Will state policing improve security in Nigeria?

by | February 13, 2018 1:00 am



Over the years, the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) is overwhelmed with assorted crimes within the country such that crime-prevention and control have become very challenging to execute. There is no way community policing can be effective without confidence and trust that the people have in the NPF. The citizens feel the NPF as currently structured is not doing enough to protect lives and property in the country.

The security challenges of the nation have increased the amplitude of cries from concerned citizens for the creation of state police in Nigeria. The incessant herdsmen attacks, armed robbery, cultism and kidnapping amongst other heinous crimes threatening national security in the country has necessitated the demand for creation of state police. In fact, the cacophony of ideas on state police is now at its highest amplitude than ever before. The Vice President (VP), Yemi Osinbajo, recently declared that “State police is the only way to go.” This policy statement by the VP has triggered this piece.

The desire to have state police cannot be overemphasized despite fears about how to create one in Nigeria while some Nigerians believe that the status quo remains. They reasoned that security is not a subject which could be subjected to romance by anyone, thus underscoring the importance to centrally control the police for obvious reasons. They argued that state police could be hijacked by certain politicians and used to hunt down perceived political enemies.

This is not to suggest that the advocates for a central policing system are unaware of the shortcomings of the NPF as currently constituted. The challenges of the NPF include inadequate funding, and importantly, operational deficiencies in dealing with crime and security challenges. Importantly, the Inspector General of Police (IGP) is of the view that the underfunding of the NPF is responsible for its inability to cope with the current spate of herdsmen attacks and other wrongdoings within the country.

This writer is concerned by reports in the media that the Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom, has ordered his people to brace up to defend themselves in the face of incessant killings by herdsmen. The concern is as a result of the implication of such directive on national security despite the presence of federal policemen in the State. Samuel Ortom lamented the inability of the security operatives to stop killing and arrest killers as well as the perpetrators of the New Year Killings. 

Analysing Samuel Ortom’s remarks, one will not be completely wrong to say that the security of lives and properties in Benue State is threatened. That perhaps, is responsible for Samuel Ortom’s order to his people to defend themselves and their loved ones if attacked by herdsmen. This defensive stance was taken because of strong accusations that the Federal Government has not displayed the will to defend citizens of Benue State. Many Nigerians are disturbed beyond bounds as they have angrily expressed their opinions on different occasions about the complicit of the Mr President, the IGP, and other security operatives in the current killings by herdsmen in the country.  Due to this strong allegation, Mr President has defended himself severally that he is not relaxing. He begs for calm and says that perpetrators will face justice. He has equally warned Nigerians against attacking Fulani herdsmen. For the IGP, he insists that the NPF as it is currently constituted only need to be more funded to enable it perform its statutory functions excellently.

Some powerful generals namely, ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo (OBJ), and ex- Head of State, Ibrahim Babangida (IBB) have rang “fire alarm” by issuing warning letters to Mr President that he should come down from the “horse” in 2019. Regarding, the IGP, Samuel Ortom says “the man should resign because he has failed woefully. He doesn’t have the capacity.” He further lamented that “there are many good police officers who can take over the job and perform creditably by turning around the security architecture of this country and make things work and protect lives and property. The man has no business being the IGP.”

The legitimate concern of this writer on creation of state police is that thoserunning the affairs of the countrymust handle the matter carefully.Some states are not economically viable and they cannot pay salaries and pensions of their workers regularly. Therefore, willthese states be able to fundand equip their police properly?

Will state governors have the courage to recruit qualified citizens instead of political thugs into state police?There are concerns that state police could be hijacked by some governors. However, some Nigerians do not share this sentiment. Irrespective of views, one should ask if the NASS would be willing to amend relevant section of the 1999 Constitution to accommodate state police.One of the main problems of democracy is the difficulty in changing a law when it has become obsolete.

If the nation is to develop, it will do so under a politically stable and secured environment. Security remains very vital to the country’s development. Those who believe in the NPF as it is currently structured insist that the welfare and equipment of police personnel need to be improved urgently. And that those equipment required for prompt response to crime and crime prevention must be at the heart of any police reform strategy.

The creation of state police does not mean that the federal police would be scrapped.  To allow for the creation of state police, relevant section of the 1999 Constitution must be amended.  Although, some will argue that it is better that lawsbe allowed to change slowly. This writer believes that needless injustice would be inflicted on citizens when an outdated law continues to operate beyond its point of usefulness. Albeit, if members of the NASS were favourably disposed to Nigeria having a state police, they should start legislative proceedings on the subject matter immediately.I hope the creation of state police will improve security in Nigeria.

MA JOHNSON

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