How vigilantes can work with state police, by Amachree
Retired Director of the State Security Service (SSS), Dennis Amachree spoke with SUNDAY ODITA on how state police can work in Nigeria
What is your take on establishment of state police to complement the activities the regular (federal police) as constituted today?
It is a welcome idea. We have been proposing state police as a necessary institution in Nigeria, firstly to meet the demands of our almost 200 million population. Secondly, it will help in providing law enforcement and community policing for the various ungoverned spaces that exist in our country.
Is state police practicable in Nigeria, especially under democratic rule?
State police is most practicable and indeed a feature of democratic societies. It is a system where law enforcement is divulged to the different tiers of government, as opposed to the unitary system that we practice today. Holistically, it shows the division of labour in enforcing various laws be it federal, state, local government or even a housing estate or university laws. Bear in mind that these different tiers or communities, just like an association or social club have laws to guide their activities. If the crime being committed is outside the purview of that group or community, the law creating that group or community will direct that the case be transferred to the appropriate segment responsible for enforcing that particular law. So, if a federal law like drug trafficking is reported to a local government sheriff, he is supposed to call in the federal authorities to investigate it. So also is a traffic offence. That will be an offence against state law and should be handled by the State Police. Federal Police should not be directing traffic on a street in Lagos. That is the responsibility of the state police.
What are the fears against state police and how can they be addressed?
The fears against the establishment of state police come from the present abuse of the police service. Many politicians believe that the state police will be used by the opposition to attack them, just like the EFCC is being used these days. That fear will be unnecessary if the laws creating state police are well crafted to give them a level of independence and autonomy to operate. Firstly, the commissioner of a state police should be elected and not appointed. He will report to the State Assembly and not to the executive governor of the state. This will drastically reduce abuse.
Do you think this will reduce crime and aid community policing?
In a research on criminal localism, findings show that residents of the area committed about 70 per cent of all crimes that resulted in an arrest. That tells us that the work of a state or community policeman is made easy and he could apprehend the criminal who is surely not too far away from the crime scene. If more arrests and prosecutions are made, it creates a perception of deterrence in the society and will reduce criminal activities.
What is/are the roles of vigilantes in state police?
Vigilantes or Neighbourhood Watchers are groups created by the state legislature and empowered to assist the Nigerian Police to perform its constitutional duties of protecting lives and property. These vigilantes being residents of any particular neighbourhood have the basic intelligence coverage of that neighbourhood by knowing every individual in the neighbourhood. They know when a stranger strays into the area and when he/she leaves. In this case, they will be the eyes and ears of the formal police in the neighbourhood.
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