That bad call for state police

Eric Amazu

The police have remained at the receiving end of the blames for the herdsmen crisis that is ravaging some parts of the country, especially Benue State.

The police inaction was interpreted to entail their partisanship, support for, and collusion with the herdsmen. Since we have established a national culture of calling out the army to intervene in many matters where the police have reached their end, not few Nigerians had called on the commander-in-chief of the armed forces to order soldiers into the Benue in order to quell the crisis.

Delay in the expected response from the soldiers caused many citizens to wander whether the federal government was complicit in the whole attack since both the police and the army are under the authority of the same federal government.

Both the police and the presidency reacted so badly to these allegations. The police, who apparently have lost men to the crisis, overwhelmed by the barrage of blames coming its way became jittery and therefore acted unprofessionally when its spokesperson described the Benue Governor in blackened words.

But the worst faux pas was committed by the federal government. In a bid to also decrease the blames directed to his government and the federal police, President Buhari, on Thursday, during the National Security Summit organised by the Senate, called for the establishment of state police to tackle all the major security challenges bedevilling the country.

No matter how beautiful the call for state police may sound, it is one which I don’t expect any president to make. It paints the president and his team as people incapable of making correct judgements and incompetent to execute the responsibility placed on their shoulders.

The right attitude would have been to strive to remedy any shortcoming of the police. Or is the president saying that it is impossible to train, equip and professionalise the Nigerian Police?

Whatever the president and his men think, I have lived long enough to have witnessed the Nigerian Police do wonders. We have seen policemen undertake life threatening assignments that were meant to safeguard sleeping citizens. I have encountered policemen in the dead of the night patrolling the highways for the sake of citizens unfortunate enough to be on the road at those darkest hours of the night.

I have heard heart wrenching stories about policemen sent to capture AK47 wielding robbers with bare hands. Indeed, there are countless instances of professional excellence exhibited by the Nigerian police.

One’s recounting of these star performances does not mean that one is blind to other instances of misconduct associated with the Nigerian Police. Rather than see State Police as solution to the misconducts, I see them as their multiplications.

First, state police, as I foresee it will amount to nothing but a security tower of Babel with the tendency to unleash anarchy over the entire country. With thirty-seven independent command structures, interstate police clashes will become rampant.

Imagine the scenario between Anambra and Kogi States over ownership of oil wells. Or another between Nassarawa and Benue States over herdsmen attack. In any of these scenarios, the outcome would be the clash of two different police forces obeying two different command structures.

Second, there is also the fear of what the state police will become in the hands of state governors. Opposition politicians, intra-party rivals, and even personal enemies of state governors and their cronies would become easy food for state police.

Across the states, the governors will possess the powers to stifle, harass and intimidate anybody. We have seen this happen with the State Independent Electoral Commissions. The Commissions are so biased in favour of the governors’ parties that you would think that they are peopled by party men and women.

Third, state police will lead to proliferation of arms and small weapons, thereby worsening the violent crime situation in the country. Knowing how irregular most state governments pay their workers, one will be living in a fool’s paradise to think that once state police are involved the state governors will have the money to pay them.

Irregularly paid state police will constitute more danger to society than armed robbers.

There is also the problem of training and proper staffing. As I understand it, raising a professional police demands resources, both financial and otherwise.

With the way state governments cry to the federal governments with cap in hand begging for everything from the federal government, wont they also rely on the federal government to train and equip their police?

At the end, what we need is not the multiplication of the police but rather their professionalization.

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