The Federal and state governments have agreed to designate special courts for the purposes of prosecuting purveyors of hate speeches as well as suspected terrorists and kidnappers.
According to a statement in Abuja on Sunday by the Senior Special Assistant to the Vice-President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Laolu Akande, the decision was reached at a one-day National Security Retreat organised by the National Economic Council on Thursday.
The council, which is chaired by the Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, has the 36 states governors, the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory and the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria as members.
Akande said the retreat discussed concerns about the delay in the nation’s criminal justice system and NEC members concluded that prompt action by law enforcement agencies was imperative.
In arriving at special courts for purveyors of hate speeches as well as suspected terrorists and kidnappers, he said it was resolved that the Federal Government would help states to develop a template for such courts.
He said, “NEC members urged prompt action in the arrest and prosecution of perpetrators of terrorist acts, kidnappings and purveyors of hate speeches.
“To facilitate this, the designation of special courts was also advocated and the consensus was that the judiciary and executive arms of the Federal and state governments will be working together to establish such courts.
“The Federal Government will also be helping states to develop a template on how such special courts would be established and managed.”
On the clamour for state police, Akande said the conclusion was that policing the country and the entire law enforcement generally, could not effectively continue without devolving policing and law enforcement out to the states.
He however said it was noted that while the idea of state police required constitutional amendments, the Community Policing Model must be enforced now.
“We must enforce a model that democratises 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.
“The simple advantage of the arrangement is 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,” Akande quoted Osinbajo as saying at the retreat held behind closed doors.
He explained that the roll-out of the Community Policing Programme was intended to enhance crime prevention and control, improve intelligence-gathering capabilities of the police and deliver quality and people-oriented policing.
He said the programme would 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 could provide to improve the quality of policing.
Akande said the issues about funding of security agencies and provision of equipment also featured in the discussion while NEC members agreed that funding was essential.
“It was however added that defence budget and funding for other security agencies of government always form some of the biggest component of the budget. Calls for greater accountability of the resources released were also made,” he said.
He disclosed that the council members also recognised the fact that herdsmen and farmers’ clashes were being caused by problem of land use, which he noted, had taken ethnic and religious dimensions.
Akande said it was agreed that both the Federal and state governments should properly define the problems and shun the ethno-religious construction of what was otherwise an economic challenge.
“NEC members stated that it would be useful to bring the different groups together — herdsmen and the farmers — to meet and discuss, and also work out some of the issues that concern them,” he added.
On agitations in parts of the country, he quoted Osinbajo as saying that notwithstanding Nigerians’ right to freedom of expression, the constitution could not be compromised.
“With respect to the ethno-religious crisis and agitations, what we all seem to agree 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.
“However a person choose to express his views, the constitution cannot be compromised. 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 let alone talking about it,” Osinbajo reportedly said.
Despite the security challenges in parts of the country, the Vice-President was also quoted as commending the nation’s security agencies.