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Why Community Policing Bill may fail to fight insecurity

Nigeria appears overwhelmed by the insecurity across states of the country following the upsurge in killings and devastations. The police, who are the primary custodians of security in the country, seemed overstretched prompting some desperate measures to tackle insecurity in the land.

Different security outfits are springing up along ethnic and regional lines, a clear testimony that the central security forces have either failed or compromised.

In the South West, the governors, state legislators and key stakeholders in the region are unanimous in forming the South West Security Network code named ‘Amotekun’ to respond to insecurity.  Some states in the South west have passed the Amotekun bill into law and facilities are already on ground to the take off.

In the South East, the governors and stakeholders are said to be working out strategies for a regional security arrangement but in the meantime, states in the region have adopted ad hoc measures to tackle insecurity in their region.

The North Central otherwise known as Middle Belt states are in serious consultations to create a security arrangement to help secure their citizens. This region has been one of the most affected by insecurity as thousands in states such as Benue, Plateau, Nassarawa and Kogi have been killed by suspected herdsmen and bandits, said to have invaded Nigeria from the Sahel. Many more have been displaced.

There are strident calls for a state police, which is a very fundamental component of federalism especially for a diverse nation like Nigeria. Opponents of the state police however, hinge their argument on the assumption that state police may lead to the break-up of the country as the country looks fragile.

These security threats and the diverse responses to them may have prompted some lawmakers in the National Assembly to enact laws that will create a synergy between the police and host communities in the country to tackle insecurity.

Recently, a lawmaker, Jika Dauda Haliru, representing Bauchi Central Senatorial District of the All Progressives Congress (APC), sponsored a bill entitled “Bill for an act to Repeal the Police Act Cap P19LFN, 2004 and Enact the Nigeria Police Act, 2020 to provide for the framework for the Police Service and ensure cooperation and partnership between the Police and Host Communities in maintaining peace and combating crime; and for Related Matters.”

The bill, which has passed first reading in the National Assembly,  provides for “effective and efficient community policing,’’  which also entails that the commissioners of police in each state of the federation shall establish Community Police Forums and Boards that shall consists broadly of the representatives of the local community in his state of jurisdiction.

Some of the other items in the bill detailed that; a community Police sub -forum shall be established at all Divisional Police Headquarters.

“Subject to section 65(1) (b) of this bill, the Commissioner of Police and the members designated by him from time to time for the purpose, shall be members of the community police forum and sub-forums established at various police formations.

“A State Commissioner of Police shall in collaboration with the relevant stakeholders in the community, establish Divisional Community Police Boards in all Police Divisions within the state

“A Divisional Community Police board shall in collaboration with the relevant stakeholders in the community, establish Divisional Community Police Boards in all Police forums,” it noted.

It added that subject to section 65(1) (b) of this Bill, the Divisional Police Officers and the members designated by him from time to time for that purpose, shall be members of the Divisional Community Police Boards concerned.

In section 60(1) it detailed that a State Commissioner of Police shall in collaboration with the State Executive Council, establish a State Community Police Boards.

“A State Community Police Board shall subject to subsection (3) of this section, consist of representatives of the Divisional Community Police Boards designated for that purpose by the Divisional Community Police Boards in the state concerned.

“Subject to section 65(1)(b) of this Bill, the State Commissioner of Police and the members designated by him from time to time  for the purpose, shall  be members of the State Community Police Boards concerned,” it said.

In section 61(1) the Community Police Forums and Boards shall in each state be established with a view to:(a) Maintaining a partnership between the Community and the Police (b)promoting communication between  Nigerian Police and the community; (c) promoting co-operation between the police and the community in fulfilling the needs of the community regarding  policy; (d) improving the rendering of Police services to the community; (e) improving transparency  in the Police and accountability  of the service  to the community.

It said further that section 61(1) shall not prevent Police liaison with the community by means other than Community Police Forums and Boards

In section 62, the bill said a State or Divisional Community Police Board or Community Police Forum or Sub-Forum shall perform the functions it deems necessary and appropriate to achieve the objects stated in section 63 of this Bill

Section 63.-(1) said “Every State or Divisional Community Police Board and Community Police Forum or Sub-Forum shall:(a) shall elect from amongst  its members a Chairperson, Vice  Chairperson and the Secretary who shall be a Police Officer; (b) determine the number of members  to be assigned by the State Commissioner or Division Police Officer to serve as members of the Board forum or Sub-Forum; (c) determine its own procedure and cause minutes to be kept of its proceedings; and (d) whenever it deems necessary, co-opt other members or experts or Community leaders to the Board or Forum in an advisory capacity.

The bill said further that Members of the Community Police Forums or Boards shall render their services on a voluntary basis and shall have no claim to compensation solely for services rendered to such Forums and Boards.

“The majority of the members of the Board, Forum or Sub-Forum concerned shall constitute a quorum at a meeting thereof.

“In the absence of the Chairperson of the board or forum or sub-forum at a meeting, the vice chairperson shall act as Chairperson, and if both the Chairperson and the Vice –Chairperson are absent, the members present shall elect one of their members present at the meeting to preside,” it said.

