Why we must not shy away from state police
Recently, President Muhammadu Buhari demonstrated that for an average Nigerian leader, once a direction is chosen, instead of examining process meticulously and set the right course; one that will allow us to overcome storm and reach safety before we can progress and achieve our goals, many obstinately persist with the execution of such plans regardless of a minor or major shift in circumstance. This habit of tackling challenges with the same thinking used when it was created and, ‘‘doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result,’’ has as a consequence made Nigerians to suffer greatly for so long.
While he played host to the traditional rulers from the Northern part of the country led by the Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence, Alhaji Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, Mr President going by reports stated that; the ongoing reform of the Police would include recruitment of more hands, cultivation of stronger local intelligence and networking with communities, traditional rulers and adequate training. This in specific terms will include recruiting more police officers from their local government areas, where they would then be stationed in the best traditions of policing worldwide. Working with the state governments; we intend to improve the equipping of the police force with advanced technology and equipment that can facilitate their work.
In all fairness, Buhari never used the word, ‘state police” but it was implied. From the attributes of his speech, he did not only underline the importance of but underscores the virtues and advantages of recruiting more police officers from their local government areas, where they would then be stationed in the best traditions of policing worldwide. Precisely, this form of security architecture and community policing was amazingly the part of what the pro-state police and nations’ restructuring advocates demanded for –particularly as it was obvious that the vast majority of states can afford to equip their officers with the sophisticated security gadgets Mr. President listed above.
In view of the above, I am tempted to ask; why can’t the Federal Government allow and support the creation of state police? To further support the argument, if objective analysis can replace emotional discussion regarding state police/restructuring, one thing will definitely stand out; Nigeria has a choice, to restructure by plan or by default. As has been argued at different time and place, a planned restructuring will be collaborative, systematic, and redesign Nigeria, yet keep it whole while a default restructuring will on its parts happen, certainly not by choice, but definitely like an uncontrolled experiment with attendant risks and indefinite outcome.
To further arrive at the answer, there are no federal police or state police models, but there are fundamental differences between the two. While cultural and geographical homogeneity which are strong factors and advantages of state policing are lost in federal policing, state police depend on these factors and more such as historical and friendship to keep the society orderly and without anarchy. This value no doubt makes a productive policing without disorder. And it is my belief that state governments have the capacity to fulfill this obligation. The next question is; with this development, should we conclude that restructuring has started or are we still begging the challenge? If it has not, having seen the usefulness of recruiting, and allowing officer’s work in their familiar environments, what alternative is opened to the nation? In my views, there is no alternative to having the country restructured. The reasons are not far-feteched. Aside from the fact that President Buhari in his campaign in 2015, promised to “Initiate action to amend the Nigerian Constitution with a view to devolving powers, duties, and responsibilities to states in order to entrench true Federalism and the Federal spirit,” notable Nigerians, groups have in different times and places called on the Federal Government to steps that will have the nation restructured.
The latest of such call recently came from Aare Afe Babalola (SAN), who recently urged President Buhari to initiate the process of having the 1999 Constitution reviewed as it has discouraged and crippled development in the country and responsible for the mirage of problems confronting the country at the moment and submitted that a bill be sponsored by the government asking the Senate to pass a law for the convocation of a sovereign national conference whose membership will be elected on zero party system as part of the solution to the current problems of the country. Similarly, if providing adequate security for the masses is the government priority, it should be the collective responsibility of the country’s citizens to contribute to the success of the process. And this could be achieved only if the citizens feel they are part of the ongoing development process and has a stake in its success.This should be done with one goal in mind; that of serving the people and enhancing the status of the country. What the masses are saying and wanting in my understanding is that the padding of the second schedule of the exclusive legislative list, of our 1999 constitution with 68 items has made Abuja suffer ‘political obesity’ and need to shed some weight via power devolution.
What the people are saying is that the over blotted exclusive list has made our nation to currently stand in an inverted pyramid shape with more power concentrated at the top and the base not formidable enough making collapse inevitable if urgent and fundamental steps are not taken. What the proponents of restructuring are saying is that majority of the items are too trivial for the Federal Government to handle and should serve the greater good of the people if left in the hands of both the state and the local government. This is the hub of the masses expectation. Items such as; Police and some government security services, mines and minerals; including oil fields, oil mining geological surveys, control of parks, stamp duties, public holidays, taxation of incomes, profits and capital gains, and insurance among others to my mind should find their ways back to the states and the local councils.
•Utomi wrote from Lagos.
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