• Saturday, April 20, 2024
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Reconsidering security: The case for regional police in Nigeria

Reconsidering security: The case for regional police in Nigeria

Nigeria bleeds. From banditry in the north to militancy in the south, violence stains our nation. President Tinubu’s rumoured deal for state police promises relief, but is it the cure or simply another symptom? Before embracing change, we must dissect the risks and rewards, ensuring we don’t trade one set of problems for another.

The truth hangs heavy in the air, undeniable and impossible to ignore: Nigeria’s current centralised policing model, anchored in the distant halls of Abuja, is buckling under the weight of its own limitations. While the urge to dismantle it entirely, fracturing it into a fragmented patchwork of underfunded state police forces, might seem tempting at first glance, it only offers a quick fix that risks creating a new set of problems.

“The truth hangs heavy in the air, undeniable and impossible to ignore: Nigeria’s current centralised policing model, anchored in the distant halls of Abuja, is buckling under the weight of its own limitations.”

Instead, what Nigeria truly needs is a transformative leap forward and a bold vision for robust regional police units. These units, empowered with extensive jurisdiction across a broader geographical area, would be better equipped to tackle the nuanced security challenges that plague different regions, fostering a deeper understanding of local contexts and fostering trust with the communities they serve.

Yes, there’s a tendency to look to the United States, with its 50 individual state police forces, as a model to emulate. But here’s the sobering reality: America sits atop the world’s largest economy, with even its smallest state, Rhode Island, having more economic power than most states in Nigeria. We cannot simply assume that their systems, developed in a vastly different context, will magically cure our own unique challenges. It’s time to discard the cookie-cutter approach and acknowledge our specific needs and limitations.

Our current system, with its expensive American-style presidential model and unwieldy 36-state structure, has fueled duplication and waste. The result? White elephant projects dot the landscape, funded by overestimated wealth. It’s clear: We can’t afford to replicate America’s mistakes.

So why the hesitation over state police? Simple: beyond Lagos, few states have the financial muscle to fund and manage a viable police force. Most rely heavily on federal allocations just to stay afloat, let alone finance law enforcement. And while promises may abound, changing the revenue-sharing formula to bolster state coffers seems unlikely.

But fear not, for there’s a better alternative: regional police forces. Instead of fragmenting resources into separate state entities, neighbouring states can pool their assets to create robust, well-funded regional police units. It’s a more sustainable approach that leverages collective strength over individual fragility.

And let’s not overlook the elephant in the room: the politicisation and abuse of state police. The Uwais Report exposes the dangers, with no safeguards against governors exploiting law enforcement for personal gain. The state police could become pawns in a dangerous political game, threatening local democracy and stability.

Regional police forces offer a more balanced approach. Their joint management by multiple states within a region reduces the risk of political capture. This built-in system of checks and balances allows them to better uphold the rule of law and protect citizens’ rights compared to models that centralise power in a single entity.

Moreover, regional police are better equipped to tackle the cross-border nature of Nigeria’s violence. In a country where instability knows no boundaries, a coordinated regional response is essential for effective law enforcement. Regional police units can share resources, intelligence, and expertise to combat crime on a broader scale.

In essence, it’s time for Nigeria to think regionally. Our country was once far more successful under a regional structure, and it’s high time we rediscover that success. The path forward lies in recognising our geopolitical realities and embracing a decentralised yet cohesive approach to security.

On the whole, transforming our vision of regional police into a tangible reality requires a two-pronged approach. Firstly, an amendment to the Nigerian constitution is essential. This amendment would formally recognise and empower the six geopolitical zones to establish regional police forces, granting them the legal framework to operate effectively. Secondly, unwavering political will and a spirit of cooperation across all levels of government are crucial. Only through collaborative efforts can we overcome potential hurdles and translate this vision into a system that guarantees the security and well-being of all Nigerians, regardless of their region. By embracing regional police forces, we can pave the way for a safer and more secure future for our nation.