Saturday, 9th December 2023

Why Nigeria needs state police urgently

By Victor Anya
05 September 2023   |   1:59 am
The recent declaration of emergency on food by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu can’t be achieved since there is large scale insecurity in the country. It would have been better for Mr. President to have declared emergency on insecurity instead of emergency on food.

Nigerian Police

The recent declaration of emergency on food by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu can’t be achieved since there is large scale insecurity in the country. It would have been better for Mr. President to have declared emergency on insecurity instead of emergency on food. This is because without security there can never be food security since farmers can’t go to their farms for fear of being killed by blood thirsty criminals.

There is no magic wand that will guarantee security in the country if state police is not established to complement the efforts of the Nigeria Police Force. Successive governments have downplayed this very crucial demand by thoughtful Nigerians on frivolous excuses.

In one of his rare interviews on a national television, former President Muhammadu Buhari, said, “state police is not an option,” as direct solution to the numberless security challenges confronting the country is nothing but disappointing to say the least.

Critically and closely looking at the statement of Buhari, he opined that Nigerians should seriously be concerned with the management of the relationship between the state and local governments than the incompetence of the federal police. So, Mr. Buhari had accepted the fact that the federal police is ‘incompetent?’

Speaking further during that interview, former President Buhari said, “Find out the relationship between local government and the governors. Are the third tier of government getting what they are supposed to get constitutionally? Are they getting it? Let the people in local government tell you the truth, the fight is between local governments and the governor.” This is a deviation from the major discourse and disturbing to a large extent because the issue at stake is insecurity and not whether there is a cordial relationship between the local governments and state governments.

The fears of Mr. Buhari and some Nigerians who hold the view that state governors will abuse the provision of state police by deploring them against their political opponents is infantile, puerile, pedestrian and also untenable. This is so because in the first republic, there was local authority police that ensured the safety of life and property of the citizens at the grassroots at that time. During the existence of the local authority police, there were no records of abuse by the premiers of the then regional governments. If that was the case, why did Mr. Buhari and his then diehard supporters think that state governors will use state police against their political opponents?

Commenting on the controversial issue, Chief Edwin Clark, an Ijaw national leader said majority of Nigerians believe in state police and that the fear of Mr. Buhari that state governors will use them against their political opponents was uncalled for. Chief Clark added that, “I also agree with Mr. President that state police could be used by state governors in persecuting perceived political opponents, but it is also true that the federal government is also using the Nigeria Police Force to persecute perceived political opponents, undermining the NASS and obstructing free speeches. But that does not mean that the whole idea of state police should be discarded. That will mean throwing away the baby with the bathwater.”

Chief Clark was right considering the fact that there were instances where the federal government had used the federal police against its perceived political opponents. The ugly event that occurred at the Magodo Estate, Lagos where a CSP blatantly disobeyed the order of Governor Babajide Sanwon Olu readily comes to mind. Should we proscribe the federal police because the federal government sometimes uses them against their perceived opponents? Will this not amount to throwing away the baby with the bathwater?

Constitutionally, state governors are known as the Chief Security Officers of their states but in practice, they have no control over the security apparatus in their states as commissioners of police are neither answerable to them nor take directives from them.

The above scenario is an aberration in democratic practice as America from which Nigeria copied its presidential system of government actually maintains state police and county police for the purpose of providing adequate policing to the masses.

State police is a popular clarion call by Nigerians, this is because the security situation has become deadly as no day passes without innocent Nigerians being slaughtered or burnt alive in their numbers—this is not acceptable.

The unpredictable insecurity outcomes, indeed compelled the former governor of Katsina State, Aminu Bello Masari, to call on Nigerians to defend themselves. This call is a demonstration of frustration over the total failure of the Nigeria Police Force to effectively protect the lives and property of Nigerians.

Undoubtedly, there is no magic that will enable a police strength of 350,000 to adequately police a humongous population of 200 million people! To this end, anyone, no matter their social standing, to oppose state police in the current situation in the country, doesn’t in any way love or mean well for the continuous-corporate existence of the country. Anyone that opposes state police is only playing to gallery. 

In August 2019 when Mr. Buhari hosted some traditional rulers from the Northern part of the country, led by the Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence, Alhaji Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar 111, the former president noted that there would be recruitment of more police officers from their local government areas, where they would be stationed in the best traditions of policing worldwide. That position taken by Buhari negates his earlier position above. Not only this, it also betrayed one of his campaign promises during the electioneering in 2015, to restructure Nigeria of which state police was one of such promises.

Nigerians are earnestly asking for state police because they believe that this is one of the most vital tools that will help to adequately protect the life and property of Nigerians. State police will ensure proper policing of the country as the personnel will be recruited within the state and also retained to serve within their states of origin since they know the nooks and crannies of their state. It is necessary to give state police a try, it will work because it is working in other countries.
Anya, a public affairs analyst, wrote from Ikeja. Tel: 08039181737.