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Choked with insecurity, citizens still waver on state police

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Amina Halid is perplexed as uneasiness beclouds her face. The mother of four sat on a bench as she suckles Khalid, her youngest child. Halid is thankful to have left Mallamawa in Zamfara State alive. She left the village months ago. The memories of the incident that led to her departure cannot be easily forgotten as bandits had stormed her home. It took the intervention of some good Samaritans for Halid and her children to be rescued.

Halid’s case is better as she only lost her home and still has her children. But for former Deputy Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria, Dr. Obadiah Mailafia, the year 2017 is a year that will not be easily forgotten by the family. Malaifa had lost his first cousin who was 32 years old and her children to the cold hands of death caused by some bandits in Southern Kaduna.

According to him, the bandits had stormed his cousin’s home but met an empty house and decided to leave but unfortunately, the last child who was few months old let out a cry from where the family was hiding. The bandits made a U-turn and killed the mother and children. “Security should be the number one thing that this new government should address because that is the number one problem of this country and the duty of government is to keep the peace. Whenever I travel around the country, especially the North, it is a total disaster.” Malaifa said.

And just at the weekend, the list of the victims of insecurity was elongated in the southwest with the killing of Mrs. Funke Olakunrin, the daughter of the leader of Afenifere, Pa Reuben Fasoranti. This is just a few of the many cases of victims of insecurity in the country. In a report released by Nigeria Security Tracker (NST) recently, a project of the Council on Foreign Relations’ Africa programme, which consisted of those killed by insurgent groups like Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) in the northern part of the country, herdsmen and extra-judicial activities by the military, it was revealed that violent activities in Nigeria have resulted in the death of 7,253 Nigerians between June 2018 and May 2019.

Also, the NST report of June 29-July 5, revealed that in June 29, bandits killed 11 and kidnapped six in Kankara, Katsina State; sectarian violence led to 25 deaths in Agatu, Benue State on June 30; Nigerian troops killed 10 bandits in Zurmi, Zamfara State on June 30; gunmen killed four police officers in Yenegoa and Bayelsa States July 1.

On July 2, the Nigerian Air Force killed 20 bandits in Tsafe, Zamfara State; Nigerian troops killed 10 bandits in Anka, Zamfara State on July 2; bandits killed 18 in Kankara, Katsina State on July 3; Nigerian troops killed “several” (estimated at 10) Boko Haram militants in Nganzai, Borno State on July 3; gunmen killed one police officer and kidnapped two Chinese nationals in Oredo, Edo State on July 3; a pipeline explosion caused by vandals killed three in Alimosho, Lagos State on July 4; Boko Haram killed five soldiers in Damboa, Borno State July 4; and on July 5 one police officer and one kidnapper were killed during a gun battle in Dunukofia, Anambra State.

“Relying on press reports of violence presents methodological limitations. There is a dearth of accurate reporting across certain regions, death tolls are imprecise, and accounts of incidents vary. There is the potential for political manipulation of media. Given these limitations, the NST makes every effort to collect information from multiple sources,” NST noted.

Nigeria is currently battling its worst level of insecurity since the civil war, hence the need and the call to reform and reposition the Nigeria Police Force. Lives are lost on a daily basis, population depleted, businesses comatose, investments are nose-diving, multinationals closing shop and vacating the country, unemployment soaring and the populace in fear.

Analyses have also shown that insecurity has affected economic growth by drying out investments, increasing unemployment and dwindling government revenue, amongst others. There are instances of ethnic conflicts in some parts of the North, kidnapping in almost all parts of the country, but prominent in SouthSouth and West, militancy and pipeline vandalisation in the Niger Delta, terrorism and religious extremism by Boko Haram in North East, agitations for self-determination by Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) in South East, herdsmen disturbances in the North, ritual killings in the South West and East and other political and economic crises.

The menace remains a threat to governance and economic growth in
Nigeria. Despite the government’s growing recurrent expenditure on internal security both at the national and state levels, individuals, workplaces and houses spend heavily to provide security for their personal lives and property. Despite these efforts, the menace keeps aggravating. Thus, in almost all parts of the country, there exist some levels of insecurity.

Many believe that the current security arrangement is the problem. It is considered to be inadequate, inappropriate and simply not working. Thus, they have argued that state police or community policing is one of the ways to curb these criminal activities. The existence of state police, other than the central police is not new in Nigeria. It existed during the First Republic as Regional and Native Authority Police Forces. A columnist, at The Guardian, Abdu Rafiu, in an article titled “State Police Revisited,” gave an insight into how policing was done in the First Republic.

