By Yusufu Shehu Usman
The Constitution, in very clear and unambiguous terms has provided that the basic role of government is the provision of welfare and security for the lives and properties of the citizens
This can be found in Chapter Two of the 1999 Constitution as amended As for me, .i understand this to mean that welfare and security are the responsibilities of every elected government at all levels from the Federal Government, State, to the Local Government
It is instructive to note that the Constitution has not placed the responsibility of protecting the lives of the citizens on the federal government alone nor has it fractionalize the issue of security and apportion the roles to the difference tiers of government in any order, magnitude or measure
It has also not placed the burden of providing the welfare of the people on the federal government alone.
That is why all the successive federal governments of Nigeria before the present administration have always maintained that the issue of security is the collective responsibility not only of the governments but also of the individual members of the society.
All the security agencies in Nigeria have always preached that security is everybody’s business not that of the Governments alone.
It is true that the Constitution has created the national security infrastructure, apparati and architecture and placed them under the control of the federal authorities
However, the Constitution did not say that they are the only means through which security can be achieved or enforced in Nigeria
This means that we can protect ourselves through other means than the police
Even at individual levels Nigerians don’t rely on the police for their personal protection and security. Individuals and families negotiate and pay ransome to kidnappers out side the network of the police or other security agencies
We employ guards privately to provide security for us in our homes and environments. No Attorney General has ever declared this as illegal or unconstitutional
Now back to the Constitution. It only mandates the Governments to provide welfare and security for the people as their first line duty.
The Constitution did not specify how the people will exert these rights against the Governments where they fail to deliver. If anything, the Constitution has made these rights unjustifiable, which means the people can not use the mechanism of the courts to enforce the rights, though Consultationally guaranteed, entrenched and protected
The only viable option for the people is to vote out any Government which has failed in these responsibilities.
But our elections have a four year cycle and welfare and security are every day demands that can not wait for four years to be addressed.
Does it then mean that the people have no remedy in the interim?
It would be unreasonable and quite out of sync with common sense to suggest that.
That is why it does not appear to me illegal for the people either individually, as a group or even under collaboration between states to organise and protect themselves where the Governments fails to provide adequate security or at all
I have not seen any provision of the Constitution that says only the police can protect the citizens at local level
If such were to be the case, we would all be consumed by insecurity
In conclusion it is my humble view that since security is our collective responsibility, we can approach and avail it’s provision individually, as a group or by constituent parts of government
It is a shared responsibility that any or all the stakeholders should feel free to execute
The only limitation should be that it must be in compliance with the rules of engagement as laid down in the various laws and procedure in handling security matters
Therefore the statement of the Attorney general of the Federation declaring the setting up of state or zonal security arrangement to protect the citizens who feel exposed to insecurity, can at best be described as a political statement that can not legally bind the states.
The Attorney general has no vires in law to make such a declaration. It is the exclusive prerogative of the courts under the Constitution.
Even if the Attorney general decides to sue the States on this issue, my dilemma is that the Constitution says chapter Two is not justiciable. There may be issue of locus standi to institute the action and even if that is somehow surmounted, it appears the court can only give a declaratory and not an executory judgment in such cases
I may be wrong in this postulation but that is my personal understanding of the law. I am open to take corrections.