• Saturday, June 15, 2024
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In search of a new police model

PSC recruits 10,000 constables to strengthen internal security

By Senator Opeyemi Bamidele

The proposal for the creation of State Police has been a subject of intense debate in the last decade or more. This, in part, can be attributed to the rise of armed attacks orchestrated by diverse interests either pursuing divisive agenda or seeking predatory ends in virtually all geo-political zones.

At different times, public intellectuals, especially those who specialise in Security and Strategic Studies, have offered divergent views on the pros and cons of the State Police, a truly decentralised police structure that focuses on ensuring public order at sub-national level. While some argue for the fundamentality of a decentralised police structure that reflects the true characters of our federation, others oppose the proposal on diverse grounds.

The latter, for instance, emphasises its possibility of deepening the culture of impunity at the sub-national level. They also fear that the Governors may arbitrarily deploy the police under their control against the opposition political parties, perceived social critics and other highly critical actors, hence endangering our nascent democracy.

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Indisputably, this fear is truly ominous given the arbitrary use of power by some Governors. However, it is not sufficient a ground for the outright disapproval of this proposal, especially at a time when the cost of insecurity is no longer bearable for our fatherland.

It is therefore paramount to critically dissect state police purely from the perspective of political economy. As an approach, political economy literally measures how politics defines the economy and how the economy in turn redefines politics. The interplay of politics and economics, either formally or informally, plays out daily in the conduct of our nation’s affairs. But we rarely emphasise the application of this approach to dissecting the functionality of our federation.

This interplay, if methodically applied, can deepen our understanding of the timeless demand for an alternative police system now that the National Assembly has initiated another process to review the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.

Nigeria’s transforming context

Nigeria, a federation of 36 states, six geo-political zones and Federal Capital Territory (FCT), is on the cusp of history again. Its inherent structural imbalance influenced the decision of the National Assembly to review the 1999 Constitution. The review, precisely initiated in December 2023 to produce a new grundnorm that truly reflects the federal character of Nigeria, is steadily ongoing and simultaneously progressing at the Senate and House of Representatives.

Unlike the previous political dispensations, this process has not merely spurred renewed debates about our national security architecture and governance structure at large. It has equally elicited public confidence in the resolve of the National Assembly to deliver a fairly recalibrated political order that will bolster the aspirations of all Nigerians, whether poor or rich, old or young.

At the end of the review, we all hope, the outcome of this process will transform to a new constitutional order that will birth a more functional federal system. But is the process really necessary? For me, I strongly believe, the process is highly imperative given the dysfunctional nature of our federal system. This system is dysfunctional due to its failure to decisively address the deficit inherent in our political and economic spaces. It is also dysfunctional due to the prevailing security conditions that plague nearly all constituents of our federation.

No Nigerian, at home and in the diaspora, can dispute the unacceptable conditions of our federation or the stark realities of our fatherland. These realities manifest from time to time in diverse reports of extremist violence in the North-east, banditry and kidnapping in North-west, farmer-herder clashes in the Middle Belt, separatist aggression in the South-east, age-long resource conflict that plagues the South-south and territorial inversion in the South-west.

Obviously, these security trends have become a part of our national life. Almost all federating units, in one way or the other, have their bitter share of these conditions, though the prevalence may differ from state to state. And as a result, lives have been cut short; indigenous people uprooted from their ancestral roots; domestic economy profusely haemorrhaging; and our collective assets unduly attacked for reasons that cannot be justified. Yet, as a federation, we have not come up with constructively contrived strategies to nip these horrible conditions in the bud.

Proposal for State Police

Since the birth of the Fourth Republic, these grievous conditions have spawned diverse national conversations. In 2005, for instance, the conversation led to the convocation of the National Political Reforms Conference, which died a natural death due to the democratically perverse recommendation of a third term. In 2014, the National Constitutional Conference was convened to address all these heinous conditions that eclipse our collective peace, progress and prosperity. But its outcome ended up in our national archive as the then president predicted.

Also, in 2017, the All Progressives Congress constituted a Committee on True Federalism with a view to addressing our heinous structural imbalance. The committee completed its mandate with a far-reaching report that recommended state police, resource control and fiscal federalism, among others.

