Confusing state police with community policing
Fittingly christened ‘‘South-south Nigeria Police Regional Summit’’ with ‘‘Strategic Partnership for Effective Community Policing in the South-south Zone’’ as its theme, the summit concluded that community policing is the best option to secure the Nigerian polity.
In the communique that was released at the end of the summit, Inspector-General of Police Abubakar Adamu who was in attendance and representatives of all governments in the region endorsed community policing as a panacea to increased crime and general insecurity. Welcome as this idea is, we reiterate our position that creating State Police, which is currently hindered by Constitution provisions, is the best option for the nation.
The state of insecurity in the country is unacceptable. It is scary and dangerous. Human lives are routinely violated by rampaging hoodlums despite promises of improvement. Our highways are no longer safe. Kidnapping has become an everyday occurrence in most parts of the country, including the Federal Capital Territory. Ritual killings are reported almost every day.
In the North East, the ruthless and murderous Boko Haram scoundrels have continued to torment innocent citizens. Certainly, we cannot retain old methods in a rapidly changing security situation. The current police command structure, which centralises policing is anachronistic and ought to be jettisoned to save the nation from an implosion. The impunity with which people commit crimes is simply insulting to nationhood. It is perhaps for these reasons that the south-south governors convened a summit to address security challenges in the country.
During the week in question, the skewed nature of the composition of the Police High Command also received critical attention. The appointments of commissioners of police deployed to the 36 states do not reflect the federal character requirement, which is duly enshrined in the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria. Out of 36 CPs deployed to head the police in the states, the North West has 12, North East has eight CPs, while South East has only one. Abia and 13 other states do not have any CP serving as state police commissioner. This contravenes the federal character principle as enshrined in Section 14 (3) of the 1999 Constitution as amended. Framers of the constitution were averse to one section of the country lording it over the other in terms of federal appointments.
Meanwhile, two intertwining issues arise on policing the nation. The first is the idea of community police. The other has to do with the command structure. Community policing is the way to go. It involves grassroots participation. However, it is not simply by training locals who would be taking orders from a distant IG that the desired results would be achieved. Community policing means leaving internal security matters in the hands of officials who are familiar with and who live in the community. We cannot have proper community police under a CP who reports directly to and takes instructions only from the IG. It is an anomaly. Added to this peculiarity is the situation where though a state governor is referred to as chief security officer, he cannot really give orders to the CP who heads the police in his domain.
The nation has to return to the organic state police. Fear of abuse of the system should not scare us so that we do not throw away both the baby and the bathwater. The El-Rufai Committee, which the APC government appointed in 2015, came out with a framework on adopting state police. Under this arrangement, state governments would be obliged to set up and maintain its police force. Constitutional provisions will spell out duties and limits of state police. That way, there would be no clash between federal and state policemen. It is the surest way to contain the near break-down of law and order in the country. Policing goes beyond carrying weapons of authority. It entails and requires trust between the police and the policed. Right now, there is no love lost between men of the Nigeria Police and the citizenry. The reputation of the Nigeria police is one of nauseous corruption and criminal inefficiency. The situation is compounded by the current perception of the Police High Command as northern dominated. The entire squadrons of the mobile police in the southern part of the country are headed by officers of northern extraction. This government has not been mindful of the unwritten rules of engagement between the ethnic groups in the country. These conventions have ensured relative stability and peace. Recently, a former Chief of Defence Staff and Chief of Army Staff, General Alexander Ogomudia spoke up when he said that except the nation takes restructuring seriously, we would be compelled to restructure by violence. The import of the statement is clear to all, especially coming from a retired general who understands the nature and needs of security.
Another matter arising from policing is the relationship between the Police Service Commission (PSC) and the Inspector-General of Police. By its terms of reference, the PSC ought to handle appointments and deployments of police officers. The IG continues to practically ignore the PSC. It went ahead to conduct appointment of men into the force without proper recourse to the PSC. Rather than allow the Commission to deploy commissioners, the IG has stuck to the old way of one-man rule. Curiously, a Federal High Court compounded the conundrum last week when it ruled that the petition of the Police Service Commission that the IGP should not usurp its function and authority lacked merit. Even the silence of the presidency on all these complications arising from federal character crisis and conflict between the PSC and IGP can undermine the peace and stability of the country.
Let us not play the ostrich. Policing in Nigeria is not working. This accounts for the increase in crime. The Federal Government should implement the El-Rufai Committee’s recommendations on state police and other low-hanging fruits that will reduce the burden on an incompetent Federal Government and anomalous federal structure. The current structure is unitary, fallout from the days of the military in government. It is an albatross on the nation. This is the time to jettison the archaic way of governance and embrace options that could transform the nation. Restructure the police force now!
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