The unavoidable partisan competition involving a diversity of political beliefs typical of democratic dispensations often translates into power struggle and mutual distrust between rival political leaders. This underlying animosity has in fact tainted the process of building a rightful consensus on the desirability of state police in Nigeria to the extent that the applicability of federalism itself is dismembered discriminately between governing party and the opposition. Thus, the political leadership at the centre will not even contemplate transferring executive powers over security to state governors lest the opposition secure a means of check-mating their own manipulations of the police command, particularly for political purposes.
Political self-preservation overriding considerations for effective state security can only worsen the security situation in the country as is now unfolding.
We are now face-to-face with the deadly menace of guerilla-style insurgency and associated modern crimes that can only be better and more effectively tackled within a state-based police structure and operation, accessing all the strategic and logistic advantages of community cooperation and deploying them more efficiently and effectively for law enforcement and counter-insurgency objectives. Recourse to zonal commands, joint task forces and state government sponsored operational contingents among other adhoc arrangements are mere half-measures with doubtful impact and insecure status.
Recent revelations also indicate fiscal problems at the federal level whose implications further underscore the necessity for downloading some responsibility for police work from federal to state governments. We have authoritative admission of huge gaps between budget allocations to the police and actual disbursements, with disbursements as low as 29% in 2010 plummeting to an abysmal 8% in 2011 ! This worrisome trend has already compelled states such as Lagos with serious security challenges to expend as much as N10 billion on various logistic needs of the police command in their states without reference to the federal authorities. The truth is that the Federal Government itself is no longer able to settle the bills for the Nigeria Police Force.
The emerging state police would be organically and structurally connected to the communities that comprise the state in terms of recruitment and deployment and derive optimum advantage for intelligence and operations alike. Lingering constitutional factors which hamper the timely and effective direction and deployment of security measures and operational synergy in relation with the civilian political leadership at state level need to be realistically resolved once and for all in the interest of national security, peaceful coexistence and routine law enforcement functions.
The state governors should thereby take charge of the affairs of their states in practical terms that leave nothing of strategic or administrative importance beyond their control. The level and impact of accountability and transparency in law enforcement and investigations arising from the mutual familiarity between police and community would be substantial and evident. Recognition of realities of today’s law and order situation where states take more than a fair share of responsibility for police operational logistics without corresponding authority over the Force is an aberration that should be remedied. It creates loopholes for illicit connivance between the CP and the governor for local arrangements that are detrimental to maintenance of law and order. They also leave governors absurdly vulnerable to such explosive political intrigues that once saw an AIG arresting a governor in Anambra State on orders, through a local political lackey, from above! Previously, there were other shameful cases of the police, at the instance of political forces at the centre, making state governance extremely difficult. Instructively, the adoption of state police conforms to our federalist political nomenclature in a more meaningful manner and is therefore a better option to the current scenario of aberrations, role conflicts and distrust that is demonstrably counter-productive in the quest for effective and efficient police operations in Nigeria. The establishment of state-police does not in any way preclude the involvement of the federal police in any part of the country because of the envisaged and inevitable requirements for complementary and collaborative interaction of the two formations in order to maximize the impact on national security.
This symbiotic cooperation will be facilitated by the re-allocation of investigative and operational responsibilities to reflect the particulars of focus in law enforcement functions of the two formations such that petty crimes and violations of state laws without bearing on national security or economic adversity can be withdrawn from the jurisdiction of the federal police. This should result in greater efficiency as the two formations are assigned functions commensurate with their jurisdictions and capacity. The present Force Criminal Investigations Department and its ramshackle forensic outfits which must be modernized should be retained. The Police Mobile Force should also be retained. The office of the IG should be retained but re-organized to perform purely inspectorate, standardization and coordinating roles of the sovereign state police command.
In addition to the foregoing, contemporary arguments and conventions world-wide encourage localization of the police service, especially prevention of crime and maintenance of law and order. This practice has very well stood the test of time in most modern democracies. Modern doctrines of internal security management emphasize small, well-equipped, motivated and extremely mobile enforcement mechanisms in civil settings. These earn prompt and lasting respect from the civil order and therefore much needed cooperation.
In our peculiar circumstances today, we are confronted by the frequent recourse to the use of the military in internal security duties, quite often not in conformity with the law stipulating such intervention and deployment. The damage to the profession of the military itself has ominous consequences. We are today witnesses of how untoward socio-political behavior has robbed the police of some of its hard earned reputation and this is also beginning to afflict the military equally adversely.
Deployment of armed soldiers for civil duties has its other hazards. The average soldier is a thin-skinned, short-fused trained combatant who can spark on the slightest provocation and sometimes take on even his superiors, not to talk of “bloody civilians”. Even for this reason alone frequent and unnecessary deployment of troops for civil duty should be avoided. Again, frequent deployment of troops for civil duty embraces the additional risk of exposing the failure the political order thereby tempting subversion with all its repercussions on the constitution as well as democracy.
Concerns about corruption and political victimization in police operations will not necessarily be simultaneously assuaged by the restructuring process however. The stubborn prevalence of these ills are the result of systemic lapses in recruitment, training, orientation, discipline, conditions of service, funding and leadership caliber which have to be addressed professionally and sincerely on a continuous basis. This is perhaps where the burden of responsibility lies heavily on the federal and state political leadership to ensure that national/public interest supersedes partisanship and clannishness in dealing with police affairs at all levels. Matters of national security in general and the police in particular are integral to the fabric of governance that is permanent and should be insulated from the vagaries of partisan politics. The level of maturity and ethical conduct of our political leaders is therefore just as critical as enhancement of the structure of government and its institutions.
–Shinkafi wrote in from Abuja