However, the conversation has gained more traction with the resolve of the National Assembly to review the grundnorm that governs our federation. Unlike the previous exercises, we are not just undertaking another review as the Parliament of the Federal Government.

Rather, we are undertaking this national assignment as the Parliament of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, a legislative power derived from Section 4(1-4) of the 1999 Constitution. Under this clause, the National Assembly is vested with the power to specifically “make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Federation or any part thereof…”

This power, as enshrined under the provision, distinctly includes the power to amend, review or even produce an entirely new federal constitution that will decisively address our current socio-economic and political realities. Now, as the Parliament of the Federation, this is exactly the power we are now exercising to resolve highly critical questions that gravely threaten life and property; de-incentivise strategic investments and undermine our collective resolve to build one resilient, vibrant and invincible federation, mainly in the last two decades, even more.

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These questions often include: What are the triggers of perilous security conditions that plague our federation? Who are the masterminds aiding these conditions? Why did they resort to armed violence? What are the costs of their actions?

And how best can we transform this unpleasant security context to a more stable environment that guarantees collective prosperity? Each of these questions has substantially been answered one way or the other.

As a federation, however, we have not agreed on how these answers can be methodically applied or what exactly we can do to create an environment where a regime of effective public order prevails without let or hindrance.

As a result, diverse proposals aimed at establishing such a regime or engendering internal stability often sharply polarise nationalities that constitute this federation.

The proposals essentially can be reduced to two separate strands, which public intellectuals of diverse ideological orientations have canvassed within their spaces of persuasion.

The conservatives, for instance, have embraced a centrally controlled police doctrine, which in entirety domiciles the policing powers exclusively in the Federal Government.

Also, the progressives firmly hold to the principle of devolving policing powers to other constituents of the federation – be it region, states or local – with a view to providing an eclectic approach to the supreme mandate of ensuring human lives and protecting collective assets.

The great debate

The politics of state police creation is as deep as the ethno-religious fissures that characterise Nigeria itself. And its depth forms the core of the conservative persuasion that favours the retention of Sections 214-216 of the 1999 Constitution. This persuasion simply implies a centrally controlled police order in which the Federal Government retains the absolute power of providing security and ensuring internal stability.

In the main, its proponents believe mere investments in training police officers; prioritising their welfare, recruiting more operatives and upscaling their operational capacity, among others, will guarantee public order and internal stability.

The proposal to adopt or establish State Police has viciously come under sustained attacks for different explanations. First, the conservatives have argued that the Governors will use it as an instrument of oppression against their perceived political enemies if the Federal Government shares policing powers with sub-national governments.

This fear is indisputably tenable given the highhandedness of some Governors. However, does this really suggest that we should throw away the baby with bath water?

Second, other critics frequently cited the partisanship of the district, provincial and regional police in the First Republic to justify their opposition to the adoption of State Police. They explained how the political elite deployed the police operatives under their control against their perceived and potent political foes. For them, the creation of State Police can further deepen the subsisting regime of vicious impunity at the state level. Even though it might have failed before now, does it mean the state police model cannot succeed in this contemporary time, especially with the increasingly cascading response capacity of the Nigeria Police?

These explanations are not obviously convincing enough to disapprove the proposal for State Police outright. And this can mainly be understood from different socio-economic and political dimensions.

In the first instance, whether in principle or practice, Nigeria is a federation of 36 states, six geo-political zones and one FCT. Ordinarily, the realities of Nigeria’s governance structure should define its national security architecture.

This simply suggests that a centrally controlled police system can hardly be responsive enough in a federal context with unitarist foundation and pillars. Accordingly, a police system that will respond decisively to our internal challenges ought to reflect the intrinsic characters of our federation.

Globally, also, demography often determines the size, strategy and structure of the police system a federation will adopt. This singular attribute largely defines the way most emerging democracies protect their citizens; secure their collective assets and create an environment for a functional economy.

Nigeria, as one of the world’s fastest growing populations, cannot continue operating a unitarist security architecture despite its strong federal tendencies. Such a policing model cannot meaningfully address existential threats to our internal cohesion and stability.

