State Police: Still a long way to go

Since Vice President Yemi Osinbajo okayed the idea, the possibility of a State Police has been gaining traction as the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) has embraced it. However, several law makers and other stakeholders, including security experts, have kicked against it as ELEOJO IDACHABA, EZREL TABIOWO, TAIYE ODEWALE, TOPE SUNDAY and KEHINDE OSASONA highlight in this report. More so, the suggested State Police needs constitution amendment, with all its tedium, to come into effect

Slowly, the nation is warming up to the idea of State Police and so far, the executive arm of government, some legislators and prominent individuals have supported it in the last one month. First, the All Progressives Congress (APC) Committee of Restructuring, headed by Governor Nasir El Rufai of Kaduna state, had recommended it in its report on January 25. Two weeks later, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo agreed that establishing State Police is the only way out of the nation’s security challenges.

Specifically, he made this known at a National Assembly Security Summit on February 5. According to Osinbajo, “we cannot realistically police a country the size of Nigeria centrally from Abuja.’’ In addition, the vice president said that the security challenges of the country are complex and that securing Nigeria’s over 900,000 square Kilometres and 180 million people requires far more men and materials than we have at the moment. For a country of Nigeria’s size, the United Nations recommends one policeman to 400 persons.

This recommendation, Osinbajo had argued, will require triple of our current police force, far more funding of the police, the military and security agencies.

Governors side with VP
Last Monday, the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) threw its weight behind the creation of State Police as a panacea to addressing the spate of insecurity in the country. The Forum’s chairman, Alhaji Abdul Azeez Yari, gave the nod at the end of a two-day security summit. Yari, who is also governor of Zamfara state, virtually echoed what Osinbajo had earlier said during the opening ceremony.

According to him, internal security is supposed to be handled and managed by the police but the constabulary is inadequate for this mandate. He said that the governors “have reiterated the position of the vice president and the position of the security summit that there is need for state police. We can say it is the only answer. We cannot realistically police a country the size of Nigeria centrally from Abuja. State police and other community policing method are clearly the way to go.”

The governor had argued that ‘’there are about four million people in Zamfara state and we have fewer than 5000 police men.” The chairman of NGF explained that the suggestion is optional as only states that can afford it should establish State Police. According to him, “it is not all the states that are supposed to have the state police, those that could, should be able to have it”.

A recurring decimal
The issue of State Police has been on the card for a long time. In June 2012, Rotimi Amaechi, as governor of River state and chairman of NGF, had called for the establishment of state police to combat the new wave of crime. At that time, the present Minister of Transport had argued that the country will be better policed, the people will be better secured and crime will reduce, if the constitution allows states to have their own police. According to him, ‘’the police are overwhelmed by the number of crimes committed in the country. Police are not being properly funded in Nigeria. Even the man on the street knows.” The governor had argued that State Police is the best option to enhance security in the country.

Northern Govs recanted
At that time, all northern governors, apart from Governor Jonah Jang of Plateau state, had kicked against the idea. On July 28, 2012, the Northern Governors’ Forum categorically said it ‘’ is not in support of the creation of state police.’’

However, the forum wanted the federal government “to embark on police reform that will assist the states in the control and management of police affairs on a sound philosophy of modern policing, by amending the provision of section 215 of the constitution.”

Specifically, the contentious section reads, “subject to the provision of this section, the governor or such commissioner of the government of the state as he may authorise in that behalf may give to the commissioner of police of that state such lawful directions with respect to the maintenance and securing of public safety and public order within the state as he may consider necessary, and the commissioner of police shall comply with those directives or cause them to be complied with.”

Significantly, the northern governors had canvassed for the deleting of section 214 of the constitution, which requires that an order from the governor must be endorsed by the Inspector-General of Police. Somehow, the issue of State Police simmered down but it came up again at the Political Reform Conference in 2014. Like others, the recommendation for State Police is amongst the 600 resolutions that are in the 10,335 confab report which is gathering dust in the archives.

A double-edged sword
Significantly, most Nigerians think that State Police, depending on the circumstance, can be used to fight crime or victimize political opponents. Governors, according to critics, may use it to muzzle the opposition in their states like the federal government is similarly accused of using the police at will.

On the other hand, proponents of State Police have argued that the arrangement will enable governors to act as chief security officers of their states in deed and not on paper. Right now, as section 214 of the constitution prescribes, commissioners of police will need the clearance of the Inspector General of Police before they can obey a governor’s directive.

In a life-and-death matter, such bureaucracy may cause needless loss of lives and property, proponents of State Police have been arguing. More so, the cops will be better placed to detect, investigate and prosecute criminals, they further said, if State Police is in place. Significantly, the policemen will be drawn from the locality and their native intelligence will help in community policing, they argued further. However, critics countered by saying that, being natives, the policemen could take sides in times of conflict within a state.

