Vice Chairman of the Committee on National Security and Intelligence, Mr Ade Adeogun, is representing Akoko South-East/Akoko South-West Federal Constituency of Ondo State in the House of Representatives. He talks about security and herdsmen/farmers’ crises in this interview with selected journalists. Nigerian Cable News online was there
What legislative support do you want to give the security agencies to address the security challenges in parts of the country?
When you want to address an issue, you will, first of all, ask what the cause is. In the security business, if someone commits a crime, you are not looking for the crime itself or the process; you are looking for the motive. Why do people engage in criminal activities? (They are because of) poverty and unemployment. It means that if you want to solve the problem of insecurity in the North-East, the North-West and other parts of Nigeria, you need to first of all look at the root cause of the criminal activities. And I can assure you that it is poverty and it is unemployment. So, how can we create the policy and provide the legislation that ensures sustainable living among the generality of the population? When you solve that (problem), then you will start looking at the issue of repercussion for criminal activities. There must be repercussions. Can someone commit a crime and be arrested for it? I agree that one of the typical problems that we have in Nigeria with regards to law enforcement and security is the fact that we are not employing technology to solve our problem. The typical situation is someone committing a crime and leaving a footprint. There is no criminal activity without something left behind to track the criminal; fingerprints and all manner of prints that should actually serve as clues. But can the law enforcement agencies in Nigeria use these prints to solve problems? No, they do not have the database, training and capacity to solve the problems. Do we have a crime data library in Nigeria? No. And for fingerprints to be useful there must be a basis for comparison. If I have your picture and I don’t see you, I cannot find you. There must be something to compare with another. It means there must be a database.
I have done a lot of research and found that we actually have legislation that provides for us to have a crime data centre. There are so many of these that have not been enforced. Now, we need to look through our plethora of laws and amend those to be amended and look for a way to put things together so that they can become more effective. We can provide the funds, resources and training for the law enforcement and security agencies to be able to do their jobs effectively. Without them being active, effective and empowered to get their jobs done, we will continue to face security challenges.
Could the clashes between herders and farmers be attributed to poverty and unemployment too?
You need to understand the issue of herdsmen and farmers. There are two dimensions to it: the genuine clash between herdsmen and farmers, which means the herders grazing their cattle on the farmland of the farmers. That is what we have in parts of Benue State, Taraba State and some other places. Then, you have criminals masquerading as herdsmen and engaging in criminal activities. You must isolate the two. The criminals masquerading as herdsmen are the ones causing the atrocities that we are complaining about. Let me give an example: a priest was kidnapped in Enugu State and people went around, saying that they were kidnapped by herdsmen, only to find out that they were Igbo boys. We have issues on the Lagos-Benin Expressway which were attributed to herdsmen. Every criminal now has adopted that cover of herdsman. We need to separate them. Herders should not graze cattle openly. Cattle should be grazed in a fenced environment; in an environment where they don’t have business infringing on the rights of other people.
With the point you have raised, what do you think about the Ruga settlement programme that was proposed by the Federal Government and later suspended?
I have my own idea of Ruga, maybe you will not go with it. Does a farmer in Nigeria need the government to give him land to farm? The answer is no. Every businessperson would go about getting the resources for their business. Cattle rearing is a business for individuals; it should be private. What the government can do is to help them to acquire the resources to have their own ranches, not with state funds. (The government can) acquire land for them. Like someone said: would the spare part trader in Aba say ‘government, give me shops’. It is a private business. It is for us to understand that herding is a private business; the way a farmer acquires land by themselves is the way a herder should acquire the ranches. They can come together to form cooperative societies and the government can provide resources to support them. Not that…especially now that there is so much suspicion. We should not take actions that will increase national suspicion.
You said earlier that part of your agenda in the House was how to ensure better security for the country. How do you want to achieve this when the public perception of the National Assembly is that it has not achieved tangible results with its summons, summits and resolutions on security?