This bill appears to resonate with the recent clamour by the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu , for a strategy for the implementation of the community policing following the recent upsurge in crimes across states of the federation and Abuja.

The IGP during a Strategic Police Managers Meeting in Abuja, noted that recent incidents of armed banditry, kidnapping and armed robbery most especially in Kaduna, Niger, Kogi, Katsina and Zamfara States have prompted the need for the full and speedy roll-out of the Community Policing strategy across the country.

“Accordingly, as conceptualized, formulated, and approved by the Government, the current effort will be citizen-centered and driven by members of each community,” he said.

Adamu added that the plan will involve the setting up of Community Policing Committees (CPCs) at the Ward, Local Government, and State levels including the Federal Capital Territory. The Committees, when inaugurated, are to identify credible and suitable citizens from across each locality for appointment as Special Constables who will serve as Community Policing Officers (CPOs).

“The Committees are also expected to identify the security challenges peculiar to their communities and partner with the local police in formulating plans that would mitigate the challenges. The Community Policing Officers are to deal with and resolve low-level security issues without necessarily resorting to Police Stations unless the issue is of serious legal and security consequences and require police intervention. The idea is to improve the capacity of communities to develop solutions to local security problems working closely with their local police,” he said.

The IGP said that when community police becomes fully operational, the citizens would be in control of their security with the guidance of the Police and the Community Policing Committees, while the Nigeria Police would then concentrate on the management of violent and other highly organized crimes with a view to pro-actively responding to them in a manner that engender public confidence, trust, and public satisfaction in police service delivery.

The IGP however, noted that the success of the community policing initiative in Nigeria, like in other policing climes, depends largely on the extent to which strategic police managers, particularly, State Commissioners of Police, Area Commanders and Divisional Police Officers understand its concept and practice.

However, veteran security expert and columnist, Ben Okezie, faulted the community policing bill, stressing that it is a distraction that would not work, no matter how good it appeared. He said the bill was sponsored by those running away from the truth and reality of the current Nigerian situation.

He said that even if the bill becomes law through the National Assembly it does not mean that it is tenable, adding that many things are against the community policing no matter the passion being employed to cajole people into believing in it.

He said the police have to be restructured to win public confidence first even as he lamented the public distrust of the activities of the police such that it would be difficult to work with the police as presently constituted.

“There is nothing wrong in Community policing it is been practiced all over the world. Community policing is a good idea but you have to set a good foundation before you can have it. In the United States (US) up till today they are still fine-tuning it even though it has been established even in the United Kingdom (UK) but in Nigeria the situation is different,” he said.

He noted that the community policing will have serious challenges of implementation saying that members of the communities in Nigeria are not treated well by the police. He stressed that the police charge people for bail and harass innocent people on the road, which make them unhappy.

“Nigerians hate the police they don’t have any good rapport with the police, look at what happened in Ibadan when a footballer was shot by the police, how do you expect the people to be the ones to help police? Look at what is happening all over the country where people are kidnapped and some few meters away the police would even be there watching. So how do you expect them to be the ones to do constabulary with the police? It would not work.

“Look at how people are complaining about Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). So the IG should as a matter of urgency first of all bring Nigerians closer to the police let the police be truly our friend and then you will see the success of the community policing,” he advised.

He called for state police as the only solution to the current security situation in the country.

He said, “State police is the only solution. The Constitution says the Governor is the Chief Security Officer but in the real sense he is not, he cannot command the commissioner of police. When you have state police the Governor can take charge.  He can sit down with the commissioner and other security chiefs and they will plan and fashion out ways to tackle insecurity.  That is what is happening in other countries, that is what is happening in the same United States that we all copy.

“In state police the police commissioner knows his environment very well and not a situation where you will bring somebody from Sokoto to come and be commissioner in Imo state, where he cannot speak Igbo. Or you bring somebody to come and become commissioner in Osogbo when he cannot speak Yoruba. But in the state police, the commissioner will be from the state, he knows everything about the state, there is no way any bandits can come in.

“If we were having state police, Boko Haram would have been nipped in the bud before now, all these bandits would have been dealt with if every state will be in charge of their own state police,” he said.

On the question of funding he suggested that States that have the money can start it like pilot project, adding that they can use their security votes to fund the state police, he also said that even the people can contribute citing the enthusiasm that greeted the establishment of the Amotekun, saying that the people of the South West are ready to fund the security outfit.

Another expert, who pleaded anonymity, said the bill appears good on paper but is “belated because the people in the states and regions affected by insecurity have established new security outfits, which may appear ad hoc today but with time, may assume bigger roles perhaps leading to the much feared state police. How the federal authorities can handle this remains uncertain as the people are determined to secure themselves in the face of severe insecurity in the region.”

He advised for a cautious approach to the issues in order to allay the fears of the people while also maintaining the integrity of the central security forces to maintain law and order in the land.

 

Innocent Odoh, Abuja

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