By Our Editors
As Nigeria grapples with the challenges of insecurity, arguments have continued to be made in favour of a bottom up arrangement that ought to see, established, a policing system that focuses essentially on the immediate local environment. Part of the argument is that the Police Force as presently constituted is not equipped sufficiently for the job of providing security for a vast area that the country is. Almost all contributors to this debate accept that the country has large ungoverned spaces that conduce to the activities of those inclined to crime and criminality.
It is also admitted that it is near impossible to wipe out criminality altogether not just in Nigeria but elsewhere around the world. The emphasis is on controlling criminality so that it does not constitute a threat to the corporate existence of the country. Manage it in such a manner that safety of life and property is considerably guaranteed within the law.
Experts claim that State Police, that is to say, a policing arrangement controlled by the state with minimal supervision by the conventional Force. Others see it in the light of states or geopolitical zones putting up structures to address their own peculiar security needs.
This argument continues to reverberate as the security situation in the country seemingly worsens. According to a report by the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), in Nigeria ‘Between 2011 and 2020, over $18 million was paid ransom. The amount of ransom accelerated in the latter portion of that period: between 2016 and 2020, around $11 million was paid out.’
Insurgency commenced since 2009, and has been around since then. A report by an international agency, acaps.org indicated that banditry violence started as farmers and herders conflict in 2011, before it intensified to include cattle rustling, kidnapping for ransom, sexual violence and killings. Banditry has affected populations living in Zamfara, Kaduna, Niger, Sokoto, Kebbi and Katsina states in the northwest.
The report also states that nearly 21 million people living in these states have been exposed to insecurity from activities of bandits. By March 2020, over 210,000 people have been internally displaced, with over 35,000 refugees crossing communal borders to Maradi in Niger Republic at the beginning of March 2020.
In the South, there have equally been reported spates of killings by killer herdsmen in villages as well as kidnappings. Another report disclosed that the caseload of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Nigeria, with almost 23,000 missing people, ‘is its largest in Africa, out of a total of 44,000 missing on the continent.
Again, Action on Armed Violence in a report in 2013 stated that between 2008 and 2010, the Nigeria Police Force recorded 887 cases of kidnap across the country. Other arms of the security apparatus like the Armed forces as well as other para-military agencies are contributing to efforts to tame the behemoth of insecurity.
Regional security outfits have also been created to help. While these new outfits by states and regions are laudable, experts still maintain that they are not appropriately grounded to tackle these emerging shades of the problem. It is from this perspective that the call has remained strident that the idea of State Police should be explored.
Many, including this newspaper, had reasoned that a Police Force controlled by the states will be open to abuse. That it could become more like a killer squad in the hands of political actors who may be inclined to using it to settle scores with their opponents. But with an estimated figure of 371,800 officers and other ranks, covering a population put roughly at 200 million, the Police as we know it today, has proved to be overwhelmed and do urgently need help.
In our considered opinion, factors to be put into consideration if State Police outfit is finally decided on is that new recruits should be well trained and equipped to unconventionally engage crisis situations.
It is also suggested that the men and women who will constitute its fighting force should be from the regions in which they will be serving. This will give them an added advantage of knowing the terrain and also protect the integrity of the Force as they will not be strangers to the environment. Furthermore, their background will be known to not only the authorities but also the people in that area who may make inputs into the recruiting process and to that extent make the Force accountable.
As a newspaper, we are persuaded to encourage any measures designed to restore confidence in the ability of security agencies to guard and protect the citizens. If State Police will enhance this desire, we will consider it a patriotic act to support its emergence so as to put criminals in their place.