• Thursday, April 18, 2024
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State police: To be or not to be?

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The clamour for the creation of state police has lingered over the years but seems to have reached a crescendo lately.

No doubt, the clamour peaked recently because of the daunting and multi-faceted security challenges confronting the country.

Kidnapping, banditry, terrorism, secessionist agitations among others, are reported almost daily while security operatives seem to be overwhelmed.

Perceptive stakeholders are of the view that the manifold menaces could be only be effectively tackled by intelligence-led subnational and community policing as practiced in some other climes.

They say that in many countries, subnational or provincial police are intrinsic and integral part of their security architecture. They particularly identified Australia, U.S., India, Canada and UK, most South Asian countries, just to mention a few.

Against this backdrop, relevant authorities and stakeholders in Nigeria posit that creation of state police and its contiguous issues should be placed on the table.

Nonetheless, some observers are averse to this idea—they raise concerns on the likelihood of abuse by overbearing state governors.

Arising from a recent meeting, President Bola Tinubu and the 36 state governors resolved to consider the establishment of state police after full implications have been considered.

Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris, gave an insight on the outcome of the meeting.

“Now, there is also a discussion around the issue of state police; the Federal Government and the state governments are mulling the possibility of setting up state police. Of course, this is still going to be further discussed; a lot of work has to be done in that direction.

“But like I said, more work needs to be done in that direction; a lot of meetings will have to happen between the federal government and sub-nationals to see the modalities of achieving this,” he said.

More recently, a Bill for an act to establish State Police and other Related Matters thereto, passed second reading in the House of Representatives.

The Bill, which will alter provisions of the 1999 Constitution, was sponsored by Rep. Benjamin Kalu and 12 others.

Kalu, while leading the debate, said that Nigeria’s collective security had been greatly challenged due to the recent upsurge in insecurity cases.

He said Nigeria operated a federation consisting of 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, with 774 Local Government Areas, and about 250 ethnic nationalities, and more than 200 million citizens.

Kalu argued that Nigeria, with a vast terrain spanning over 920,000 square kilometers, operated a single centralised police system that employed less than 400,000 police officers and men—exerting immense pressure on the nation’s security architecture.

He said that the bill emerged was necessitated by several calls for a decentralised and community-oriented approach to law enforcement.

“It seeks to navigate the complex landscape of security challenges by empowering our states with the means to address issues unique to their localities.”

He said the proposed alteration represented not just a legal adjustment to our Constitution but a visionary leap toward a safer, more secure, and more harmonious Nigeria.

Kalu said the bill sought the transfer of “police” from the “exclusive legislative list” to the “concurrent legislative list,” adding that the move would effectively empower states to have state-controlled policing.

He said the bill would also prevent unwarranted interference by the Federal Police in state police affairs, emphasising collaboration and intervention only under well-defined circumstances.

Weighing in on the aforementioned, a Civil Society Organisation, Cleen Foundation, said the establishment of state police was key to addressing the increasing level of insecurity in the country.

Gad Peter, the Executive Director of the foundation, said the current debate on the establishment of state police was long overdue because of the increasing level of insecurity in the country.

According to him, the Federal Government has no capacity to run a federal system of policing in a large country like Nigeria.

“You need a lot of manpower and resources to be able to police Nigeria effectively which I believe the Federal Government does not have.

“In several states of the country, the governors or the government of the state usually support the police financially and otherwise to about 70 or 80 per cent.

“I think it is time to start considering having a state police since the state governments are taking greater responsibility in the running of the police.’’

He said local intelligence was critical to solving the problems of crimes and criminality in the country.

“If you take a Yoruba man from Ogbomosho to Sokoto, he will spend the next one year trying to understand the local language and the dynamics of the area before he starts talking of fighting crimes.

“In the same way, if you take someone from Borno to Onitsha, he will spend the next one or two years trying to understand Ibo language, culture and dynamics before fighting crimes.

“So, when we have arrangements that work locally, the ability of the police to fight crimes and criminality will be quicker,” he said.

According to him, there is need to have policies and laws in place to make state police possible .

Peter said there was also the need to have well- trained mobile policemen to support the efforts of state police, if eventually established.

“For example in the North Central, we can have 10,000 mobile policemen and have same across all the regions.

“When there is crisis anywhere, all you need to do is to deploy as many mobile policemen as possible with support of the military.

“Once the issues have been addressed you hand it over to the state police while the military and mobile policemen will go back to their barracks.’’

He said to guide against abuse, there should be a mechanism in place that would ensure that the commissioner of police was not accountable to the state government.

“This is where a lot of deep thinking will come to play so that we can agree on issues because as it is now, we have witnessed abuse by the Federal Government.

“For example, in several states, the governors do not have control over the commissioners of police, but the country still exists.

“We need to find out how it is working in other places and make it to work for us by domesticating it,” he said.

Sharing similar sentiments, Dr Abdullahi Jabi, Secretary-General, International Institute of Professional Security (IIPS), said it had become imperative to set up subnational police if there was an agreement.

According to him, there is a need for the alteration of the Constitution by the National Assembly to be able to accommodate the development in terms of procedure, sanctions, guidelines and regulations.

“There is this fear over the years that the politicians may abuse the state police; that the governor will abuse it against the opponents.

“They may abuse it to such extent that there may likely be chaos even though we have seen that with the regular conventional police.

“It will be a very healthy one if it is coming up at this time because the level of crime has gone beyond the comprehension of the security and the common men.

“So, something that has to be done to match forces against criminals and reduce violent crime in our society will be a welcome development,’’ he said.

Deserving no less attention, the Security Adviser to Kogi Government, retired Navy Cdr. Jerry Omodara, said that state had the wherewithal to successfully operate a state police.

“Kogi has all it takes to set up and run a state police,’’ he declared.

Omodara described the move as a landmark step that would drastically reduce the security challenges in the country to the barest minimum, if implemented.

According to him, the move is timely, considering the nation’s current but surmountable security challenges.

The security adviser said that the National Assembly had greater role to play in providing the best legal framework that would make the state police work in every geo-political zone.

Discerning Nigerians hold that, in navigating the current move to establish subnational police, there is a need to revisit the report of the 2014 National Conference which recommended the creation of state police, National Border Force, Coast Guard, among others to bolster security nationwide.

The decisions were taken during the adoption of the report of the Conference Committee on National Security.

The committee was headed by a former Inspector General of Police, Gambo Jimeta.

In a unanimous decision, the conference said the approval was meant to adequately tackle the current security challenges faced by the Nigerian State.

Expectations are high they when operational the state police will help in creating a Nigeria of our dream.

 

Chijioke Okoronkwo writes from News Agency of Nigeria