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State police: The dangers under current governance conditions

The proposal to establish State Police in Nigeria has sparked contentious debate due to the concerns surrounding the persisting abuse of power by state governors.…

The proposal to establish State Police in Nigeria has sparked contentious debate due to the concerns surrounding the persisting abuse of power by state governors. While the concept of State Police aims at enhancing security and law enforcement at the state level may seem plausible, however, the existing governance challenges and abuse of authority raise significant apprehensions about the potential consequences of entrusting state governors with coercive powers through State Police forces.

Besides, in all the arguments for the establishment of State Police, there is not a single point where it is shown how the absence of State Police is responsible for breeding insecurity and how its establishment would solve the problem. It is therefore important to rethink the idea of establishing State Police in Nigeria in the bid to address the current security situation. 

One of the primary arguments against the establishment of State Police in Nigeria pertains to the chronic abuse of power by state governors. The mismanagement of state resources, widespread corruption, and the manipulation of the state electoral commission in our Local Government elections for political gains are prevalent issues that have eroded trust in our state governance system. The consistent pattern of election rigging and the imposition of one-party rule at the local government level underscore the extent of authoritarian tendencies exhibited by all state governors in the country. 

Granting state governors control over State Police forces in the current political climate, therefore, poses a grave risk to democracy and the electoral process in Nigeria. The history of state governors stifling democratic elections at the grassroots level and silencing opposition voices represents a clear warning sign of the potential repercussions of consolidating coercive powers in the hands of a few political elites. Allowing state governors to wield State Police authority could lead to the further erosion of democratic principles, free and fair elections, and the stifling of political dissent. 

The decentralization of policing authority under state governors raises fundamental concerns about the separation of powers, checks and balances, and the independence of the judiciary. By empowering state governors with State Police forces, there is a real danger of executive overreach, abuse of power, and the subversion of constitutional safeguards. The concentration of coercive power in the hands of political actors who have a history of undermining democratic institutions could have far-reaching implications for the rule of law and accountability in Nigeria.

Also, very importantly, the discourse on the establishment of State Police in Nigeria has proponents advocating for enhanced security and decentralization of law enforcement. However, a critical analysis reveals a conspicuous absence of concrete evidence linking the absence of State Police to the country’s security challenges. My argument hence aims to deconstruct the prevailing narrative and advocate against the establishment of State Police based on the lack of substantive justification for its necessity in addressing insecurity in Nigeria.

The key point to note therefore is the complete absence of any causal link between the prevailing security challenges and State Police. This is a central flaw in the argument for establishing State Police in Nigeria. Peruse all the arguments of the proponents and a point of note is the failure to establish a clear causal relationship between the absence of State Police and the country’s security threats.

Proponents often assert that State Police would enhance security and improve law enforcement, yet little empirical evidence or data is presented to demonstrate how the current centralized policing structure is the root cause of insecurity. Without a compelling case linking the absence of State Police to the proliferation of insurgency, banditry, crime and violence, the urgency for its establishment is obviously called into question.

Also, another critical lacuna in the discourse surrounding the establishment of State Police is the reliance on unsubstantiated assumptions about its efficacy in addressing security challenges. Advocates frequently argue that State Police would be more responsive to local needs, improve intelligence gathering, and enhance community policing efforts. However, these assertions are often speculative and lack empirical validation. The mere act of decentralizing law enforcement does not inherently guarantee improved security outcomes unless accompanied by comprehensive reforms, capacity building, and accountability mechanisms.

Furthermore, the exclusive focus on the establishment of State Police as a panacea for Nigeria’s security woes overlooks the systemic challenges and structural impediments that undermine effective policing. Issues such as corruption, lack of training, inadequate resources, politicization of law enforcement agencies and weak coordination between security forces represent significant barriers to achieving sustainable security outcomes. Merely creating State Police without addressing these underlying issues is akin to applying a superficial solution to a complex and multifaceted problem.

Hence, rather than rushing to establish State Police under the guise of addressing insecurity, it is essential to explore alternative approaches that can yield more sustainable and effective results. Strengthening and expanding existing federal law enforcement agencies, investing in training and capacity building, enhancing intelligence sharing mechanisms, promoting community engagement and improving good governance and rule of law at all governmental levels are critical components of a comprehensive security strategy. These measures address the root causes of insecurity and foster a holistic approach to law enforcement that transcends mere structural reorganization.

My argument against the establishment of State Police in Nigeria, therefore, hinges on the critical examination of the security fallacy perpetuated in the discourse surrounding its necessity. The absence of a clear causal link between security challenges and the need for State Police, coupled with unsubstantiated assumptions of its efficacy, underscores the imperative for a more nuanced and evidence-based approach to security reform. By reframing the debate to focus on addressing structural impediments, enhancing existing law enforcement capabilities, and adopting comprehensive security strategies, Nigeria can adopt a more pragmatic and effective approach to enhancing security and promoting the rule of law.

In light of the aforementioned, therefore, it is imperative for all stakeholders, including President Bola Tinubu and advocates of democracy, to oppose the establishment of State Police under the current governance conditions in Nigeria. The potential consequences of granting state governors unchecked coercive powers are dire and could undermine the foundations of democracy, pluralism, and political participation. Instead of reinforcing authoritarian tendencies, efforts should be focused on strengthening existing institutions, promoting transparency and upholding the rule of law to safeguard democracy in Nigeria.

Undoubtedly, the establishment of State Police in Nigeria under the prevailing governance circumstances characterized by abuse of power and authoritarian governance poses significant threats to democracy, opposition, and the rule of law. The historical misuse of constitutional powers by state governors and the erosion of democratic principles at the local government level serve as cautionary tales against further decentralizing coercive authority. It is essential to prioritize institutional reforms, accountability mechanisms, and respect for democratic norms rather than risking the consolidation of power in the hands of a few political elites through State Police forces. Protecting democracy in Nigeria requires vigilance, advocacy for good governance and a steadfast commitment to upholding constitutional principles that safeguard the rights and liberties of all citizens.


Ardo PhD resides in Abuja


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