The common sense in state police
For a government that came to power on the strength of its promise of change, the prevarication of the All Progressives Congress (APC) over the imperative of addressing the fine points of federalism at the moment is most disheartening?
This inexplicable duplicity came to the fore again at the launch of a book titled, “Law on prevention and detection of crimes by the police in Nigeria” the other day when the Federal Government said it would soon announce a new policy on community policing to address kidnapping, robbery and other violent crimes across the country.
Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, who hinted of the plan without much clarity, explained that the policy would involve retired Inspectors-General of Police whose experience and expertise would be exploited to address the security challenges in the country.
Specifically, according to him, the current security, notably the policing system is not efficient enough to address the security challenges facing the nation.
The Acting President who was represented by the Special Adviser on Political Matters, Babafemi Ojudu, appropriately stated that it is impractical for the Inspector General of Police to be in Abuja and control crimes in the remote parts of the country.
He said, “there is no way we can continue running the police as constituted. Very soon, we would come up with a policy on community policing. For our brothers who have retired as IGs, they would have roles to play very soon.
“For us to continue this old way of policing our country, I don’t think it can work and it is not working. We have to look at other parts of the world, how they are doing it.
“Sitting down in Abuja, an IG policing every part of the country and being in charge of the welfare of all policemen…?”The Acting President also noted that the fears over decentralisation of the police are unnecessary and could be addressed.Certainly, the Acting President has spoken well by raising a glimmer of hope about the dangers of over-centralisation of the police force in the country. However, the concept of “community policing” that he talked about within the context of the federal police as it is currently, has not served public interest since 1966 when the military authorities introduced unitary system. That is why within the ongoing clamour for federalism in the country, there is a definite call for state police concept that the 2014 political conference report specifically recommends. Since the ruling party seems well disposed to state police, the time to move in that direction is now. The sensitisation in this regard should begin today and the executive bill to that effect should be sent to the National Assembly.
It should be noted that the people are tired of listening to lamentations or sermons by state officials elected to solve problems. Indeed, if the ruling party can begin the issue of restructuring with the introduction of state police, there would be little skepticism left over restructuring.
Nigeria is the only prominent member of the Forum of Federations 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 federating units and 774 local government councils. The United Kingdom has 45 territorial police forces and three (3) 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 exemplary in this regard. The New York City police is one of the most respected internal security forces in the world in terms of operational efficiency. And it is the city government headed by a Mayor, not the state governor that funds and controls it. Ironically, the U.S. and UK police forces have been involved in training Nigerian police officers in community policing within this framework. Instead of recruiting more police officers within the construct of federal character that has lost its character, the Federal Government should begin sensitisation that will lead to establishment of state police today. The fears of the die-hard unitarists parading themselves as federalists will be addressed as both the federal and state police will still benefit from common and basic training programmes as is the case all over the world.
The Muhammadu Buhari administration should simply walk this state-police talk. And so, the discipline of executing this simple task is not in another implementation panel of retired IGPs. It requires only one weapon: political will.
State police officers will be well-known faces within the communities. And imagine these: They visit schools in the localities and teach the children the importance of obeying the law and shunning crime.
They frequently patrol the streets, interacting with members of the public, noting complaints, intervening in minor arguments before they escalate to violent clashes.They sponsor and attend community events such as cultural days, sporting events and even Independence Day festivities. They are interactive on social media and are adept at sensitising the public on security awareness.
The state police formations are well equipped, well funded, well trained and well mannered. If the state has a population of 17 million, there are no fewer than 38,000 men to police the state. This is within the recommended UN ratio of one policeman to 450 citizens. The states even individually run the best police training academies in the country, well maintained, with the best forming part of the training staff.
The state police officers take pride in the fact that their community, their town or city and their state, year after year, is consistently on the list of lowest crime rates in all of Nigeria. The state officers’ allegiance is to the peace and security of the state, not to any political group or sitting government.
A state governor as the chief security officer of the state knows that running a low crime state is attractive to investors and tourists and in the best economic interest of his state. He also knows that these days, the people of the state have zero tolerance for non-performance. They are interconnected and have heard all about the peace and stability being experienced in the neighbouring states. They are sure to vote that governor out in the next election should he fail to ensure the security of all citizens of the state. This, of course, will deepen democracy.
It is as simple as that!
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