THERE has been clamour by traditional rulers that they be given more power and resources to formally become part of the government in their states, especially in the area of maintaining security.
This clamour heightened in the South- East due to the worsening security situation in the region.
They argue that as the people closest to the grassroots, they know their people well, both the good, the bad and the ugly; but that they need some delegated powers, empowerment and authority from the government to handle them and bring them to justice.
They contend that at present, they are porous and any action they take against some of the known bad ones, even mere provision of information to security agencies, always backfires against them, as they usually return to attack them, in some cases maiming and killing them. Do they really need more powers to help in tackling security in the rural communities?
According to Chief Abia Onyike, Head, Bureau of Publicity for Igbo elite body, Alaigbo Development Foundation, ADF, the monarchs already have enough instruments to checkmate crimes in their communities, the current escalated insecurity is not about enough power to monarchs.
“The failure of security has nothing to do with the failure of the traditional institutions to provide security. The sources of the current insecurity plaguing Nigeria are well known. They include: the politicization of religion, Nigeria’s failed state; mass unemployment of youths, the politics of Fulani hegemony (herdsmen and the Jihad); arming of thugs by the political class and the bastardization of the local governments by the state governors, among others.
“Furthermore, one would like to advocate the use of town or community unions as instruments for securing the villages and communities. We would prefer putting security arrangements in the hands of the town unions as in the case of the vigilantes.”
A prominent monarch in Abia State, Eze Philip Ajomiwe, in his contribution, said that state governors are usurping the powers of traditional rulers, rendering them helpless in some areas of community administration.
Ajomiwe, a former Chairman, Council of Traditional Rulers, Umuahia North Local Government Area, said until traditional rulers are assigned roles in the constitution concerning the security of their communities, security in the local communities would continue to be elusive.
He maintained that traditional rulers are the chief security officers of their communities just as governors are the chief security officers of their states, insisting that they should be allowed to strictly function as such.
The outspoken monarch canvassed for security votes to be made available to traditional rulers on monthly basis to tackle security issues in their communities just as the governors and the council chairmen get monthly security votes.
Eze Ajomiwe also argued that the constitutional 5 per cent allocation to traditional rulers for security and other matters in their local communities should be made available to them. “Until there is peace and security in the communities, the councils and states will not have peace and security,” the monarch contended, insisting that the role of traditional rulers in securing their domains should not be suppressed by governors because of politics.
In the opinion of the former President-General of Ihiagwa Autonomous Community, Owerri West Local Government Area of Imo State, Chief Emeka Nkwoada, traditional rulers in the state have already been empowered enough to fight crimes in their communities.
According to him, the establishment of Imo Traditional Institution/Community Policing was a way of granting the traditional rulers the authority to deal with crimes in their localities.
Nkwoada urged the monarchs to work with vigilante groups in communities in order to succeed.
“It is very proper for traditional rulers to be involved in maintaining security. The present governor of Imo State has already empowered the traditional rulers in that direction by inaugurating Imo Traditional Institution/Community Policing with Eze Emmanuel Okeke as the head. The implication is that the monarchs have been made the chief security officers of their various communities.
“In my community for instance, we are very serious about the issue of hard drugs. We had to set up a committee to tackle this and if we see anyone taking mkpurummiri or any other illegal drug, we deal with the person accordingly.
“So, traditional rulers should be part of the policing and security of their communities. What the Imo State Government has done is to give them that backing. What the community policing team should do is to work with the vigilante groups in the communities in order to tackle crimes. We have 305 electoral wards in Imo State and I don’t think there is any electoral ward that doesn’t have a vigilante group.
“The governor also has to empower them the more, especially with funds. The Presidents-General should also be involved because they are the administrative heads of the communities. That way, I think crime can be fought to a reasonable extent,” Nkwoada reasoned.
However, the National President, Abia Elders Consultative Forum, Bishop Princewill Ariwodo, on his part, rejected the idea of giving security votes to traditional rulers, saying that they would abuse and mismanage such funds.
The cleric argued that security is voluntary at the community level as locals willingly assist in keeping security in their communities.
“What will the traditional ruler be doing with security votes? To go and hire police or army?” he asked.
On the other hand, he blamed the traditional rulers for their inactions when the youths who stake their lives in securing their communities are molested and in some cases victimized by the security agencies, a situation, he said, demoralises them.
“I think the problem is that the traditional rulers sit and do nothing when the youths take action and the police come after them instead of going after the criminals themselves. The traditional rulers instead of speaking for the innocent youths watch and allow them to be unnecessarily persecuted by the security agents,” Ariwodo noted.
He rather suggested that local government chairmen should be the ones to coordinate security in the rural communities in their councils with the assistance of the traditional rulers.