He cited Dr. Okeke V.O.S. of the Faculty of Social Sciences, in the renamed Anambra State University, Igbariam, who researched on the emergence of the phenomenon of vigilance security apparatus and Professor Kemi Rotimi, one-time head of the Department of History, Obafemi Awolowo University, who did extensive work on the development of policing system even from pre-existence of Nigeria.

According to Rafiu, in the First Republic, the West had three tiers of policing, namely, the Nigeria Police Force, (the Federal the Yoruba called Olopa Eko), the Regional with headquarters at Iyaganku at Ibadan; and the then Akoda. The local government police transformed from Native Authority Police which itself evolved from local arrangements –Ilari in Oyo and Ibadan; Emesse at Ife. He added that Ilesha and Ekiti; and Agururen in Ijebu, all in Yoruba Kingdoms. “In the end, the Native Authority Police Force existed with Akoda. In the North there were Dogarai and Native Authority Police Force. With the reform in Kano Emirate, Dogarai evolved to become Yan Gadi with staff strength of 151 for Kano City alone.

“So, up till 1966, the North was boasting of Native Authority Police Force and the Nigeria Police Force. As of 1924, Abeokuta had 65 policemen (Olopa) who were different from court messengers who doubled as Akoda. Under such an arrangement as obtained in the two Regions—West covering Benin and Delta; and the North, how could there have arisen the security mess of the kind we have in the land today? The East did not have Regional Police. It was content with the Federal that is the Nigeria Police Force. The first formal police formation known in the country took place in Abeokuta, set up by Egba Union Government in 1905, followed by Ibadan in 1906 and Oyo in 1907.”

He explained further that the Native Authority/Local Government Forces came to grief with the advent of the military in 1966 under General Ironsi. “The first step he took was to place the NA/LGPF under the operational control of the Nigeria Police Force. Ironsi then empaneled Yusufu Gobir reform group to do a study of the police and prison services. The panel in its report submitted in August 1967, recommended the abolition of the NA/Local Government Police Force and the establishment of one single police force for the entire country.

“One: It was consistent with the commanding posture of a military administration. Two: The regional police were scrapped ostensibly because of abuse to which they were put. Professor Rotimi extensively cataloged the abuses to which the Native Authority/Local government Police Forces was subjected. Fair enough.”Federal police officers, on the other hand, to date are posted randomly to states where the cooperation of the local populace is essential in carrying out effective policing.

Many are of the opinion that the abolition of regional and native authority police to form a unified police force significantly weakened security at the grassroots level, and in some cases badly managed local crises eventually escalated to major insurgencies.

Experts also believe that the federal police, as currently constituted, are also limited in many ways and not in tandem with the current security challenges and realities of the country. They maintained that one of the failures of the federal police in Nigeria is their inability to contend with the gale of terrorism, insurgency, and kidnapping in the country.

Examples of countries with state police abound in the United States of America, the United Kingdom, India, Pakistan, Belgium, France, Algeria, and South Africa. However, it has been reported that Nigeria is not ripe for state police because of a lack of unity. A former Inspector-General of Police, Sunday Ehindero in his submission, however, noted that Nigeria is not ripe for state police. According to him, in the first and second republics, the police were used by political opponents and it was an instrument of terror at the time.

“Moreover, state police cannot deal with the challenge of terrorism. Imagine terrorism in a state; it needs federal force to deal with it. If you look at what we have now, we have policemen in every state; the governors have some control over the police. Look at Lagos State; is the governor not in control? The governors have control, but they are saying the inspector-general of police should not be the one giving orders to state commissioners of police. But the constitution has made it that the governor can give orders to the CP. But if the CP feels the order is not in the interest of justice or rule of law, he could ask the governor to revert the order to the IG or the President.

“We have not looked at the issue of boundary disputes between states. Take for instance, if Osun and Ondos states have state police and they have a boundary problem, of course, each would use its own police to justify its position and that is not in the interest of justice. I think we are not ripe really. The police can only be effective when there is a developed rapport between the force and the community to the extent that they can give information on their own to the police.

“Also, something has to be done about the funding of the police. The Police Trust Fund they are talking about should be effective; the police shouldn’t go cap in hand begging for funds; no it shouldn’t be. There should be a demarcation between the duties of the police and that of the military. Internal security should be the responsibility of the police and they must be put in a situation where they can perform their duty.”

Also, a retired Commissioner of Police, Alhaji Abubakar Tsav said Nigeria was not yet mature for states to operate their own police. He noted that he wasn’t against the establishment of state police in the future, but that the activities of some politicians, including governors, suggested that the country was not mature enough for such an arrangement.

