State Police: Has the North finally committed to restructuring?

Blueprint Whatsapp

Against the backdrop of endless killings and extreme security situations haunting the nation with the northern part of the country the worst hit, it appears the region has joined the calls for the creation of the state police; KEHINDE OSASONA writes.

State police?

It would be an understatement to say that the nation is going through its worst insecurity occasioned by terrorism, banditry, kidnapping and other crime related occurrences haunting all and sundry.

As the scourge bites harder, former President Olusegun Obasanjo in April called for the establishment of a state police in order to address the insecurity ravaging the country, saying the problem had become a concern to every Nigerian.

He had said, “Our situation in Nigeria concerns everyone, particularly, the case of terrorism. The case has gotten over the issue of community police. It is now state police. It is from that state police that we can now be talking about community police.”

Also, while baring his mind about the development at a two-day National Security Summit, the vice-president, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, noted that the country “cannot realistically police a country the size of Nigeria centrally from Abuja.” He, therefore, suggested that state police and other community policing methods were “clearly the way to go.”

“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 said.

Despite the endless advocacies, there seems to be no end in sight and that has prompted many of the advocates to continue to stress the need to fortify the force’s strength in line with the United Nations’ stipulations.

Sensing danger over the over-centralisation and monopoly of security and its apparatus by the federal government, Governors Oluwarotimi Akeredolu of Ondo state, Samuel Ortom of Benue state, Douye Diri of Bayelsa state and a few others from the Southern part of the country had at different forums harped on the need to establish state police to tackle the increasing criminal activities in their states.

Sometime in 2012, governors took a position on state police for the 19 northern governors to backtrack after crucial decisions had been taken on the issue.

At the meeting which was presided over by the then chairman of the Northern States Governors’ Forum and governor of Niger state, Dr. Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu, the Forum expressed preference for police reforms rather than creating a state police. They gave the assurance that it would prevail on the federal government to embark on police reform that “will assist the states in control and management of police affairs by amending the provision of section 215.”

Also, at a summit last year titled: ‘Investment Attractiveness and Economic Development: Lesson for the Sub-Nationals’, the Ekiti state governor, Kayode Fayemi, reiterated the governors’ position on state police, noting that the centralisation of control and command of the security agencies in their respective states was affecting investments, developments and wellbeing of the people adversely.

At the parley, they also canvassed for a robust multi-layer policing system to protect the citizens and investments that “can drive development.”

“We have to work together collaboratively because investors consider security as number one in any state.”

Nonetheless, Section 14(2) (b) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, provides that the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of
the government.

Blueprint Weekend recalls that at the last Constitutional and National Conferences, the delegates as part of their recommendations listed the creation of state police, citing the fact that the Nigerian Police was already overwhelmed and could no longer police the above 200 million Nigerians.

Despite the clamour on all fronts, the northern part of the country, particularly the governors and their monarchs, has been unnecessarily silent and even allegedly kicked against such a move until lately. Before the ugly development, the call for state police was considered as an attempt by the South to bring restructuring through the back door.

Today, the North is worst hit with the criminalities leading to death of thousands of people and destruction of property worth billions of Naira, stunted socio-economic development, farming activities and all that, thereby forcing mass exodus to more peaceful cities southwards.

The U-turn

In a new twist, stakeholders and opinion moulders and traditional rulers in the North appear to have changed their posture in order to address frontally the security challenge.

As a way of expressing its readiness, recently, the nineteen northern states under the aegis of the Northern Governors Forum (NGF) equally joined the advocacy, calling for the immediate establishment of state police.

The decision, this reporter learnt, was arrived at in Abuja by the governors after a meeting with the Northern Traditional Rulers’ Council.

At the meeting, the traditional rulers reportedly agreed with the governors on the need to create state police if the insecurity challenges in the northern region and the nation must be effectively addressed.

Reeling out a Communiqué, the chairman of the Forum and governor of Plateau state, Simon Bako Lalong, said the meeting reviewed the security situation in
the North and other matters relating to its development. He gave the assurance that it had resolved to support the amendment of the Constitution to accommodate the establishment of state police in order to effectively and efficiently address the region’s security challenges.

Experts’ views

Speaking exclusively with this reporter on the matter, an Abuja-based senior lawyer, Olatunji Salawu, said state police was not a matter that should generate any controversy.

According to him the issue is inherent in the principle of federalism.

He said, “The powers of states were deliberately whittled down under the Nigerian Constitution because of the lack of trust. Firstly, it’s a mutual suspicion borne out of the North and South dichotomy.

“Secondly, it’s the lack of trust in the ability of states’ leaderships to respect the rule of law, including the Constitution which is the organic document of national existence.”

Going forward, he said, the recent security challenges have demonstrated the need for the preservation of the state and the protection of the people via a state police “and invariably, an amendment of the Constitution to reflect the true federalism which is at the core of the agitations for restructuring.”

Also, speaking exclusively to Blueprint Weekend, another legal practitioner, Gani Arobo, said the matter of state police “is a constitutional matter which requires extensive amendment of Section 214(1) of the 1999 Constitution.”

According to Arobo, it has proven impossible over the years because established persons within the policing systems have been reluctant to embrace a complete overhaul of the policing system.

He said further that persons who maintain control over the police at the federal level have not demonstrated any enthusiasm in relinquishing this control.

“This 9th National Assembly has merely tinkered with the peripheral issues of zonal and regional command structures which is too little an adjustment to make a significant impact.

“My view is that the question of state police can only be answered when these two key players identified above back the process. Mass agitations, opinions by monarchs and even demands by governors who are themselves already viewed with suspicion on the question of possible abuse of power will not cut it,” he said.

Related content you may like