We won’t abuse state police—Gov Abubakar
Allaying fears of skeptics, Governor Mohammed Abubakar of Bauchi state said that he and his colleagues will not abuse State Police when it is established. According to him, ‘’there will always be fears, but we should not think in terms of individuals in Nigeria; that is our bane. We should think in terms of developing institutions. When we develop institutions, they take care of the indiscretions of individuals.’’ The governor pointed out that if Nigeria is going to practice true federalism, establishing State Police ‘’is probably the beginning.’’

Similarly, Professor Wole Soyinka said that State Police will stem the incessant clashes between herders and farmers.

Govs will abuse it—Sen Wakili
Significantly, Senator All Wakil (APC Bauchi South) is opposed to the idea, going by precedents in the first republic, when regional police outfits were in place. According to him, the nation’s security architecture needs to be thoroughly redesigned based on the insecurity in the country.

However, the senator said the restructuring should not be in the direction of State Police. He feared that governors will surely abuse State Police as was done in the 1960s. Wakili also argued that what is required is adequate funding, sufficient man power and a synergy among security personnel on intelligence gathering. The senator pointed out that ‘’the fact that sub-national police outfits are available and working in other federations of the world, does not mean that it will work here due to peculiar factors which led to its failure during the first republic . Many of the governors, without state police today, are using different means of coercion to get their opponents out of the way. With state police you can imagine what they will do. We are certainly not matured for such an idea”.

Sen Aliero: May worsen insecurity
Similarly, Senator Adamu Aliero (APC Kebbi Central), appealed for caution in the implementation of the idea for now. According to him, if not properly handled, State Police may worsen the dire security situation on ground in terms of proliferation of arms.

The former governor of Kebbi state asked “how many states can sufficiently fund such an outfit?’’ In addition, he raised the spectre of giving guns to people who are hungry due to non payment of salaries regularly. The senator categorically said that State Police is not all that necessary now, going by the level of immaturity of many of the political players on the field.

Senator Jibrin: We are not politically mature for it
In the same vein, Senator Barau Jibrin echoed Aliero, saying the country is not yet politically mature to operate a State Police system. “We can see what is happening, certain roles that have been given to states are being abused substantially, I do not want to mention them. I believe that it will be okay to have State Police but not now.’’

In addition, he thinks that the proposed system will create problems at the state levels. However, the senator didn’t elaborate how it will do so but suggested that Nigerians should wait and see the checks that will be introduced, especially to curb abuse. According to him, the United States and other countries operate State Police because their political maturity is higher than Nigeria’s.

A welcome development–Sen Ogola
In contrast, Senator Foster Ogola described the proposed State Police as a welcome development because it will correct the security lapses of the federal system. “Let the indigenes of the state form their own police and protect their own territory. Since the federal government cannot protect the states, let them protect themselves. We in the National Assembly are ready to amend the laws for state police,’’ he posited.

State Police will polarise Nigeria– Ex FCT Police Chief
For Mr Lawrence Alobi, former commissioner of police in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), State Police will further polarise the country. According to him, “if you fragment the police, we will divide ourselves further. The idea is a good one but untimely. We need to mature with the right capacity before we can now talk about state police. At the moment, we are very parochial, sentimental and to that extent, whatever we do with the police now will further divide the country.” Alobi who is now a security consultant, said that the police is key to national stability and unity, internal security and democracy. “Right now, we are in a precarious situation, where most state governments are struggling to pay their workers’ salaries and we are now talking about increasing their burdens,’’ he argued. Alobi maintained that policing is capital intensive and the problems of the states will be compounded if they are saddled with the responsibility of funding the police. The former commissioner of police suggested that “the government should rather increase the number of policemen in the country and not just decentralisation.’’ In addition, he advised police commissioners to be more proactive to situations in their states, ‘’rather than waiting for the IGP to give directive before they carry out their jobs.’’

State Police is possible—Ex police officer
Mr Musa Akebe, a member of Retired Police Officers Association, said that the proposed State Police can be funded by governors’ security votes. According to him, “the security vote they collect every month which is meant for security should be used to fund their police. It is not in the number of policemen but the equipment they have. Give out enough equipment to 10 well-trained police men and you will see how effective they can serve a community.” A police man, he noted can cover an area of five kilometres, given the right communication gadgets.

Akebe pointed out that any state that is determined to have a standing police can follow the Cameroun example, where security is serious business.

State Police in another name
In a way, most states have security outfits that complement the efforts of the Nigerian Police. For example, there is the Hisba Police in Kano state, which is enforcing sharia Islamic law. Similarly, Borno State has Civilian Joint Task Force (JTF), a volunteer group that is helping in the war against insurgency. In addition, there is the Benue State Livestock Guards which is mandated to enforce the Anti-Open Grazing Law.

On its part, Kogi government had launched Operation Total Freedom in order to curb the spate of kidnappings and general insecurity in the state. As Barrister Bola Olotu noted, “almost all states of the federation have one security outfit or the other that is doing some form of law enforcement, the only difference is that they don’t carry arms like the police. Right now, State Police have arrived but it is only waiting for constitutional backing for it to fully come on stream and that will take quite some time”.

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