State Police will solve problem of violence, but…
When the author of the book of John recorded the visit of Jesus Christ to the tomb of his friend, Lazarus, he was very apt in his description, ‘Jesus wept’, which today, remains the shortest verse in the Bible. Perhaps, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State had that verse in his mind’s eye when he visited Ukpabi and Nimbo in Uzo-Uwani Local Council. He wept, when he saw the carnage from the attack of suspected Fulani herdsmen.
Like most governors in Nigeria, the apparent helplessness of Uguawnyi in ‘commanding’ the Police and other security agency to nip in the board plans by herdsmen to attack Uzo-Uwani communities of the state, reechoes the need for state police.
In the last few years, the landscape of Nigerian has been redrawn by internecine activities of territorial expansionist and religious zealots, who the state governors cannot call to order or checkmate.
State governments are currently overstretched in funding security, which their governors are gratuitously referred to as the chief security officers, but actually have no constitutional mandate to deploy security personnel in the manner ascribed to them.
At the recent Promoting Peace, Democracy and Stability in Nigeria summit organised by Journalists for Democratic Rights (JODER) in collaboration with Ford Foundation, the Lagos State Governor, Akinwumi Ambode, who spoke through his Special Assistant on Media, Mr. Idowu Ajanaku, lamented the Mile 12 crisis, which resulted in loss of lives and destruction of properties.
Ambode stated that as a governor, who is the chief security officer of his state, he was supposed to have all the paraphernalia of security at his disposal to effectively secure the state, but this is further from the truth.
The governor said security agencies still clear his order from Abuja before anything could be done.
The introduction of state police into Nigerian policing system has been widely suggested as the only solution for the curbing of the incessant security conundrum in the country. The argument has gained popularity as a result of the surge in the rate of highly sophisticated crimes in the country, and the inability of the federal police command to contain the challenges. However, there is an opinion, which insists that state police will lead to rivalry between the two institutions of the same responsibility, duty and nature in the country.
Experts say the closeness of the state police to the society of its jurisdiction places it in more proactive position for the detecting and uprooting of any emerging crime before it grows.
Emeritus Professor of the Political Science Department, University of Ibadan, Bayo Adekanye, said, “Nigeria is one of the world’s most under-policed states; while the force structure, disposition of the organisation, and characteristics of its members, whose habits and orientations have barely changed from those inherited from both the colonial and military past, make the Nigerian Police both ill-equipped and unsuitable for policing a country of Nigeria’s size, population, diversity, and complexity.”
He added, “these had been among the major factors and forces propelling the country’s evolution from a unitary to Federal state. By logical extension, a centralised, increasingly militaristic police organisation is clearly unsuitable for undertaking policing functions in such an environment.”
The erudite scholar said, “apart from its gross numerical weaknesses as an organisation, the police is also poorly funded, badly equipped and supplied, not well-armed, corrupt, undisciplined, not always ably-led, and untrained regarding human rights issues.”
He continued, “the discourteous and trigger-happy attitudes of most members of the police in their daily interactions with the public, resort to wanton killings and murders, and brutalisation of the weak and defenseless citizens and rising incidents of civilian clashes with the police are some of the effects.
“If to these considerations are then added the overhanging atmosphere of generalized insecurity and violence that has for a while now enveloped the whole country (much of the sources of which has to do with lack of ‘human security’ provision for the jobless, the hungry, the poor, the ill-housed, the ignorant, the diseased, the oppressed, and above all the sanctity of life itself), the Nigerian public is right in thinking that the country’s current security architecture (as indeed the Nigerian State itself) is less than able to provide for their true security needs, meaning basic safety, welfare and autonomy. Hence, recourse to self-helps, vigilantes, neighbourhood watches, community policing among other autonomous strategies, means, and activities for self-policing that have spread across the country.”
Dr. Idowu Johnson, also of the same department, said, “in an ideal situation, if it is a normal federalism, we can regionalise police affairs, but in this part of the world, the issue of state police does not even warrant it.”
Johnson, however, said, “what we need is an effective management of police affairs. In other words, whether it is regionalised or sectionalised, we are not part of it, what we need now is an effective police.”
The academic said police of today are not well trained, “if they are trained and equipped with modern technology, the issue of state police would not even come up at all.”
He added, “instead of establishing state police, we can work on community policing, this means that the police in the community know themselves and will be more effective in carrying out their assignment. If we look at the herdsmen problem, it is nation wide. These herdsmen are also been disturbed by the Boko Haram insurgency because maybe they killed their cow and they are looking for where to graze. Most of them are spread along northern region and they have to relocate their cows for grazing; that is why you see them everywhere. For now, it is the problem of Boko Haram that is affecting them and causing them to spread all over the country. What we need to do is to incorporate and address the real problem that these herdsmen are facing before you can now identify the reason why they are attacking people.
Nigeria is not conforming to the UN policy on policing, if we want to have an ideal policing system in Nigeria. For example a community must have at least 20 police officers but in Nigeria context maybe only one police officer. In fact, in a street, it should be five people to one police. We still need more police officers to cater for those communities.”
