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Interrogating Clamour For State Police

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The crave for state police has suddenly gained currency in the country, with the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) Committee on True Federalism tacitly endorsing the proposal. KAUTHAR ANUMBA-KHALEEL examines the development.

Since the return of democracy in 1999, the agitations for the creation of state police have always been in the front burner. However, successive constitution amendment could not accommodate this proposal until a few months ago when key stakeholders began rescinding their opposition to the idea of state of police. No thanks to the renewed killings by suspected herdsmen and unending incidences of kidnapping, armed robbery and sundry crimes, which have caused majority of Nigerians to embrace the calls for states to established their own police. Herdsmen had since the beginning of this year murdered hundreds of people in Benue, Taraba, Nasarawa, Southern Kaduna and most recently in Zamfara state, thereby exposing the inability of the federal police to effectively police the nation and protect lives and property. It is against this background that most Nigerians tend to believe that state police can complement the efforts of the federal police in curtailing activities of herders, kidnappers and armed robbers.

First to blew the lid open was the APC Restructuring Committee headed by the Kaduna state governor, Mallam Ahmed Nasir el-Rufai, which deviated the party’s initial position and recommended that state police be adopted in the nation. In fact, the recommendations of the committee came as big surprise not to a few Nigerians considering the fact that El-Rufai and indeed President Muhammadu Buhari had been staunch opponents of restructuring and anti-state police advocate. Perhaps, the committee clearly read the mood of the nation and as some analysts have argued, the fever of the forthcoming general elections may have also played a vital role in making the committee bend towards state police.

According to the committee, the police in addition to other items should be moved from the exclusive to the concurrent list. State police would however handle certain categories of cases. “We are recommending a reversal to the state of things as at 1966. Police should be both federal and state to reduce the burden on the federal government”.

As Nigerians were still contemplating on the recommendations of the el-Rufai led APC Committee, the Nigeria Governors Forum towed the same line pitching tent with state police. The recommendations from the NGF has attracted a lot of reaction from a cross section of Nigerians. Although, there are palpable fears in certain circles that the governors have the propensity to manipulate the state police as it is seen in the activities of State Independent Electoral Committee, many Nigerians agree that the most viable panacea to ending the senseless killings, conflicts and resurgent criminality across the country is the state police.

Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, also drummed support for state police noting that the country is ripe for it. Osinbajo who spoke at a national security summit organized by the senate, said “we cannot realistically police a country the size of Nigeria centrally from Abuja. State police and other community policing methods are clearly the way to go”.

Highlighting the complexities of Nigeria’s security challenges, the vice president said, “securing Nigeria’s over 900,000 square kilometres and its 180 million people requires far more men and material than we have at the moment. It also requires a continuous re-engineering of our security architecture and strategy. This has to be a dynamic process.

“For a country our size, meeting the one policeman to 400 persons ratio prescribed by the UN would require triple our current police force, far more funding of the police force and far more funding of our military and other security agencies”, Osinbajo stated.

Since the vice president’s endorsement, some have thrown their weights behind the call while others continue to express concern over the challenges ranging from abuse by politicians especially, governors; funding; over-lapping jurisdiction and inter and intra-state victimization amongst others.

Former Commissioner of Police, Abubakar Tsav, posited that the country is not mature for creation of state citing abuse and injustice. Tsav who spoke last week, stated that the establishment of state police at this time will signal the beginning of disintegration of the country. “Apart from some states not being able to maintain police now, some power-drunk and ambitious governors may use the police against their perceived political opponents. A state commissioner of police who fails to dance to the tune of his governor may be sacked; there may be no job security, professionalism and security tenure.

“Our politicians are not civilized enough and tolerant of opposing views and cannot preside over competent and impartial police force. Let’s wait till we are civilized, united and can appreciate justice and fairness”, he stated.