In his contribution, the President of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Nsukka LocalGovernment Area chapter, Enugu State, Prof. Damian Opata, said that giving constitutional powers to traditional rulers would create structural problems for the country.
Prof. Opata, a lecturer at the Department of English and Literary Studies, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, said that the traditional rulers do not need constitutional powers before they could fight crimes in their localities.
“This would create structural problems for the country. Is the traditional ruler going to be like another local government chairman in a local government council where the chairman is the head of administration? In Nsukka Local Government Area for instance, where you have up to 30 to 40 autonomous communities, will the people obey the traditional rulers, the local government chairman, the state or the federal government?
“I am looking at it from the point of view of having the 4th tier of government which would be problematic for the country. The local government area chairman is the chief security officer in a local government area but crimes are still going on. In villages where you have the traditional rulers, crimes still happen. Will the traditional rulers now have their own police? If different communities have their police system, won’t there be clashes within the communities?
“They don’t need constitutional powers to secure their communities. Benue State with the best local security architecture did not request for constitutional powers before establishing it. It would not make security in the communities more effective because, already, there are the vigilantes and Neighbourhood Watch groups in the communities,” he said.
In the opinion of Chief Jerry Obasi, the state governments in the South- East should provide security and welfare for traditional rulers to enable them play their roles without fear.
According to Obasi, traditional rulers being the chief security officers of their communities cannot play the role effectively when they are afraid that they could lose their lives and property if they expose criminal activities in their areas. He lamented that many traditional rulers have lost their lives, families and property in the course of their fight against criminals.
Obasi, a traditional title holder, called for constitutional roles for traditional rulers which can entitle them to improved salaries to make them play their roles effectively.
In his words: “Traditional rulers are the chief security officers of their communities. They are vested with the powers of securing their areas. They can’t play such roles without adequate security protection and welfare. The government should provide adequate security to enable traditional rulers play their roles without fear.
“Many traditional rulers have lost their lives, families and property because of fighting criminal activities. Most of them have been beheaded because they exposed criminals. The traditional ruler knows the good, bad and criminal elements in his community.
“They know where the good and bad people live. So, they do lots of intelligence-gathering and networking with security agencies to maintain law and order. Government should also prioritize the welfare of traditional rulers by increasing their stipends and procuring cars. They need to be encouraged for the many roles they play in securing their communities. If the issue of welfare is taken care of, traditional rulers can effectively secure their areas.
“In some states, traditional rulers get as low as N20,000 monthly, this is not enough to fuel their vehicles, maintain their families, not to talk of monies they spend to host visitors in their palaces. They are the government at the grassroots level, but nothing is being done to encourage them. Traditional rulers deserve more attention from the government.”
The Igbo National Council, INC, in their opinion said there is no need to give traditional rulers special place in the constitution in the security architecture of the country before they tackle security issues in their communities.
According to INC President, Chilos Godsent, the collapse of security in the country was as a result of incompetence, saying that monarchs cannot change anything. He said the best way out of the insecurity in the country was for the President to sack the current security chiefs and appoint experts, saying such decision would bring an end to insecurity in Nigeria.
“There is no need to integrate the traditional rulers into the security system. Government should not find a way to lay blame on third parties rather than take responsibility.
“The traditional rulers are not security experts. They are not military men neither are they police officers. We want the security chiefs to be changed. Those responsible for the collapse of security of lives and property should be prosecuted.
“You see, we don’t need to start to deceive ourselves. The traditional rulers should be left to manage what is known as tradition and the security should be in the hands of security experts. The problem is that we have incompetent people. All the service chiefs should be sacked and replaced with competent security experts,” he suggested.
In his contribution, notable Igbo traditionalist, Chief Rommy Ezeonwuka, Ogilisi of Igbo land, charged traditional rulers to use the traditional means of oath- taking to checkmate insecurity in their respective domains, saying they already have enough opportunity to checkmate security problems in their various domains.
According to Chief Ezeonwuka, any genuine traditional ruler who ascended the throne on merit should not be afraid of confronting criminals, rather, they should administer oath on their subjects, using the deity. He noted that deities in Igbo land are more powerful than court and police to the extent that it is only the deities that are feared by both the rich and the poor, the high and mighty on the ground that anybody who goes contrary to the oath of the deities would be struck dead by the deities.
“A traditional ruler can assemble his subjects, administer them on oaths before the deity and make them to fear taking to crime, kidnapping or banditry, even abortion and other related cases,” he posited.
For Chris Ajugwe, an Onitsha-based lawyer, traditional rulers are endangered species and as such, should not be put at the forefront of the fight against insecurity. He rather suggested that government should set up vigilante operatives in all the localities with traditional rulers as supervisors, so as not to make them have direct contact with criminals who will in turn endanger their lives.