By Anselm Okolo
SOKOTO State is famed for the sultanate. Its arid desert plains provide an asphyxiating allure for a first-time visitor to the state. Deep in the dry Sahel region and surrounded by sandy savannah and isolated hills marks it out for lovers of monarchical history and architecture, royal dance and splendour.
With rising incidents of insecurity across the country and the intractable hotbed of insurgents around the north eastern flank of the country, this normally quiet farming state has been in the news for a different kind of reason. Recent acts of banditry, especially in the eastern parts of the state have assaulted the peace and somber tranquility erstwhile taken for granted in the state. In several organised night-time attacks across over 60 villages recently, these bandits had attempted to overrun the state but for the timely intervention of the governor, Rt Hon Aminu Waziri Tambuwal.
Shocked by the level of carnage by the bandits, Tambuwal had mobilized security operatives in rapid response joint reconnaissance operations across the state and especially around areas invaded by the marauding bandits. Results were swift. Many of the bandits were arrested and now awaiting trial.
Addressing a state Executive Council meeting in May, Governor Tambuwal had vowed that things would be done differently concerning security. He announced that a new security mechanism will be introduced in the state. Under the plan, all hands, resources and institutions, he said, would be mobilized to ensure that rising incidents of insecurity are nipped in the bud. He said the security mechanism will ensure swift response by security outfits, intelligence gathering by the people led by the traditional institutions and youth groups, to advise and support deployment by security outfits in the state. Other planks of the new security mechanism are regular and wide consultation of stakeholders, launch of a new state vigilante security outfit and intelligence sharing by security outfits.
Following up on this, Governor Tambuwal held frank and incisive consultative meetings with youths and traditional rulers, across the state recently. He said at the opening of the meeting with students and youths, that the meeting was part of government’s response mechanism to banditry and kidnappings. The youths, he said, must own and drive the new policy to avoid a repeat of the nocturnal attacks by the bandits in the state while promising also that his administration will fulfill all of its responsibilities in record time.
At a recent ceremony in Sokoto, the governor inaugurated 98 specially formatted pick-up vehicles for distribution to security agencies in the state, and added another 15 a few days later, to improve their abilities to safeguard lives and property in the state. A legal framework to compel landlords to keep a record of tenants in their houses or buildings, he also announced, was in the works, an objective, he noted will require a very strong association of tenants and persons living together in the various communities.
The federal government, on its part, he said, must provide additional training and functional logistics for its security agencies in the state and to assist the officers and men carry out their constitutional mandates effectively. He also noted that the time had come for the federal government to recruit more personnel to fill existing gaps in the security sector of the country. According to him, the rising incidents of insecurity in the country, demanded additional men on the ground.
This certainly will not be the first time Tambuwal would draw attention to the need for a total overhaul of the security architecture for the country. Addressing the National Executive Council meeting of the Nigerian Union of Journalists in Sokoto in 2018, he had called for the creation of state police to complement what the police was doing.
“Whether we like it or not, there is seeming justification for the state police and there is seeming justification for state governments to have some measure of control on security personnel” he had noted then, noting perhaps presciently, that “everything is wrong with our nation and we must as a matter of urgency rise to the challenges”.
The latter challenge, according to him at the occasion, included President Buhari mustering the political will to sack the present service chiefs.
“Providing security lies squarely on government, particularly the federal government. We must call a spade by its name. The president has to do the needful, we have qualified people who can bring fresh ideas to the nation’s security situation”.
The governor also supports the community policing initiative of the Nigeria Police Force. He said that his administration will work closely with the Nigerian Police to ensure the success of community policing. This was at the inauguration of the State’s Community Policing Advisory Committee recently. Then, he also bared his mind on the menace of illegal arms in the country, saying that the National Assembly should enact stiffer penalties for their possession. Arguing that this is the only way we can have peace in this country, he however counselled that people should be given some time to voluntarily surrender their arms to the government after which those that fail to heed the call must be made to face the full sanction of the law.
At the ceremony where the first set of 98 vehicles were handed out to the security agencies, the governor also noted that the new security arrangement “will only work well if the people and the security agencies work together for the common good”. Urging the different outfits to share intelligence to ensure effective restoration of peace and security in the state, he said the state government will very soon set up a fully equipped Communication Control Centre.
On the State Vigilante Group, the governor announced that its time had come. One of its benefits would be its ability to deploy very quickly to any troubled spot in the state: “It will be manned by indigenes of the state who know the terrain like the back of their hands, this will enhance intelligence gathering and use” he said, while assuring that the group would operate within the ambit of the law and in conjunction with the security agencies, so that “they will not take laws into their hands”. He urged citizens of the state to be vigilant at all times and avoid playing politics with issues surrounding insecurity, health and the traditional institution.
Speaking on the new security mechanism a youth leader in the state, Iliyasu Badawa praised Tambuwal’s “bold response to the killings and destruction of property” adding “I am more pleased with the establishment of the state vigilante group as the police alone cannot handle this situation alone”. He however suggested that “only youths and experienced citizens of the state should be recruited to work under it”.
Okolo is a journalist based in Abuja @ firstname.lastname@example.org