Hybrid insurgency in Nigeria: Why state police is not the solution

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We are intervening in 86 inter-state boundary disputes – DG, National Boundary Commission (NBC), May 30, 2021.

The agitation for state police as solution to the current hybrid insecurity bedeviling Nigeria has assumed larger than life image. Those previously opposed to the idea, appear to be buying into it now. What appears to be a direct confrontation between proponents of federal and state policing, took place on January 5, 2022; when President Muhammadu Buhari came out to restate his opposition to it. The president categorically stated that state police is not an option; in apparent reaction to the veiled call for state police by South-west (SW) governors. The governors of SW, while reacting to the incident at Magodo Estate, reaffirmed their position on state police. They were outraged by what they termed, “the disgraceful exchange between a police officer, a CSP, and the Governor of Lagos State, Mr Babajide Sanwoolu, the supposed Chief Security Officer of the State, at the Magodo Residential Estate”. It could be recalled that on January 5, 2022, CSP Abimbola Oyewole led a team of armed policemen to take possession of a portion of Magodo Estate on the strength of Supreme Court judgment.

Many Nigerians and more state governors are almost on daily basis, calling for the introduction of state police as a sure way of ending the current insecurity in Nigeria. The governor of Ondo state, Rotimi Akeredolu, who doubles as the spokesperson of South West governors’ forum, has even made the call for the establishment of state police, a daily sermon. But is state police really the answer to insecurity in Nigeria? This writer believes that based on the way state police is practiced in other climes; it should ideally be the solution to insecurity in Nigeria. But putting Nigeria side by side with the United States America (USA) which is a model country in terms of state policing practice, I will say state police may not be the solution to insecurity in Nigeria.

Without doubt, state police can only be effective in a Community Based Country (CBC). The term community based country is my coining to depict a country that can as well be called a “community” by definition. The classical definition of community will suffice here. Community is “a group of people having ethnic or cultural or religious or linguistic characteristics in common”. By this definition, America can be regarded as a community by reason of language homogeneity. Although, different nationalities came together to form USA, English is its official and unofficial language. America can as well be regarded as a Speech Community- people sharing a given language or dialect. In this scenario, it is easy and practicable to adopt state police in US. Above all, there is no intra and inter ethnic boundary/land crisis in US.

Based on the preceding paragraph, we cannot in all honesty call Nigeria a community based country. In other words, since Nigeria is not homogeneous in terms of language, it cannot be called a community. Thus, establishing state police in Nigeria will lead to problems. It can be clearly seen that fundamental condition necessary for effective state police is homogeneity of language. This is lacking in Nigeria and so if state police is practiced, it may lead to inter and intra ethnic anarchy of unimaginable proportions. If one takes a quick look at the geo-political structure of Nigeria, one will notice that only two zones, South-east (SE) and South-eest (SW), can enjoy the benefit of State Police because of homogeneity of language. The remaining four (4) zones will not enjoy such benefit because of heterogeneous language structure in the zones. Even State Police in SE and SW will eventually migrate to Regional Policing for obvious reason of language homogeneity.

In the case, of SE and SW, we will be dealing with regional policing without legislation. Because of the fact these two regions can be regarded as speech communities, the adoption of state police will automatically lead to regional policing. Another danger inherent in state police is the possibility of a major opposition party deploying it against the ruling party, as what happened in the run-up to the Presidential election in the US appeared to suggest. It will be recalled that #BlackLivesMatter protests was triggered in part, by the brutal killing George Floyd; the killing of Breonna Taylor and the fatal shooting of another black American, Jacob Blake, also fueled the protest. These incidents took place in Democrat controlled states of Minnesota, Kentucky and Wisconsin. The said protesters targeted “raciest” President Donald Trump and Republican Party. The questions here are, why attack Donald Trump when we know he does not control Police States in US? Why were the Governors’ of the States where the unfortunate incidents occurred, speared in the attack by the #BlackLivesMatter protesters? One had thought that the protesters anger should have been directed at the Chief Security Officers in the states in question. Did someone exploit the collective emotion of Blacks in the circumstances to misguide and misdirect them? The possibility of #BlackLivesMatter like protests arising under state policing architecture may not be ruled out in Nigeria because just like in US, Nigeria has two dominant political parties.

The argument often advanced by proponents of state policing is that Commissioners’ of police don’t take orders from the Governors, who they say, are the Chief Security Officers (CSOs). This argument is at best, simplistic and not entirely correct. In fact Chief Executives (President, Governors) are only CSO in Command and not in Operation, irrespective of any variant of policing adopted by a country. The CSO in Operation in a State is the Commissioner of Police (CP). A State Governor or even the President cannot be CSO in Command, at the same time, in Operation because he is not in the field, neither is he trained to understand operational issues. In some cases, for instances, the President or Governor may not be allowed to go where he wants to because of unfavorable security report. And this report is usually supplied by the CSO in Operation. On the 6th of July 2022, Bandits in Katsine attacked President Muhammadu Buhari’s Advance Team of security guards, protocol and media officers ahead of the President’s trip to Daura for Sallah celebration. Unfortunately, an assistant commissioner of police lost his life in the attack. It must be understood that the attacked Presidential team was on operational mission to ensure that security was perfect ahead the arrival of the CSO in command, President Muhammadu Buhari. From here, we can clearly see that CSO in command cannot take up operational function, as the job is meant for CSO in operation.

A perfect example that shows Police works independently of Chief Executives when it comes to operational issues, manifested in New York on November 2020. It could be recalled that the then Governor, Andrew Cuomo, via executive order, asked the Police in his State to enforce COVID-19 restriction in every household on Thanksgiving Day. The order was largely not obeyed by the State Police, and the then Superintendent of Police, Keith M. Coorlett, was not sacked, also, the Police chiefs in the Counties that refused to carry out the Governor’s order were not dismissed. This incident took place in a country where State Police is in practice. Can this happen in Nigeria under State Police architecture?

Oraetoka writes from Abuja viag [email protected], 08056031187, 09039094636.

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