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State police, panacea for Nigeria’s security challenges

By Yetunde Ayobami Ojo
07 August 2018   |   4:28 am
On paper, the protection of lives and property of every Nigerian is the priority of government at all levels. In reality, the evidences suggest otherwise.

Bukola Saraki

On paper, the protection of lives and property of every Nigerian is the priority of government at all levels. In reality, the evidences suggest otherwise.

Right to life is one of the fundamental rights of every citizen as enshrined in Chapter IV of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. That section provides that every person has a right to life and no one shall be intentionally deprived of his life.

However, the upsurge of killings across the country ranging from Boko Haram, farmers/herders clashes, assassins, abductors and kidnappers etc, are making nonsense of this fundamental rights.

Worried by the situation, the National Assembly early this year organised a summit for Executive and Legislative arms of government to examine the problem of insecurity with a view to ending the seemingly intractable violence across the country.

At the summit, vice president, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo (SAN) reportedly advocated state police as the way to go in the face of multifaceted security challenges.

In other developed countries, the use of state police is paramount. Even in United States, states have their own police, which conduct law enforcement activities and criminal investigations within state borders.

In general, they perform functions outside the jurisdiction of the county sheriff. The general trend in the US is to bring all their security agencies under a state-level Department of Public Safety. Additionally, the state police may serve under different state departments, such as the Highway Patrol under the state Department of Transportation and the Marine patrol under the Department of Natural Resources.

Twenty-three US states use the term “State Police.” Forty-nine states have a State Police agency or its equivalent, with Hawaii being the only state without a so-designated statewide police agency.

So, Osinbajo said: “We cannot realistically police a country the size of Nigeria centrally from Abuja. State police and other community policing methods are clearly the way to go.

“The nature of our security challenges is complex and known. Securing Nigeria’s over 900,000sq km and its 180 million people requires far more men and material than we have at the moment.”

He also said that Nigeria must intensify its collaboration with her neighbours in the Chad Basin by strengthening security, especially at border communities, to prevent the movement of small arms and disarming armed pastoralists and other bandits who go through the borders day after day.

According to him, the problem in some of the worst cases of killings was that the security agencies were simply not there on time. He maintained: “Those attacks and reprisal attacks are intolerable cycle of hell that must be broken. Killings, kidnappings, mayhem and general lawlessness cannot be the new norm. We must take this country back and restore order.”

Also, a human rights crusader, Debo Adeleke in his response said “the only thing and the best way to stop all those acts of criminality that have gone beyond the control of the government is state policing.”

According to him, crime is now growing at geometrical progression in Nigeria, meaning that life is no longer safe. “The lives of Nigerians are now being compared with that of cattle. Terrorists kill people everyday. One wakes up everyday only to hear of news of killing in different states in the north.

“The north used to be so peaceful and accommodating as there was no security risk; and people traveled at night. Today, the reverse is the case, and the reason is that the Nigeria police are not adequately motivated. A man who is from Kano will be recruited and deployed to somewhere in Akwa-Ibom. He can’t even speak or understand the language of the people and he is being sent to go and police a terrain he doesn’t understand, a people he doesn’t understand?

“There was a time I travelled to London, where I have a house with my protocol officer. And within 30 minutes of my getting home, they have received a report that Barrister Adeleke came in with a stranger and a call was put to me because I happened to be an active member of the Neighborhood Watch in Kent (London).

“I had to explain to them that the said person is my protocol officer and he needs to assist me because of the domestic accident that I had. That is policing! If I were somebody with doubtful character, I would have been placed on surveillance and under strict monitoring. For police to be effective, you have to use the same people in the same locality.

“So if we have community police like we used to have in those days when we have regional police, crime will be eliminated. The best way of getting rid of crime is state policing,” he declared.

He stressed that the incessant, unlawful killings and the general feeling of insecurity going on across the nation in the past four years are indication that the present security architecture in Nigeria is no more able to assure Nigerians of their security.

Similarly, Akinwale Ojay in my opinion believes that whatever the country is doing presently in terms of security is not working, adding that we cannot continue to do same thing, same way and expect different result.

His words: “The real tragedy across Nigeria is that we risk more attack and loss of lives unless we decentralise our policing system and allow every component state to establish their own state police.

“Although the law recognizes the state governor as the chief security officer of the state but a chief security officer must have officer under his control. That is not the case in Nigeria. A state commissioner of police is not under the control of the state governor.
The present structure made the commissioner of police to take instruction from the Assistant Inspector General of Police and then from Inspector General.”

Ojay pointed out that recent events have proved beyond reasonable doubts that the current centralised security system would never help the government live up to the expectation of protecting her citizens.
State police is not new in Nigeria, he stated, adding that it has been so since colonial era until the military came. He emphasized that state policing is closer to the people because there will be a proactive response to security threats.

Ojay said: “In term of financing, most governors have been giving support and logistic to Federal police in their state. Establishing state police is to support the Federal Policing system just like when we have federal roads and state roads. The real tragedy across Nigeria is that we risk more attacks and loss of live unless we decentralise our policing system and allow every component state to establish their own state police.

“The recruitment process of state police will ensure that people getting into the service have the right temperament. In Benue, Nasarawa and Plateau, the Federal Government has been accused of playing politics with security in those states. If there is state police in those states where the federal police fails to act, the state police officer will surely act.

“There is a school of thought that the state insecurity in some part of Nigeria is a way to undermine the governor of the state. It is said to be deliberate attempt to ensure that the governor is voted out because of insecurity. The argument in support of state police outweighs the disadvantages. I believe that if there is adequate legislation on the establishment, operation and control, state police can be used to cub the incessant killing and insecurity in Nigeria.”