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State police as an ill wind

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The spate of insecurity in Nigeria, for quite some time now has assumed an alarming and worrisome dimension, and perhaps for the very first time in the history of their existence Nigerians woke up to suddenly found themselves in a situation too dicey to explain and in a problem that is fast becoming somewhat insurmountable. Almost all corners of the entire country are overtaken by hoodlums of various types and dimensions, and all too obviously, the number of security men and agencies saddled with the responsibility of combating crimes has fallen too far below the urgently required, and the next clamour, which is not totally out of place, considering the huge criminal situation staring at everyone in the face, is for some people to demand for the creation of state police. In a nation of more than two hundred people, having a police whose total number is put at three hundred and seventy thousand is an arrangement destined to produce poor result. Even with the additional six hundred and fifty currently being proposed, the bottom line is that so many more will still be required if adequate security is the target.

The argument is that since the present number of officers are seemingly unable to cope with the dire situation the nation is currently in, state police will complement the efforts of the federal ones and with such synergy, the nation will be rid of all criminal elements and tendencies. Those calling for state police do so out of their intellectual innocence, and it’s easy for anyone to share their sentiment. With due respect to them, one can however posit that they are people who have not taken enough time to understudy the terrain in which they have found themselves. They obviously cannot see any likelihood of their suggestion ending up as an ill wind that will bring nobody any good.

To start with, if state police are created, what then happens to the federal ones or are we suggesting their disbandment? And if the two are to exist side by side, which is superior? If state police are to be at the beck and call of the state executives, what about the dictatorial attitudes of Nigeria’s politicians on one side, and the overzealousness of most Nigerian security agents on the other. One can always predict various forms of clashes between security agents loyal to some state executives and even between different levels of security personnels leading to a fresh upsurge of problems. The first battle the nation will have to contend with is that of superiority and even the courts will soon have a new headache attached to their wigs! In Nigeria, politicians see their opponents as sworn enemies who, if possible, should be totally exterminated. There are various instances of reported assassination of people vying for elective positions by never identified gunmen but which point directly in the direction of bitter politicking.

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With such tense background, what then should be expected with the creation of state police if not open armed conflicts between and among politicians, and things generally assuming a dangerous dimension that the federal government may find difficult to handle? Besides, due to the usual way things happen in Nigeria, having state police will only expose Nigerians to another round of both headaches and heartache. One can always predict the new uniform men and women abandoning the task for which they were put in place and veered into areas that can further lace their pockets and grease their palms!

So rather than allow the nation enter into another circle of unprovoked assault it is better to allow wisdom to prevail. It is true that the nation has a deficit of security agents required to confront the monstrous criminally that is holding the entire nation by the jugular, but allowing for the creation of state police will only aggravate the situation and throw a grenade into a furnace. The way to go is to increase the recruitment into the federal police in such a manner that can withstand the requirements of each state. If for instance Lagos, because of its huge population, needs as many as a million police to provide adequate security, such number can be recruited by the federal government and despatched there. And same for the other states. As a matter of fact, since unemployment has been a problem successive governments have been confronted by, getting many qualified youth into the force will solve some problems.

With such arrangement in place, all that would remain is new orientation and proper funding. As at now, if a public opinion is sought about the attitude of members of the force, it is doubtful if anyone would have anything positive to say. Over the years, members of the force have moved from bad to worse in their dealings with the public. Harassment and extortion, the two badges worn by the police continue to give them a very poor image before the public though they seem never to care about whatever anyone feels about their sordid operations. Such attitudes have however made a larger percentage of the public to distance itself from them. There is also an insinuation that reporting criminal activities to the police is likely to jeopardize someone’s life as the police are known to disclose the identities of their informants to those concerned. This, and so many other accusations disallow the force to get maximum cooperation from the public and this affects their operations adversely.

But one may not be justified to heap all the blames on the police. Indeed the bulk stops at the desk of their employer. To start with, why is there so much clamour for the creation of state police if not due to the fact that the current number is too few to withstood the problem the nation is faced with, yet, not much is being done with regards to their welfare. What then should anyone expect when the few numbers of officers are over saddled with work but with little or nothing to show for it? Why won’t some members of the force collude with members of the underworld in order to keep afloat? The bottom line therefore is for the nation to decide what it actually wants. It should be clear and certain to everyone that the nation will never have men of the force who would shun corruption in its entirety and face the job squarely until the issue of welfare is seen as paramount. Those to put their lives on the line to secure others should not only be adequately compensated but must also be insured by the state.

Oyewusi, an educationist, wrote from Lagos.

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