Though, Dr. Chinye Bone Efoziem, managing director of Strict Guard Security Company, is not one of those who really supported state police, he said, “if you look at some of the things happening now, it gives credence to those calling for state police. The Commissioner of Police is not accountable to the Governor. The governor may call him or the State Director of SSS to say ‘this is the information reaching me, act on it’, which is within their discretion to act or not to act. The Commissioner of Police may say ‘ I tried reaching the Inspector General Of Police (IGP) to get orders from him, but I could not get him’. But if there were a state police, whereby the police boss was appointed by the state government, things would be different.”
Looking at the growing rate of crime, Efoziem said, “government should first ensure that the arms and ammunitions are mopped up as soon as possible. To become a killer, you need the courage to commit the first murder. If you were able to summon the courage to commit the first murder, subsequent killings would make no difference to you.”
Dr. Sa’idu Ahmad Dukawa, a political science teacher at the Bayero University, Kano, noted that the multiplicity of problems in the country has necessitated a call for internal police to work hand-in-hand with the Nigeria Police Force.
While another university don, Dr. Muhammad Lawan Yusufari, who is the chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Kano State branch, and a lecturer with the Faculty of Law, from the same university, rejected the idea of a state police, arguing that Nigeria was not ripe for that arrangement.
“Internal policing mechanism will take off the burden off the Nigeria Police. The overburdened nature of the NPF makes it so stressful for them to function in the most effective and efficient manner, “ Dukawa said.
Yusufari reminded that the issue of state police featured prominently at the last National Conference, before the National Assembly threw it to Nigerians for their input and opinions.
“I remember that the idea was almost unanimously rejected by Nigerians on the premise that the nation was not politically ripe for the proposed arrangement, “ said Yusufari.
According to him, “Nigerians could misuse the new arrangement when given such opportunity. It is a good idea, but unfortunately our country is not quite ready for it.”
In his submission, Dukawa argued, “I’m not unaware of some politicians who will try and misuse the opportunity when there is a provision of local police, but then, that should not hinder us from going for it, while at the same time, evolving some workable mechanisms to checkmate an anticipated fear.”
He added, “I’m also afraid that they can also be as corrupt as the Nigerian Police, unless something is done seriously. Some states can also militarise the state police. But then we should be very vigilant and resourceful to understand that running away from problem does not solve a problem. We should face it, come up with state police, identify areas of concern and do something about it, “ Dukawa emphasised.
Dukawa insisted that when the nation has state police, the federal police would concentrate on sophisticated issues like insurgency and inter-states conflict amongst others.
Yusufari maintained that what the nation needs was more policing and more resources for the NPF to function well and satisfactorily.
“We have large human resource and the material resources are also there. Just look at it recently, when federal government advertised for 10,000 slots for police recruitment, more that 100,000 applied. For you to know that the human resources are there,” he concluded.
Although the structure of police in Nigeria negates the concept of state police as enshrined in the constitution, Nigerians are prepared to tolerate this practice; so far it will assist the police in discharging its constitutional and statutory roles effectively, the National Coordinator for Network on Police Reform in Nigeria (NOPRIN), a Police/community relations’ organisation, Okechukwu Nwaguma, noted that the arguments of state police being misused by politicians are hard-won and that the merits in its favour far override the demerits.
In his words, “the Civil Society Organisations (CSO) in Nigeria, under the platform of NOPRIN, in 2012, set-up a parallel, but complimentary Civil Society Police Reform Panel, to engage the police reform process in a proactive and complimentary manner. This was in response to Federal Government’s decision to inaugurate another committee on the reform of the NPF in February 2012 and appeared to be following the same procedure as in the past.”
He continued, “on the call for state police, the CSO Panel noted that previous government committees on police reform rejected calls for police reform, giving reasons such as, local police forces were misused by politicians in the past, or that state police will lead to breakup of Nigeria in future. However, the panel considered these arguments as time-won arguments rehashed by those, who wish to avoid the hard thinking that the issue really requires. The CSO panel was of the view that it is essential for Nigeria to commence a much more informed debate on the subject, so that a rational and measured decision can be arrived at, which will, it is hoped, address the concerns raised by those opposed to state police. The Panel also considered that while the experiences of the past are important, they should be used as guides, rather than all-time barriers to the future establishment, composition, operations or control of state police in Nigeria.”
Nwaguma noted, “the CSO Panel recommended the following:
• Government should establish a committee to work out the modalities for the establishment of state police in states desirous of maintaining state police. The Committee should recommend the framework and measures that should be put in place to address the concerns by those opposed to state police;
• state police should only be established on the basis of strict adherence to the principles of operational autonomy, and be based on sound professional practice in appointment, operations and control;
• there should be defined parameters of cooperation, which provide that where a state does not fully cooperate with its counterpart or the federal police on any matter, the federal police should take over and deal with the matter as is common in other jurisdictions
• civil society organisations should work with the legislature to conduct informed debates in partnership with the media, towards amending the constitution to allow for the establishment of state police and to also produce a bill that will guarantee the establishment of independent and professional state police services.”