The time for state police has come
Amid a growing endorsement of decentralising policing in Nigeria so that each of the 36 states can establish its own, there are concerns that in a situation where many of them cannot pay salaries, to put guns in the hands of policemen whose emoluments are not guaranteed will be dangerous and counter-productive. There are also fears that the governors could turn the police in their states into private armies for fighting political opponents.
However, following support for the idea by the National Assembly, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo has expressed the support of the federal government for state police which he described as “very important because there is no federation of our size that does not have state police. You need community policing to be able to be more effective.”
The Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) has long championed the call for state police. The forum identified the increasing need for state police as a strategy for combating the rising insecurity in the country. But in many ways, the call is also an expression of concern and indeed a vote of no confidence in the present structure and management of the Nigeria Police Force.
The police have, especially in recent times, failed in its duty of maintaining law and order, internal security, intelligence gathering and in checking the increasing wave of crime in the country. The entire police force is so overwhelmed to the extent that a huge slice of the military asset has to be deployed to perform police duty with serious implications on professionalism on the military, not to mention the effects of its exposure on civil–military relations.
The argument of the governors has always been that each of the federating units (which the 36 states represent) should have control over their own security apparatus even when there will still be a federal police that will respond to federal issues. And the governors have very compelling reasons to ask for the decentralisation of the Nigeria Police Force as presently constituted. They, as the chief security officers of their states, more or less, bear the huge responsibilities for the upkeep and maintenance of the police in form of logistics, allowances and other forms of assistance. But they have no control or power over these police commands, whose men take orders from Abuja.
The late Alhaji Umaru Shinkafi, a former top police officer and former Director General of the National Security Organisation once put his weight behind the idea of state police which he said would improve the management of internal security and the maintenance of law and order. Also, retired Assistant Inspector General (AIG) of police and now the Oba of Lagos , Rilwan Babatunde Akiolu, said the solution to the pervasive insecurity in the country lies in state police. He argued that such men and officers would have local knowledge of the environment and would be more effective in dealing with local crimes, protecting law and order and in intelligence gathering.
The argument could not have been better marshalled considering the current national security realities. But we will also add that the current institutional arrangement with the police leaves much room for corruption because the federal and the state governments often claim to expend so much money on the force, claims which are difficult to establish or verify. While we are aware of its potential pitfalls, we believe that the merits of having state police far outweigh its demerits and the constitution should be amended to reflect that reality.
We align ourselves with the strong view that the country is overdue for the establishment of state police.