Similarly, former Inspector General of Police, Sunday Ehindero, while dismissing the calls on the account that the country was not ripe, argued that the sophistication of insecurity is beyond the control of state police. “We all know that most crimes are not local; crimes such as terrorism, trafficking in drugs and human, money laundering, kidnappings, armed robbery, herdsmen/farmers’ clash are not local. They are national, international and trans-border crimes; they are crimes beyond the capacity and capability of state police to control”.

Noting that the Local Government Police and Native Police Authority were instruments used to subvert democratic process in the past, Ehindero recalled that the federal government in the 80s experimented with it but had to revert as it was unsustainable even as justice for non-indigenes was threatened in states. “Our experience in the past was such that Local Government Police and Native Police Authority were used to subvert the democratic process. The state police were used and manipulated by politicians to intimidate, prosecute and suppress perceived political opponents.

“It is my candid opinion that state police may be an invitation to secession and disintegration of the country. There are divisive elements within and without the states, mutual suspicion of one another, religious and political intolerance in the country”.

Similarly, Amb. David O.E. Solomon, warned the federal government against bowing to pressure on the creation of state police saying that it will lead to power tussle between the federal and state government and may give rise to a dangerous group even as more crimes would emerge. “Without mincing words, state police will drag Nigeria back too security crisis because in the past, we witnessed the way politicians used them to terrorize perceived enemies; Everything in life has stages, for now, Nigeria is not ripe for state police. I warn again, if the president listens to the agitators and approve state police, danger awaits us all”, he stated

But the Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, allayed some of the fears particularly in the areas of funding and abuse when he said that the federal police will cover states that are unable to afford it yet and added that it be a first line charge. “The funding of the state police should be a first line charge on the state account. Alternatively, the funds can be deducted at source from the federation account and paid to the Police Service Commission for onward disbursement to the state Police Service Commission.

Ekweremadu as a guest columnist in Thisday Newspaper wrote, “state police will not be compulsory. Those who have the resources will go ahead, while the federal police will take care of those unable to afford it for now. In fact, with state police in place, the federal police will have more manpower for states that are unable to establish their own”.

On the misuse of the institution, the Deputy Senate President said, “the National Assembly should provide the framework for the establishment, structure and powers of the state police. The powers of the governors should be limited to making policies and should not extend to the operational use and control.

“The National Assembly, in conferring powers on the state police, should clearly define jurisdictional boundaries. There should be caution in the areas of appointment and removal of Commissioner of Police, the funding and the general control of the police being areas which may allow the political class to manipulate the institution.

Chief Executive Officer of NOIPolls, Dr. Bell Ihua, noted that the continued security challenges that have engulfed Nigeria has proven that securing Nigeria’s land mass and its over 180 million people requires more equipment and personnel who are more familiar with the indigenes and terrain to help detect and uproot any emerging crime. “The creation of state police would foster a close relationship within communities, thereby enhancing greater information sharing with the police”.

On his part, Political analyst, Jafez Ikenna, wants the federal police increased and strengthened instead and, regional formations granted autonomy. “Rather than create more protraction in creating state police, the level of manpower and capacity of our federal police force. The appointments of IG, DIGs and so on have to be more democratic and shouldn’t be left to the president alone. State governments also need to have inputs in such appointments. Likewise, funding has to be across board, and shouldn’t be sole responsibility of the federal government. For purposes of decentralized command and increased efficiency and response to crises situations, regional or zonal formations should be granted some autonomy and shouldn’t be tied to the apron strings of Abuja.

“I think this is a better compromise than an outright 36 state police creations. Consider the ocean of arms that Nigeria would be. Like was remarked, why burden states who are finding it difficult to pay public sector salaries? Who will ever get justice in the states when most state parliaments are stooges of the governors. Then consider the brutality and arrogance of an armed state policeman who comes from the same village with the governor”, Ikenna submitted.

As advocates continue to drum support for decentralized policing, it is hoped that a second look will be given to it as assured by the House of Representatives but most importantly, that it is a panacea to the country’s security challenges.

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