First, the perception of members of the public is not always the right perception. I am not saying they are wrong all the time. There is this idea that the people in government are bad. It is there. It is a giving that once you are in government, even if you are the best man in the world, the moment you get exposed to the government, you become a bad man. That is why people feel that the National Assembly has not done enough. Then, we must understand the job of the National Assembly. It is not to enforce the law, it is to make laws. So, basically, it provides the resources; even the national budget, the appropriation itself, is a law. As a government, there is a law to support law enforcement agencies. If the executive arm is not doing it, the National Assembly should not be held liable. But then, because the government is one and we should have a symbiotic relationship, I think a lot is being done by the 9th National Assembly to ensure that there are greater cooperation and understanding. So that if an issue is a problem that has to do with the executive, the National Assembly can help the executive get the job done faster.
Then, you will look at the fact that resources are always inadequate. Are there ways by which resources can be brought from other areas to assist the security agencies? They do not have enough; the personnel are not adequately trained, their welfare is poor, and they don’t even have the basic needs to get the job done. And then, we expect to get these things done. I believe that the 9th Assembly, which by the grace of God I’m part of, will do a lot more to support our law enforcement agencies. And we need to understand the need for urgency. Now, we always believe that we have time. We have the issue of insecurity but it is treated with a measure of slow reaction. We should not be reacting, we should be proactive. I think that is what the 9th National Assembly will bring into the relationship between the legislature and the executive.
Many Nigerians believe that Nigeria is militarised, considering the several operations across the country with different codenames. Why have soldiers been doing what the police are supposed to do?
(It is) because we don’t have enough policemen. You have to look at the United Nations’ ratio. You are supposed to have a policeman for 250 to 300 people. That is the general requirement. But in Nigeria, we actually have one to 650, which means that we need to double the number of the Nigeria Police workforce for effective policing. Then, the ratio is worse when you have to think of policemen per weapon or rifle. How many rifles do they have? Even if we have 300,000 policemen, or 500,000, how many weapons do they have to combat the criminals? You have to look at this vis-a-vis our population. We have a large population but we have policemen who do not have the resources, training, and manpower to police. So, the military is brought in to assist them. In countries like the United States where you have the national police, state police and county police, they still have the national guards. We don’t have national guards, so where the police are overwhelmed, the national guards are brought in. In Nigeria, we don’t have that. So, when the police are overwhelmed, the only alternative for us is to use the military.
But the Chief of Army Staff was at the House earlier in the year for budget defence, where he said the military was overstretched. What is the implication of that?
First, if you solve the problem (with the police), there won’t be any need to overstretch the military. We must increase their number. I mentioned to you that in my constituency, the number one problem is unemployment. So, the police don’t have the numbers. The Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps doesn’t have the numbers. The military does not have the numbers. And we have thousands of young people who are looking for jobs. Solve the problem in two ways: solve the security problem and solve the unemployment problem. The only thing is that we have to boost the resources; we have to find ways to increase the revenue base of the country so that the country can provide funds to support what is needed.
Looking at the current security architecture of the country and the current security situation, do you support state and community policing or the centralised structure that we have now?
There are two sides to this: I’m aware that the two or three times when attempts were made to amend the Constitution to provide for state police, it was opposed by some parts of the country. There are lots of suspicions. Why? The political leaders don’t handle power well. Give a governor the power to appoint a commissioner of police or to have state police, he will use the same police to overwhelm his opponents and decimate them. Let us look at what has happened with the state electoral commissions. The opposition parties cannot win an election where you have a state electoral commission. That is the same thing that will happen with having state police. The opposition will not get security protection. So, we are not mature for that. What we can do is to provide some form of decentralisation of the existing police force until such a time that our nation has become mature enough; that political leaders have realised that the general good and welfare of the people are superior to personal interests. For now, most of our governors and political leaders do not understand that it is not about them, that it is about the people. So, I will not support the state police. Community policing? Yes; that is, community police under the central control for now. It means that if you employ a policeman, you will deploy him to his place (community). You will get the people in the communities involved. A policeman will not misbehave if his parents are known and if he has to protect his own family members and people. He won’t have a choice but to get involved. But if you employ someone from Sokoto and deploy them to Lagos, he can afford to stand on the road and shoot anybody he feels like shooting. He doesn’t care! But where it is his own people; where they know his family members, he will be better behaved. That I will support.