State Police: Praetorian guard or reserve ethnic militia?

Local or state policing is the standard arrangement for the maintenance of law and order in any community or, indeed, country. Nigeria operated thus in its fi rst half-century, via a plethora of Native Authority (N.A.) Police forces across the country. Th ey were absorbed into the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) under federal command in 1969, in reaction to the excesses of politicians in the First Republic.

Returning to the pre-1969 status requires rigorous interrogation, for a variety of reasons. State police staff ed wholly by locals and similarly commanded, risks morphing, in short time, into either a Praetorian Guard or Reserve Ethnic Militia. Gifted a disciplined force legally at their command, leadership in the states will, sooner than later, dispense with the groups of thugs hitherto under their employ and use the former to enforce their writ. Th e saga in Anambra state is not a distant memory – there a DIG (in federal police) caused the abduction of a sitting governor for the purpose of forcing his resignation at the behest of an illiterate political Godfather. Had there been state police at the time Governor Chris Ngige would have long been a goner.

Turning state police into a reserve ethnic militia is a distinct possibility in those states where ethno-religious irredentists are in power and yesterday’s minorities have become today’s majority with the conduct and the swagger to match. Police forces in these states will inevitably become the exclusive preserve of the dominant ethnic group. A portent of this is in the recent genocide in Sardauna Local Government, Taraba state.

Th ere, federally – controlled police couldn’t rouse themselves to take proactive measures despite signs of imminent outbreak of inter-ethnic violence, clearly taking their cue from the body language of state authorities. Th e fears expressed above should be properly addressed in the run-up to the introduction of state police alongside, or in replacement of Nigeria Police Force. M T Usman [email protected]


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