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State police and public security


Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris

Sir: The debate over the necessity for the establishment of state police has been on for quite some time.

A latest disclosure by the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, at the security forum organized by the National Assembly about the expediency for state police has, however, State police is an important component of true federalism and emblem of authority of governance, since sovereignty is divided between the federal authority and federating components.

Though the 1999 Constitution provides for a single federal police, this precludes states from taking charge of the protection of lives and properties of their people as chief security officer and denied them the emblem of authority.

If Nigeria is really a federation, this is a constitutional lacuna that must be addressed through constitution amendment to pave way for State Police.

Considering recent level of threat to public security across the country, taking recourse to State police seems a more attractive option.

Without a doubt, the centralised policing system has not really been effective and it is only logical that we consider other plausible options. Aside the well accepted philosophy that that policing is essentially a local matter, every crime is local in nature.

Hence, it is only rational to localize the police force. No matter its form, crime detection needs a local knowledge that state police can better provide.

Similarly, police officers who serve in their indigenous communities are stakeholders with vested interests in such places.

Considering the reality that they will always be part of their respective communities, even after retirement, it is doubtful if they will perpetrate anti- socio activities in such communities.

A recent Human Right Watch survey reveals that most of the accidental and other extra judicial killings that have taken place in the country were perpetrated by officers posted outside their states of origin. Also, knowledge of the local environment is needed for effective policing. 

It is only logical that to fight crime in the same locality; you need law enforcement personnel familiar with the terrain.

Using police officers from Jalingo, for instance, to burst a crime in Onitsha could at best be counter- productive. The local criminals with good knowledge of the area will always outwit such foreign police officers.

Intelligence gathering is an indispensable necessity in crime fighting. But this seems to be currently lacking in the system.

It is difficult to access high-quality intelligence, unless you know the people very well, and they in turn trust you. The present arrangement certainly negates credible intelligence gathering.

Perhaps more importantly, it is important that a state governor who ought to be the chief security officer of his state has the control of the police command in same state.

The truth of the matter is that in-spite of all the arguments against state police, the reality is that Nigeria is too large and complex to be policed centrally. In an ideal federal system, the issue of state police should not be a contentious matter.

If we are really serious about overcoming current security challenges in the polity, the time to embrace the option of state police is now.

• Tayo Ogunbiyi is of the Ministry of Information and Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja, Lagos.

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