Magodo siege rekindles state police emergency

NIGERIA’s false federalism was manifested when federal forces arrogantly hijacked a local dispute by deploying police to Magodo, a private estate in Lagos State. In the ensuing battle for control, the head of the police team deployed from Abuja openly challenged Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who visited Magodo on Tuesday in an attempt to resolve the impasse. Without a doubt, the challenge that Abimbola Oyewole (a humble Chief Superintendent of Police) manifested shattered the fiction that a governor is the head of state security.

Showing indifference to authority, Oyewole exchanged words with Sanwo-Olu as the audience watched. For two weeks, a police detachment had become an occupying army in Magodo Phase II. Its mission: to enforce a 2012 Supreme Court ruling that the state government allocates 549 plots to members of the nearby Shangisha Landlords Association.

Although the Lagos State Government is the implementing authority, Inspector General of Police Usman Baba and Federation Attorney General Abubakar Malami bypassed the governor and deployed the police to Magodo. Baba and Malami have surpassed themselves. Many lawyers described the action as an abuse of power. They have no justification for interfering in a land dispute in Lagos.

The siege led to avoidable tension. With the support of the Abuja police, the owners of Shangisha marked houses to be demolished. This prompted the owners of Magodo to take countermeasures, including locking down the domain. Sanwo-Olu intervened initially, but the police contingent refused to leave until the peak of the crisis on January 3.

Nigeria is a twisted and inverted federal system, where a mid-level policeman would brazenly disobey a state governor. Such behavior is supported by the impunity of the federal government, reducing states to insignificance. In a natural federation, which Nigeria claims to be, this could trigger a major disaster.

Certainly, the past and present administrations of Lagos State cannot escape censorship for having mismanaged the land conflict in Magodo. Sanwo-Olu’s offer to provide 549 prime plots of land should have been made by the state government since 2012, when the Supreme Court handed down its judgment. The failure of successive state administrations to settle with the owners of Shangisha was reckless. This led to the desperate and ill-advised recourse to Abuja. But two wrongs can never equal one right. Baba and Malami are irrelevant. To serve the needs of justice and above all for the good of the innocent beneficiaries and the owners / residents of Magodo caught in the middle, Sanwo-Olu should act quickly and resolve this feud once and for all.

For the most part, however, the lack of respect for the CSP reflects Nigeria’s hollow federalism. On paper, a governor is assumed to be the CSO of a state. In practice, a CSP, with the support of the central authorities, is more powerful than the governor. Oyewole said: “I am here on instruction from the Inspector General of Police through AGF (Malami). I am too small or too low to call them. This is why the Abuja police team operated in Magodo without resorting to the governor.

It also demonstrates the weakness of a governor; as Sanwo-Olu explained, “They (the police) are not part of the Lagos State Police Command. They said they were from Abuja. I don’t know what other interest they have beyond keeping the peace of the country. It is not an expectation that I expect from them because they have nothing to do here. Obviously, a governor is just an appendage of the center.

Unlike other federations, Nigeria has a unique police force that reports primarily to the federal government. This is abnormal. There are no state police forces or other levels of police as is the case in all other federations.

Emboldened by the distortion, the federal government has blatantly abused its control over the police for a long time. Various incidents during the Fourth Republic attest to this. A sitting governor of Anambra state, Chris Ngige, was “sacked” from his post by a police team led by the late Raphael Ige, then Deputy Inspector General of Police, in 2003. The governor was humiliated and held captive for 12 hours before the evil plan backfired.

Three former governors of Lagos (Bola Tinubu), Ogun (Segun Osoba) and Ekiti (Niyi Adebayo) suffered an almost similar fate in 2004. Soldiers placed them under house arrest at the country house of Adebayo’s father in Iyin- Ekiti. Security officials later claimed that those detained were on their way to the new elections in four local government areas of the state.

At the height of his battle to form the New PDP in 2013, Rotimi Amaechi endured a ordeal similar to that of the incumbent governor of Rivers State. Security agents banned him from entering the government residence in Port Harcourt on “orders from above”. Whenever there is an illegal federal operation, it is the normal language of security guards. This is the language police used in July 2020 when police raided the Port Harcourt home of the Niger Delta Development Commission Acting Director General Joy Nunieh at night in an attempt to arrest him. . She was rescued by Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike, who openly confronted state officials. The arrest of a politician, Uche Nwosu, during a religious service in December in Imo State by a police team from Abuja reproduced federal impunity.

At every turn, Nigeria fails to learn the lesson. It was such a blatant federal intrusion that triggered the collapse of the First Republic. The then federal government, headed by Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa, precipitously declared a state of emergency in the Western region in 1962 following a local political confrontation and deployed federal police. In the region. After ousting the jurisdiction and decision of the London Privy Council overnight via a rushed constitutional amendment, he imposed an administrator on the region. The artificial crisis resulted in unrest and ultimately the bloody military coup of January 15, 1966 and the civil war of 1967-70. Nigeria has not yet recovered from this mishap triggered in part by an abuse of federal power.

The current aberration of the central police, in addition to its derision of elected governors, is a major factor facilitating insecurity. Tense to the extreme, the police who take control of a remote center are unable to secure the country or fight against local crime. Unfortunately, Malami and the president, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retired), regularly protest against attempts to create regional police forces like Amotekun and Ebube Agu.

All of this calls for urgent constitutional reform, a reality that does not escape the governors of the South West. Their chairman, Rotimi Akeredolu, again charted the way forward after Oyewole’s insubordination by renewing the call to state police. It is a mature idea; to achieve this, however, must go beyond issuing declarations. Sanwo-Olu’s reluctance to launch the state arm of Amotekun’s regional security agency is reckless. He should stop playing with the safety of the 22 million inhabitants of the state and its 84 billion dollars in savings.

Violence threatens the peace of Nigeria. It mainly occurs at the community level. As such, governors must be clear about the need for state police to end the rule of criminals. Just as they have shown courage in defeating direct primaries in the bill to amend the electoral law of 2021, governors should jointly mobilize federal and state lawmakers to remove state police from the exclusive list to the list. concurrent legislative with the 1999 Constitution.

To be inspired by it, the governors should be inspired by Germany, Australia, Canada, Switzerland and Sweden, where the police are devolved. By law, there are federal, state, county, sheriff, and municipal police agencies in the United States. Pragmatically, 48 police forces exist in the United Kingdom. Nigeria should learn from this or continue to revel in the insecurity and impudence of federal officials.

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