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Time for state police in Nigeria

The Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP’s) Governors’ Forum and Governor of Bauchi State, Senator Bala Mohammed, speaking on behalf of the forum, last…

The Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP’s) Governors’ Forum and Governor of Bauchi State, Senator Bala Mohammed, speaking on behalf of the forum, last week, harped on the fact that Nigeria needs to decentralise its police force to tackle the worsening spate of insecurity across the country. The forum anchored its argument for state police on the fact that the number of policemen in the country cannot effectively cover its huge landmass and protect its mounting population.

In his statement when he led members of the PDP Forum to visit Governor Caleb Mutfwang of Plateau State, over the incessant bloodshed in the state, Governor Bala said, “The ratio of police to the citizens is very low and the governors know the peculiarity of their states and how to tackle this challenge. So, we have been advocating for this. There is a need for the decentralisation of the security apparatus so that we can deliver good governance by having state police. Again, it will give us the opportunity to engage the structure of the security agencies, training our youths and making sure the rules of engagement are not abused and there is no extrajudicial killing. We will work in tandem with the established best global practice rather than being forced to use vigilante and even at that we are working with the security agencies, but we are still being accused of pursuing our interests.”

The PDP Governors’ Forum’s advocacy for state police came at a time when the Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Constitution Review, Benjamin Kalu, also assured Nigerians that the lawmakers would give positive consideration to the review of Section 214 of the 1999 Constitution, which prescribes the security system for Nigeria. In that section, security is on the Exclusive List, meaning only the federal government shall recruit and maintain the security architecture. The House Committee on Constitution Review has pledged to work hard and carry along state lawmakers to ensure security is migrated from the Exclusive List to the Concurrent List, where states and, perhaps, local governments should recruit and maintain a layer of the security in their jurisdictions.

In the 9th Assembly, the House of Representatives Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution deliberated on State Police and put it to vote. Fourteen members of the committee voted against it, while 11 others voted for it. The bill failed.

As it stands in the country today, denying the need for state police is to deny the reality in which Nigeria has found itself. Previously, this newspaper had opposed the setting up of state police on the hypothesis that such security outfit might become an instrument of political witch-hunt in the hands of governors. However, between then and now, a lot has changed in the security situation of the country, causing us to have a rethink.

Today, it is clear that 371,800 police officers cannot protect over 200 million Nigerians, especially in rural areas, where banditry, terrorism, herder-farmer conflicts, abductions for ransom, cultism, and several other crimes are perpetrated. And on a daily basis, there are reports of crimes. While one is being addressed, another one is coming up. Nigeria has been in denial of state police for too long. The centralised police force and the military have not curtailed Boko Haram since 2009; the current security architecture has not stopped the importation of mercenaries in the so-called herder-farmer conflicts since 2013; the police have not halted kidnapping since 2015; and all the arrangements put in place and funds voted for security since 2015 have not put an end to secessionist agitations and the spread of cult-violence.

Nigerians must do away with the fear of state police and do a proper restructuring of the security architecture to tackle insecurity headlong. At the moment, as many as 27 states have set up vigilante groups, which have made feeble attempts at countering criminals, because they do not have the requisite training, weapons and the numbers to deal with the level of criminality that has killed sleep in the country.

In the new amendment to the Constitution to put security on the Concurrent List, the lawmakers should clearly delineate the objectives and activities of the federal police and state police, such that some could be exclusive while others could be carried out jointly. This way, there will be no overlapping or conflict in the roles the police agencies will perform.

Nigeria is the only country among the 24 countries that operate the federal system of government in the world that runs a centralized policing system. Security is local. We must come up with a security architecture that can protect all citizens, including those who live in our rural areas. This can mainly be possible through the establishment of state police. The time for the amendment of the Constitution for the enactment of the State Policing system is now.

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