The recent move by the Kano State government to bring some elements of the old Native Authority security system into modern law enforcement in order to arrest rising insecurity challenges is very pertinent. The new security step was adopted after an expanded security council meeting held last week between the government and the Emirate Council at the Africa House. Reports say the Kano State government created the new plan to engage traditional institutions to ensure peace in the state.
Unveiling the new strategy, Emir of Kano Malam Muhammadu Sanusi II said the state involved the traditional institutions in security issues following insecurity challenges in neighbouring states. He said, “You are aware of the critical challenges of security problems with some of our neighbours and wise men take precautionary measures before a problem befalls them. We need to be proactive.” The Emir added that a “wise Hausa saying indicates that if you see your neighbour’s beard on fire, you quickly drench your beard with water as a precautionary measure.” The emir said under the new concept, ward heads, village heads, district heads, Ulamas and the Emirate Council would be fully involved in the protection of their communities.
Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje convened the expanded security meeting with DSS officials, police, military and paramilitary officers in attendance. We commend the effort of the Kano State government and the Emir, who has been championing the strengthening of Nigeria’s security network to curtail challenges facing the country. The efforts of traditional rulers in conflict resolution and intelligence gathering cannot be overemphasised. Thus, not only is the move imperative, it is also essential now that we are faced with serious security challenges and considering the role traditional authorities play in managing and resolving conflict and their accessibility to ordinary people. We believe that the integration of traditional institutions will help towards good security management.
The security challenges facing Nigeria today partly stemmed from the relegation of traditional institutions in the scheme of things and by curtailing of their powers through the Local Government Reforms of 1967, 1971 and 1976, culminating with the enactment of the 1979 Constitution. Those reforms gradually took away control of police, prisons and courts from the old Native Authorities and placed them under the jurisdiction of federal and state governments. The Native Authorities were also abolished and replaced by democratically elected local governments.
At least in the security sphere, those reforms threw away the baby with the bathwater. Traditional institutions’ efficient methods of monitoring movement of people and their very effective intelligence gathering systems were lost with the reforms. Hence, the attempt being made in Kano to reintegrate them into the security structure in order to regain those lost assets is highly commendable. This does not suppose the return to the old way of doing things but it should be viewed as a step towards strengthening the already overwhelmed security network.
We cannot disregard the traditional institutions in our search for peace and security. They should be utilized effectively for the provision of security through intelligence gathering. Problems that we are having now had existed before, so we need to explore how the traditional institutions managed them in the past. We also urge the replication of this new measure by other states in the North which share similar peculiarities with Kano State.
The country is still debating whether to enshrine a definite role for traditional institutions in the Constitution but one area where the institution’s help is urgently needed for now is in the security sphere. Traditional institutions are better placed, given their deep entrenchment in their communities, to identify strange elements in the community, identify hoodlums and bandits, locate their hideouts and also identify potentially explosive groups and persons well before the regular security agencies have any inkling of them. It is time to harness this key asset.