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Federalism is the answer, after all – Part 59

By Editorial Board
09 December 2021   |   4:10 am
The re-federalisation of the Nigerian crooked state structure stifling initiative and arresting development on the part of component nationalities is unending.

Fayemi. Photo/facebook/JKayodeFayemi

The re-federalisation of the Nigerian crooked state structure stifling initiative and arresting development on the part of component nationalities is unending. Fittingly, the other day, agitation for state police got a fillip from the Governor of Ekiti State, Dr Kayode Fayemi, who doubles as the chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum. A convocation lecture at the Nigerian Institute of Journalism (NIJ) provided the opportunity to revisit the issue, which his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) has through the El-Rufai Committee recommended for the country among other things. The governor restated the call for state policing with emphasis on its devolution to various levels, including the local government. In his opinion, it is the main solution to several security challenges confronting the country.

The lecture titled, “Media, security and nation-building” points to the near consensus on the need for state policing in the country. In his words, “As the Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, I don’t know of any state governor who is not in support of policing being devolved to local levels. There must be multi-level policing. It is an idea whose time has come. The excuse that state governors don’t have the resources to fund such is a fallacy…Right now, state governors are the ones funding federal police in their states. We buy vehicles, diesel, give them allowances and provide insurance cover for them. The only thing state governors don’t have over the federal police is control over them. If you want the Commissioner of Police in your state to do something for you as a governor, he will politely tell you he has heard you and that he would go and put things together in his office. He is not going there to put anything together but to call the Inspector General of Police and tell him of your propositions. If the IGP gives him the go-ahead, he would come back and say everything is ready, and if you don’t hear any feedback from him, his boss probably did not give him the go-ahead.”

Baring his mind further on the state police question, he noted that “Multi-level policing does not mean the removal of the federal police. They will be handling federal crimes such as terrorism. But there are some things you don’t need to take to Abuja to be able to deal with them. People at local levels know every nook and cranny of their community, unlike somebody you just bring in from say Kaura Namoda.”  As he expressed his optimism about the future of state policing in Nigeria, he also addressed the often-raised fear to the extent that state policing will be a tool in the hands of the state governors to hound the opposition. In his words, “Multi-level policing will happen one day in this country. It is one sure way to tackle the numerous security challenges we face now. To say governors would use state police to harass opposition is false. Federal police harass people too. I was a victim of such harassment even as a sitting governor in 2014.”  

Without doubt, the advantage of state policing given the quantum of insecurity in the country where death has become commonplace. Referencing the South West regional security outfit, Amotekun, the governor noted its impact in curbing the deluge of insecurity in the region and averred that without the outfit, the situation would have been far worse.  The Vice Chairman of the Governing Council of NIJ, who chaired the lecture, Mr. Ray Ekpu, underscored the appositeness of the lecture and noted that, “It is one that tugs at our heartstrings. For the past 11 years, our country has been harassed by Boko Haram terrorists, bandits, kidnappers, herders, and other assorted criminals. Our media have focused attention like a laser beam on these incidents because it is their responsibility to do so as prescribed by the constitution of Nigeria.”

We have a lot to learn from the United States in our bid to restructure the skewed state structure, especially on the question of the organisation of policing. The United States has one of the most highly decentralised police systems in the world. Communities are entitled to run their own police department just as the federal or state officials have powers to conduct even local investigations into offenses under their jurisdiction. According to britannica.com on the structure of Police in the USA, the “1) the federal system, consisting of the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice, including the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Secret Service, the Postal Inspection Service, and many others; (2) police forces and criminal investigation agencies established by each of the 50 states of the union; (3) sheriffs’ departments in several thousand counties, plus a few county police forces that either duplicate the sheriffs’ police jurisdictions or displace them. (4) the police forces of about 1,000 cities and more than 20,000 townships and New England towns; and (5) the police of some 15,000 villages, boroughs, and incorporated towns.

To this list must be added special categories, such as the police of the District of Columbia; various forces attached to authorities governing bridges, tunnels, and parks; university, or “campus,” police forces; and some units that police special districts formed for fire protection, soil conservation, and other diverse purposes.” The above structure is underpinned by deference to public opposition to any concentration of police power in one arm of the state. In our case, the recipe for unity and development is the automisation of the component units of the Nigerian state. This is the foundation of the crisis of incoherence we have had in our internal security system, which has somewhat exposed our armed forces to strange and embarrassing assignments in managing internal security. That is why the governing party should listen to this 59th voice or reason, which proclaims again, that failure to return to federalism we lost since 1966 will spell another disaster for the administration. It is one of their promises to the nation that they haven’t kept, after all.