Unlike in 1979 when we had a population of 70.75 million, Nigeria is now a federation of 229 million people, currently the world’s sixth biggest country, as shown in the demographic data of the United Nations.

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Contrarily, as revealed in the recent presentation of the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Kayode Egbetokun, Nigeria has a police-citizen ratio of 1-650. This ratio is a far cry from a ratio of 1-460, which according to the United Nations, is a minimum requirement for every sovereign state or territory worldwide. This shortfall further reinforces the dysfunctionality of the centrally controlled model we are currently operating.

Effective policing, therefore, is always a function of understanding the security environment. This evidently requires all operatives to understand the peculiarities of the security context without ambiguity.

It also means they understand the culture, history, language and values of the people they are engaged to protect. It entails that they have built, even maintained a network of social capital that can help them function effectively. This suggests that they are familiar with their areas of responsibility, mainly the socio-economic dynamics that often breed internal challenges within the security environment.

As currently constituted, the Nigeria Police does not possess any of these attributes, which I strongly believe, is central to crafting an alternative national security architecture that will guarantee the protection of lives and property.

In other words, the dysfunctionality of the current police system directly correlates to the prevalence of criminal incidents in virtually all states of the federation. This further justifies the public demand for an alternative police system that can deepen internal stability and incentivise diverse investors from within and without.

However, the progressives do not in any way share the conviction of the conservatives. Rather, in absolute terms, they propose the need to recraft Sections 214-216 of the 1999 Constitution to introduce local, state or regional police into the country’s security architecture. This also suggests the exigency of devolving policing powers to other federating units – local and state governments. It is not entirely new to Nigeria’s political system.

Until the promulgation of Decree No. 34 that birthed the unification of Nigeria in 1966, we had practised the decentralised police system under the First Republic. In this dispensation, as established in Section 105(7-8) of the 1963 Constitution, each regional, provincial and district government was statutorily vested with the power to create and operate its own police. But the 1966 coup heralded the military rule that dismantled the decentralised police structure we embraced at independence.

The interplay of forces

Rather than allow our fissures to determine our collective future, it is important to reassess the interplay of forces – cultural, economic, political, social or technological – that now shape security dynamics globally.

As well, it is salient to look at the rationality of our choice, perhaps whether we should continue with a centralised police model as it is now or adopt a truly decentralised police model in the similitude of what we had in the First Republic.

As a federation, however, Nigeria cannot be left out in the matrix of new thinking that glaringly defines the world. In real terms, rationalism should, as a custom, shape the choice of police model we adopt and not what we are or what we are not. Put differently, our current socio-political realities or security dynamics ought to define our collective response.

For me, the ongoing review of the 1999 Constitution obviously avails us another opportunity to redefine our governance structure and recalibrate our security architecture as a people of collective purpose. But we must go about it with a clear sense of self-realisation.

We must, first and foremost, realise that the present police system is ailing and dysfunctional. We must also admit that the system can no longer guarantee the dignity of human lives and the security of collective assets considering our security dynamics in the Fourth Republic.

With this admission, it is evident that the option of adopting State Police is no doubt inevitable as an antidote to diverse security challenges that threaten us as a federation. Its inevitability is connected to diverse emerging threats, which according to policy analysts and strategists, are not just the outcome of our national faultlines. Rather, it is designed to respond to the inherently perverse socio-economic realities of the federating units that jolt millions into poverty.

Besides, the deficit of the Nigeria Police has influenced extra-constitutional responses to guarantee the security of assets, investments and lives. One of such responses is the undue deployment of armed forces to manage our internal security crises. It is ostensibly an outright deviation from Section 217 of the 1999 Constitution, which constricts the armed forces to defending our fatherland from external aggression; maintaining its territorial integrity and securing its borders from violation. Due to the dysfunctionality of the Nigeria Police to ensure internal stability, the armed forces have deviated from their constitutionally assigned mandates. This is not in an attempt to usurp the powers of the Nigeria Police.

Rather, it is in the spirit of joining forces with the Nigeria Police in the task of ensuring public order within our border. Although this military support is highly critical to our internal stability, its intervention is an absolute deviation from its original mission, and we must embrace State Police to significantly reduce the engagement of the armed forces in internal security operations.