“The establishment of state and local government police now, which requires the amendment of the Constitution, is inviting anarchy. We are not yet ready for such an arrangement. As I always say, state and local government police are desirable in Nigeria, to bring policing to the people at the grassroots. But we are not politically mature enough to have such an arrangement in Nigeria.
“We have many modern ‘Pharoas’ among our politicians and governors who may use state and local government police to harass and intimidate their political opponents.”

Also, the Police Community Relations Committee (PCRC), warned against the establishment of state police as a panacea for the rising spate of insecurity and banditry in the country. The National Vice Chairman, SouthWest of PCRC Alhaji Ibrahim Olaniyan, who gave the warning, said that PCRC was opposed to the establishment of state police because it would only cause more harm than good to the security situation in the country. He insisted that the federal police remained the best to fight crime and improve on the electoral system, unlike the state police “being desperately canvassed by politicians.”

“The state police would be a ready instrument politicians would use to deal with perceived enemies. We are not ripe for the state police; those calling for state police, especially some governors and politicians, are only canvassing it for selfish interests, not because of national interest. For selfish interest because they know they will use it to unleash terror on opponents, especially during elections.

“The only way to combat insecurity is by retaining the federal police, and by consistently educating our people on the need to give timely and correct information about the situations around them to the police for prompt action. “The police are not complicit in the insecurity being experienced because it is the people themselves that are harboring criminals. They do not report suspected criminals to the police for arrest. There is also the need for more Nigerians to embrace and join the PCRC so that we can all work to complement information gathering and crime prevention.”

While speaking on the need for strong community policing to make Nigeria free of kidnapping and killings, Olaniyan said: “Policemen are not magicians, while criminals are not ghosts. All these people you call criminals are living among us.

“They are not spirits. If they stayed in a hotel, somebody has a hotel and he knows the data of those staying on his premises. In the olden days, people had this misconception that if they gave police any information, the police would, in turn, divulge it for financial gains. This is not true of our federal police of today.

“Let us strengthen community policing. Nigeria has over 200 million population and we cannot boast of one million or 500,000 policemen. We need to police this nation by ourselves by helping the police with the right information as members of the public.”

While speaking at a dialogue organized by the African Youths Initiative on Crime Prevention (AYICRIP) in partnership with the Nigeria Police, tagged “Towards an Improved Police Youth Relationship,” Executive Director, AYICRIP, Chris Ibe called for a robust relationship between the police and the youths across the country to curb crime.

“There must be a robust relationship between the Nigeria police and the youths. Before now, there has been a lot of distrust in their relationship and this created a lot of barriers. The police cannot function in isolation. The police can only act when they are adequately fed with information, so that is why we say, there is the need for a stakeholder meeting between the police and the youths. An improved youth-police relationship will bring about a safe community and the reduction of crime.”

He added that an effective policing must be community-oriented. “The community must work hand-in-hand with the police so as to gather intelligence for the police to work effectively. There is no two ways about it, it’s just a symbiotic relationship that improves security.”He noted that the government could strengthen the police by proper funding for “when they are well funded, and equipment are available, obviously they will do their work. Also, when they are well paid, they will give their best. It is the police life that is on the line, what community can do is just to support. The area of accountability is very important; citizens must hold the police accountable.”

On his part, Administration Officer (AO) of the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (FSARS) of the Lagos State Police Command, DSP Aduroja Akinola noted that community policing is the only way to combat crime.

“It is being used in many countries outside Nigeria and it is working for them. I believe it will work for us too. However, the cooperation of the youths is needed, they need to be at alert and be conscious of their environment and try to get in touch with the police to intervene in any issues that threaten security.

“Community police is a clear relationship between the public and the police. There must be a communal relationship between the police and the people. We use information, intelligence gathering to combat crime and the key people in the community have the direct contact of the commissioner of police. So, they contact him when they notice any funny actions.” Managing Director, of a security outfit, Sheriff Deputies, Dr Island Anyasi, noted that Nigeria is not ripe for state police but that community-oriented policing is the way to solving the insecurity situation of the country.

He said that community-oriented policing brings the police closer to the people and consequently guarantees peace and tranquility. “Community policing is what is going to help us in Nigeria to curb the issue of crime. The crime rate is so high. We don’t need to wait for the police to come from their station because at times they tell us that there’s no mobility and all such things. “Community policing makes the police to be closer to the people. In the US, policemen are deployed in twos, patrol vehicle, horse bag. They walk around with their walkie-talkie. They have a central command, which knows the policemen posted to each of the neighborhoods.”


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