budget and funding for other security agencies of government always forms some of the biggest component of the budget, and calls for greater accountability of the resources released were also made.
ACTING PRESIDENT’S GRATITUDE TO THE STATE GOVERNORS, SECURITY & INTELLIGENCE AGENCIES
Prof. Osinbajo thanked members of the Council for their “patience and commitment to this whole process. That is not surprising at all because every State Government as you know must be primarily concerned with security.”
He also praised the security agencies. His words: “I must also commend the Armed Forces, the Police and other uniformed forces for their extraordinary professionalism and dedication to the enforcement of law and order, despite the obvious challenges, you have shown exceptional patriotism. I want to say that this country truly appreciates the enormous work that you do every day. I say so for the Army fighting in the Northeast and the Police and all the other uniformed forces that are doing exceptional work every day.”