This is just one side of the argument. Another side is the regular sight of our military officers on the streets of state capitals, commercial cities and major towns. What does their regular sight tell foreign investors, development partners or donor institutions visiting our fatherland? What does it portend to us as a people? This does not portray us as one of the world’s fastest evolving democracies with the records of seven successive elections since 1999.

It does not suggest that Nigeria, in its 25 years of democracy, can guarantee security of its critical assets. It does not suggest that the Nigeria Police can ensure internal stability that these global actors always look forward to as a condition to bringing in or injecting their capitals into our economy.

This argument does not end with the critical perception of Nigeria by visiting donors, investors and partners. It also dovetails into the economy of security itself. In principle, political economists, especially those that share Karl Marx’s philosophy of economic determinism, always argue that the economy is the substructure of every society. And in essence, the economy forms the foundation on which socio-political structures are built. As empirical as this time-tested postulation might be, I strongly believe, the working of every society distinctly reflects the symbiosis of all its units – be it culture, economy, law, politics, science or technology.

This implies that each of these units mutually functions for the workability of our society. It further suggests that all the units co-exist independently within their spaces to interdependently deliver desired outcomes. This thus depicts the functionality of an economy depends upon how efficient and effective our national security system is.

The downward spiral of foreign direct investments (FDIs) into this federation further corroborates the politico-economic perspective to State Police. The best approach is to correlate the flow of FDIs with our security trends year by year. From $8.84 billion in 2011 to $3.06 billion, the flow of FDIs contracted by 65.38%.

By 2020, our FDIs further shrunk to $2.39 billion, thus representing a 72.9% contraction from what we recorded in 2011. In 2022, our FDIs snowballed into negativity. In 2023, the flow of FDIs resurged to $377 million with diverse initiatives the incumbent government introduced to restore internal stability.

Within this timeframe, the steady contraction of FDI correlated directly with the frequency of armed attacks, to which the Nigeria Police could not decisively respond. And this trend incentivised strategic investors from bringing in their capitals; crippled real production nationwide and exposed our economy unduly to diverse global economic shocks.

The flow of FDIs is not the metric to measure Nigeria’s economic haemorrhage to security challenges we are facing as a federation. A 2015 report by Mercy Corps, a reputable international non-governmental organisation, also quantifies the economic value of peace in the Middle Belt alone. In its findings, Mercy Corps concluded that Nigeria could gain as much as $13.7 billion annually in total macro-economic progress in a scenario of peaceful coexistence between herdsmen and farmers.

This value perhaps might include the cost of the food crisis and its consequent escalation of food inflation that rose to 40.53% in April 2024. This finding reinforces our deduction that the interplay of socio-economic and political forces is pivotal to delivering a more efficient and functional police system.

Under the subsisting police order, it has been a herculean task to establish a stable security context. This x-rays the dysfunctionality of the Nigeria Police and failure to respond to its core mandates. For instance, what influenced the creation of EFCC, ICPC and NFIU? The answer is evident in the malfunctioning of the Nigeria Police.

The statutory mandates of EFCC, ICPC and NFIU constitute the core constitutional obligations of the Nigeria Police. But its inherent dysfunctioning triggered the resolve of the National Assembly to enact legislation that would fill the vacuums that necessitated their establishment.

With this scenario, I believe, the time to embrace the decentralised police model is now. It is dangerous for us to further delay our collective resolve to remodel our police system in accordance with the true characters of our federation.

As it is in other climes, the adoption of State Police will in reality bring the people to the core of security operations. And the global trend in security practice supports this proposition, especially in emerging democracies like India, Mexico and even South Africa, where policing powers have been significantly devolved to sub-national governments.

In advanced democracies too, Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States, among others, have long embraced the decentralised police model. The rationale behind their choice is not far-fetched.

It relates to the principle of mutuality in policing. This principle assumes that the police need public support to effectively function within its core area of responsibility. Likewise, the people need the police to secure their lives and assets.

This mutual dependence will unfailingly breed organic synergy between the people and police that will eventually create an environment where aggressors, criminals and outlaws can never thrive.

