Council of State meeting
The Council of State meeting taking place today in Abuja could not have been more timely. It is noteworthy that insecurity that has been the nation’s nightmare and sweeping through the land will feature in the discussions. If it is the only subject, the better. There can be no economic development or social integration without security the product of which is peace. We have all been living with the consequences of the folly of the Military era in abolishing Native Authority/ Local Government and Regional Police after Yusuf Gobir report was implemented in 1967. The panel was set up in 1966. It merely worked to the answer because General Ironsi had already collapsed the NA/Regional Police, bringing them under the operational control of the Nigeria Police on taking over in 1966.
As former President Babangida has argued, the fear of misuse of state police by the governors is exaggerated and added that in any case, we should not be detained by our ugly past. The world has moved on, he added. Former Nigerian Bar association President Joseph Daodu put it most succinctly and powerfully: State Police is for law and order. The establishment of state police is not tantamount to the abolition of the Nigeria Police. In the new dispensation, the guidelines can be such that political complaints and issues are left with the Nigeria Police but matters of law and order are left to the state police. In the Western Region, the law as of 1957, left the issuance of political rally permit with the Nigeria Police, for example. It was in 1964 the law was thrown out of the window and the Regional Police became the issuing authority for political reasons. Even then the amendment was resisted. With the army of NGOs, civil rights activists in the land today and in these times, and an age that will undoubtedly boast of several iconic Wole Soyinkas, the abuse will be difficult. In the First Republic the cases of abuse were all practically political; they did not have to do with the issue of law and order. And what is the percentage of politicians that they can hold the entire country to ransom in this day and age!
The need for the establishment of another tier of policing has been long felt. In 2003, the Nigeria Police sent some of its men to Britain to train in community policing. As is variously argued policing is local. It is to be hoped that we will stop living in denial. I have made this point repeatedly that, there is no way that were state police to be in place in Borno State, the insurgency would not have been nipped in the bud. It would have been inconceivable that the state police recruited from among the indigenes of the state would, with their eyes open, fold their arms and watch their society disintegrate economically and socially. Today there are close to three million IDPs in Maiduguri area alone and 780,000 in Benue. There cannot be an executive capacity to run a single police command for a country of the size of Nigeria. Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo said it all the other day: the state and community policing is the way to go.
The meeting of today should not rise without taking a firm decision on the establishment of the State Police. States not ready for it can wait. In the First Republic, there was no Regional Police in the Eastern Region, whereas the West and the North each had three tiers of policing. That was federalism.
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