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The danger of state police in Nigeria


Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola. Photo; TWITTER/RAUFAAREFBESOLA/OGUNDIRANDOLAPO

Sir: There has been a large clamour for states to have their own police forces in response to the apparent unwieldiness of the national force. People have kicked against this idea because of a fear that governors would turn such forces into private armies. The fears are born out of the role the police played under Hassan Katsina in May – July 1966 and under Sam Akintola in 1964. So they are not unfounded fears.

I am clamouring against state police because Rauf Aregbesola, former governor of Osun State and present minister of Interior has showed a good example from which the 36 states governors should learn a lesson. While in Osun 2014, he introduced security architecture. Aregbesola purchased Helicopter for Aerial Security Surveillance and presentation of more sophisticated 25 Armoured Personnel Carriers (APC) to the Nigerian Police Force, a feat that has never been achieved by any government in the 36 states. The procurement of the helicopter and the APC drove away many undesirable elements from the state. The present Governor Oyetola is maintaining this security architecture.


It was during the presentation of the 25 APCs in 2014 that the then Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar, who was represented by the Assistant Inspector General of Police in charge of zone X1, Mr. David Omojola, saluted the courage of the governor in fighting crime in the state, saying, the Aregbesola administration has demonstrated high sense of responsibility in keeping the state safe in line with the dictate of his office. Also, the then Commissioner of Police in the state, Mr. Ibrahim Maishanu described the gesture from the governor as the first in the history of the state, assuring that the equipment would be properly put to use and Osun State would be one of the most peaceful states in the country henceforth.

The Nigerian police have come under a lot of scrutiny recently because of poor performance. From issues that require policing escalating to points where full blown military intervention is needed, to plain incompetence on the parts of police officers and cases where it is quite clear that the people do not trust those who are meant to protect them. Where did it all go wrong?

As of 1960, Nigeria had 12,000 policemen. By 1979, as a result of post-war expansion, there were 80,000. Most of them poorly trained. The 1979 Constitution gave the Federal Government controlled NPF the sole-jurisdiction over the country. However, that democratic experiment was short-lived and the various military governments thereafter saw the NPF as a potential threat to their power and as a result deliberately underfunded the force.

The danger of state police is as long as there are multiple commands in any formation, loyalty becomes divided. This is very dangerous to security management, especially in a very complex country, like Nigeria. Also, there will be conflict of jurisdiction. For example, which of the two forces will have the power of arrest, investigation and prosecution? If they both do, what happens when the governor or his party is implicated in unlawful activities? Will they allow the federal police to arrest, investigate and prosecute the suspects or will they use their state police to shield the suspects? Will that not lead to constant conflict between the two police forces?
Inwalomhe Donald wrote from Abuja.


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