But can we just adopt state police without addressing the concerns of its critics? I truly share the fear of the critics that the Governors can use the state police purely for private ends or such a police establishment may be too partisan in the discharge of its core mission.

But the legislators, who are the truly elected representatives of the people, are conscious of public concerns about adopting State Police and are under obligation to address public trepidation with the spirit of nonpartisanism.

We will convincingly deploy the instrumentality of ‘checks and balances’ to reduce, even completely discourage the use of State Police for private ends when eventually adopted.

At the state level, the proliferation of vigilante groups is gradually metamorphosing into a similitude of anarchy. Different sub-national governments are now establishing vigilante groups under the guise of criminal elements that threaten life and property.

They are also procuring arms and ammunition for the protection of lives and assets within their spaces. In Kano, for instance, Hisbah, a replica of local police that enforce Sharia, was established to tackle some perennial security concerns. In the South-east, the Governors created Ebubeagu in response to pervasive security crises. In the South-west too, Amotekun came into being amid grievous security concerns.

These groups are indirectly exercising the powers of State Police outside the purview of the 1999 Constitution. However, the sub-national governments have justified their resolve to create vigilante groups on Section 4(7), which empowers the State House of Assembly “to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the State or any part thereof…”

At best, the multiplicity of these security outfits with highly limited operational powers and without definite constitutional obligation obviously portrays an anarchic security context. And this context reinforces the proposal for the devolution of policing powers to sub-national governments.

Devolving policing powers from its subsisting centralised structure to the proposed decentralised model is not just an alternative we must all embrace just to reflect the true character of our federation. Rather, it is a sine qua non for bringing our fatherland out of the woods or precarious conditions that have for decades eclipsed our public image before the comity of nations and caused our economy internal economic haemorrhage. It is also a globally recognised approach that gains profound acceptability among federal democracies.

Need for legal framework

With this emerging anarchic context, we must embrace an alternative police system, explicitly defined and technically designed in response to our socio-economic and political realities.

As the debate for a more efficient police model subsist, the National Assembly is under obligation to provide a legal framework that provides clearly defined preconditions, to which sub-national governments must conform before they can establish their own police formation.

The role of all 36 State Houses of Assembly is equally indispensable in the quest to adopt the decentralised police system. At least, the two-third of the state parliaments must approve the proposal before it can become effective.

In essence, the legal framework must be actionable and definite, evident and transparent, to allay public concern about State Police. It must convincingly address thorny issues that can, in the future, encourage the arbitrary use of State Police by Governors.

It must clearly set out globally acceptable standards for unambiguous definition of the investigative, operational and prosecutorial powers of State Police; well-structured welfare packages that will discourage unethical practices, minimum security equipment that will encourage efficiency, mainstreaming accountability and transparency mechanisms into the state police operations as well as promoting professionalism across all strata of police operatives, among others.

Providing a legal framework for the establishment of State Police should not be confused with its actual implementation when eventually adopted.

Each sub-national government is at liberty to set its own timeline for the operationalisation of State Police within its jurisdiction. By implication, sub-national governments can choose to operationalise its own police formation at their own pace.

Every state, already prepared for its operationalisation, can go ahead with it without further delay. The development of the legal framework will prevent sub-national governments from hiding under vigilante groups to arm people unconstitutionally.

But we must comprehensively set out the legal framework for establishing State Police so that all sub-national governments can follow laid-down principles and procedures in bid to protect people’s lives and secure collective assets.

The legal framework, no doubt, entails setting a globally acceptable policing standard, an assignment the National Assembly must carry out in outright demonstration of our spirit of nationalism, non-partisanism and utter allegiance to the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

As a people of collective purpose, therefore, we are also under obligation to deviate from the shadow of our horrible past and embrace innovative approaches to our collective challenges. And one of such approaches is the establishment of the state police, which in truth should be objectively designed to avoid cases of misuse for political ends.

Like other models, it may have its inherent deficiencies. But its benefits, no doubt, far outweigh its costs in all ramifications. And now is the time for us as a people of collective purpose to do the needful in the national interest.

 

.Bamidele, Leader of the 10th Senate, writes from Abuja