Can State Police solve Security Challenges in Nigeria?

Fri, Jul 28, 2017 | By publisher

Featured, Security

Nigerian Governors’ Forum calls for state police which some people argue against because it will be subject to abuse

By Anayo Ezugwu  |  Aug 7, 2017 @ 01:00 GMT  |

THE debate on state police gained momentum with the establishment of a-six-man committee by the Nigerian Governors Forum, NGF, on the matter last week. The committee is to explore the prospects and of introducing state police in the country. The NGF decision followed various difficulties faced by the police in combating crimes in the country.

Governor Abdulaziz Yari, chairman, NGF, said the governors reached the decision to set up the committee after consultations with the Inspector-General of Police, IGP. He said the NGF will articulate issues raised by the police boss and present to the acting president with a view to addressing them.

Members of the committee consists of the governors of Kwara, Imo, Delta, Ekiti, Bauchi and Sokoto states. The committee is to interface with the committee on Police and take the matter before the acting president for further action. “It is important for our nation. Besides this, there is the issue of state police which is being discussed, and we are coming up with so many options. We are expecting the committee will consider safe ways of policing in Nigeria,” he said.

However, Nigerians are divided on the issue. Those who are against state police argue that it will encourage what they called overbearing control or influence of state governors over security operations. While those in support of it believed that the immediate adoption and implementation of the idea is the only panacea to the various criminal activities across the country.

One of the advocates of state police, Atiku Abubakar, former vice president, while delivering a paper at the Second Annual Convention of the Abia State Medical Association Alumni Association in London, on “Good Governance and Development: Notes on Nigeria,” said years ago there were only five policemen in his home town when he grew up but they were so effective because they knew everybody in the community.

He said if something was missing, they knew the thieves in the neighbourhood who could be responsible. “They listened to local conversations to pick the right intelligence to smash crimes. He added that there are over 100 policemen in the same community today who are drawn from all over the country but are not as effective as those five because they are blind, they don’t know the terrain and deaf because they don’t hear the language.”

Mudashiru Obasa, speaker of Lagos State House of Assembly, also backed the call for state police as a way to curtail insecurity and other crimes in the country. At the second edition of the Lagos State House of Assembly/Media and Civil Society Organisations parley earlier in July, Obasa said creation of state police will be a viable way to combat security challenges in the country.

He disclosed that the issue of insecurity in the country was a major discourse at this year’s Speakers’ Forum held recently in Abuja.  “There is hardly any state in Nigeria that is not confronted with one vice or another like kidnapping, armed robbery, ritual killings, among others.

“Nigerians have been clamouring for restructuring of the country and I believe that one important aspect of restructuring is creation of state police. We are doing our best to make security of lives and properties our priority and that we will not compromise,” he said.

On the other hand, some of the people who are against state police argued that the governors will definitely use it against their opponents. Abubakar Tsav, former Lagos State Commissioner of Police, said state police will turn into a weapon of intimidation by governors. “If the governors have state police, they will do what they like. What causes problems in our society is injustice. When peoples’ rights are infringed, they go to the Police to seek justice, and when they don’t get justice, a problem arises. We should not make the mistake of allowing the governors to have state police.

“Doing that will amount to looking for trouble. A Police commissioner will be at the beck and call of a state governor. He will do whatever a state governor wants him to do, and these governors are very desperate and want to remain in power at all costs. When they have state police, they can use it to harass and intimidate their opponents. We are not yet ripe for state police. I think what the governors should do is to support the police by allowing them to do their job without interference.  When we are civilised, we can start thinking about that but not now,” he said.

Senator Rowland Owie, former chief whip of the senate, agrees. He said the creation of state police will not only create dictators out of some governors but will also cause mayhem that may snowball into a civil war in some states.

“No sane Nigerian, will at this stage of the political development of our great country support the establishment of State Police Force, especially when we are witnesses to how the state governors have turned State Independent National Electoral Commissions to departments of state government houses.

“With state police, some state governors will harass their opponents and their families out of the state and states where a governor is not in good terms with a particular tribe, he can use the state police to eliminate or annihilate that particular tribe due to selfish interest. Nigeria is not yet matured to operate a state police particularly now that you have tension across the nation,” he said.

Owie therefore, urged the National Assembly not to support the call for the creation of a state police. He said state police is a tool for destabilisation and that the disadvantages are more than the advantages.

Even Ibrahim Idris, Inspector General of Police, has distanced the Nigeria Police Force from the purported committee on State Police set up by the NGF. Speaking to top police hierarchy on Wednesday, July 26, Idris debunked claims that the parley between the Nigeria Police and the NGF was to address the need for state police.

He said, “The committee set up is not on state police, so I was surprised with what I read in the newspapers. My understanding with that meeting is that the committee was set up to look into our proposals which we gave them, because we are trying to set up a radio and television station for the police. The committee was not centred on state police, so I was surprised when I read in the papers they said the committee was set up on state police. That was not my understanding at that meeting.”

Likewise, the 1999 Constitution do not support the establishment of state police. Unless the National Assembly will amend the Constitution before this idea could be actualised. The constitution states that the police force is exclusively under the control of the federal government and also extends the authority and powers of the police to the entire country. This was also confirmed by Item 45 of the Exclusive Legislative List, in Part 1 of the Second Schedule of the 1999 Constitution.

Specifically, section 214 of the 1999 Constitution provides that the Nigerian Police Force shall be under the full and exclusive control of the federal government. The above constitutional provisions runs contrary to the aspirations of the advocates of state police, who suggested that it is easier to deal decisively and promptly with security challenges in states that have their separate police, adding that the federal police has not been effectively policing the federation.

But with the increasing spate of criminal activities in the country, it is of essence for the federal government to consider establishing state police. Nigeria is the only prominent member of the forum of federations in the world that is maintaining a supposedly federal and only one police force to maintain law and order in a population of more than 180 million spread over 36 states and 774 local government councils. The United Kingdom has 45 territorial police forces and three special police forces. This does not include non-police law enforcement agencies or bodies of constables not constituted as police forces. The United States’ is also an example in this regard.

Despite the obvious need for state police, the Senate rejection of devolution of power at the ongoing constitution amendment shows that it will be difficult for this noble agitation to scale through.