The constitutional recognition for the establishment of state police (STAPOL), has been a contentious issue for a long time in Nigeria. It generated a rainbow of opinions from different parts of the country, and tended to divide the nation along ethnic and geopolitical lines. Its supporters are mostly from southern and central parts of the country while mostly the northern part tends to be averse to it.
However, recently, northern governors and traditional rulers unanimously lent their voices to its support. This opinion shift, some pundits say, is as a result of the spate of violence and insecurity that is ravaging the region. Whichever way, this debate has offered the parliamentarians the basis for including it in the current constitutional amendment process, so as to rest the matter once and for all.
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Both supporters and opponents of the STAPOL have buttressed their arguments with salient points that are worthy of consideration in the ongoing debate.
Those who are in support of the STAPOL, presented some benefits that can be derived from its establishment. They see it as a panacea for the myriad of security challenges bedevilling various parts of the country; tending to shake the foundation of its corporate existence; and seems to defy any measure from the current security arrangement.
They argue that the current policing architecture in the nation has failed due to numerous issues that emasculated the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), such as understaffing, inadequate training, under funding, dearth of equipment, lack of motivation and insufficient incentive for the personnel. The creation of STAPOL therefore, they opined, will complement and support the NPF for effective policing of all the nooks and crannies of the country.
They also argue that, securing the local communities will be more effective if performed by the indigenes due to their adequate knowledge of the local terrain. Therefore, if each state is allowed to establish its police, the policing of the remote local communities will be more efficient and easy.
On the other hand, those that are opposed to STAPOL also presented the problems and challenges that can mar the system and probably further compound the already deteriorating security situation in the land. They arguably feared that the STAPOL can be manipulated and used by the chief executives of the states against their supposed opponents.
They also believed that if care is not taken, the personnel of the STAPOL can be deployed to fight in interstate or intra-state ethnic and religious crises. They also contend that, if not controlled, the STAPOL personnel can be prone to criminal and corrupt tendencies. With the current economic dilemma the state governments are facing, the funding of STAPOL will be difficult and if the personnel are denied their salaries, they may resort to self-help to fend for themselves.
In essence, it is now incumbent on the National Assembly, when considering removing the police from the exclusive list to allow the states to establish their police, they should consider these issues and make sure that they are fully addressed in the legislative framework. This may be achieved by taking inputs from a wide range of stakeholders.
It should be given wider publicity to enable the public to be aware and enlightened on the issue and voice out their opinions.
It can also be an added steam to it, if the traditional rulers are given some roles in the constitution of policing and securing the communities under their jurisdiction.
Similarly, the recruitment and training of STAPOL personnel should be meticulously spelled out by the enabling law, to make sure that, they are carefully selected and properly trained in the global best standard.
The calibre of weapons they are allowed to use also should be clearly stipulated by law to avoid indiscriminate misuse and endanger the lives of innocent people.
There should also be a common doctrine, code of conduct, rules of engagement and modus operandi all over the nation, to know when, where and how to apply force without trampling on citizens’ fundamental human rights.
A befitting mechanism should also be put in place for the discipline, punishment, reward and promotion of the personnel, so as to avoid the cases of favouritism that may raise tensions in the ranks of the institutions. The uniform should be the same across the states for easy identification.
Usman Aliyu Elnafaty wrote from DP21, Fadamar Jaji, behind Federal Secretariat, Bauchi