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Regional vs state police: Which way Nigeria?

The recent decision by governors of the South East of Nigeria to establish a regional security outfit code-named “Ebubeagu” to fight terrorism and other forms of criminality in the zone has necessitated the need for a rethink on the desirability or otherwise of the proliferation of security agencies in the country.

With headquarters in Enugu, the new security outfit, according to chairman of the South East Governors’ Forum and Governor of Ebonyi State, Dave Umahi, would form a partnership with other vigilance groups in the zone to tackle insecurity and criminality in the zone which has, in the last few months, witnessed massive terrorist attacks and loss of human lives and property.

Before Ebubeagu, there was Amotekun in the South West, Yanbanga, Hisbah, and Civilian JTF in the North, and several vigilance groups all over the country.

Indeed, the action of the South East governors as well as those of their counterparts in other parts of the country was in response to the failure of the federal police and military forces to put to an end the growing insecurity in the country.

However, rather than the current piecemeal approach to security issues, it is better for the country to go for state police – a norm in other parts of the world.

A well-organised/structured state police has the potential to resolve the incessant security conundrum in Nigeria. The mantra has gained popularity as a result of the surge in the rate of highly sophisticated crimes in the country, and the inability of the Nigeria police to contain the challenges.

The closeness of the state police to the society of its jurisdiction places it in more proactive position for the detection and uprooting of any emerging crime before it grows.

The fear that state police will lead to a situation where there will be two rivalling institutions of the same responsibility, duty and nature in the country or that it would be used by politicians against their opponents are not enough to reject it.

No matter how it is viewed, state police is the best option for Nigeria now. All over the world, to police properly, you need to have people within the locality to be part of policing.

State police: Examples from other lands

Argentina: In Argentina, as a federal country, each province has its own independent police force and is responsible for its funding, training and equipment. State police agencies are responsible for all the territory of a determinate state.

Australia: Each state of Australia has its own state police force. Municipalities do not have police forces and it is left to the state forces to police all geographic areas within their respective states.

Australia does have a national police force, the Australian Federal Police (AFP), whose role is to enforce the laws of the Commonwealth (both criminal law and civil law) as well as to protect the interests of the Commonwealth – domestically and internationally.

The AFP does, however, provide ‘state’ policing for the Australian Capital Territory, Jervis Bay Territory, and Australia’s other external territories.

Brazil: Each state in Brazil has two state police forces. They are civil police comprising the State criminal investigative police and the Military Police. Both are uniformed gendarmerie forces fulfilling roles as State police.

Canada: Law enforcement in Canada operates at the federal, provincial, and local levels. Three provinces of Canada have a dedicated police force, with jurisdiction over some or all of the provinces.

Germany: The Landespolizei (or LaPo) is a term used in the Federal Republic of Germany to denote the law enforcement services that perform law enforcement duties in the States of Germany. The German federal constitution leaves the majority of law enforcement responsibilities to the 16 states of the country.

India: In India, each state and union territory has a state police force and its own distinct State Police Services, headed by the Commissioner of Police (State) or Director-General of Police (DGP) who is an Indian Police Service officer. The IPS is not a law enforcement agency in its own right; rather it is the body to which all senior police officers of all states belong regardless of the agency for which they work. The state police are responsible for maintaining law and order in townships of the state and the rural areas.

United States of America (USA): In the United States, state police (also termed Highway Patrol, State Patrol, or State Highway Patrol) are a police body unique to 49 of the US states, having statewide authority to conduct law enforcement activities and criminal investigations. Hawaii, being a widely dispersed archipelago, has four separate county-based police agencies, rather than a single statewide police agency.

From the above examples, it is obvious that several countries are practising state policing and it is working for them. So, why can’t we follow their footsteps? When you post somebody from another tribe, he will not know where to enter and where not to enter and how to go about things to be able to get his work done because he is not part of the culture. He also will not be familiar with the terrain.

Policemen are supposed to be friends of the people and they are supposed to be able to interact and know the people they are dealing with. Once you know them, and you are in the society and the police officer is an indigene, he will easily know all the people with questionable character. He will know what jobs the people are doing.

Also, state police will enhance the understanding between the policed and the police. It will also reduce bribery because a police officer will not easily collect bribe from someone he knows but can easily do that with someone he does not know.

During general elections, the local police would be able to know those that snatched ballot boxes and committed other electoral offences. State police will even address Boko Haram menace because insurgents are human beings and live in the communities; so people know them. State police goes together with community policing. People would also be able to identify those engaging in kidnapping, armed robbery and other crimes in their neighbourhood.

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