As Nigeria matches towards state police…

State police has almost becoming an adopted policy as many governors have devised a means of setting up pseudo-security outfits through legislation to fight insecurity in their states. ELEOJO IDACHABA takes a look at the issue.

They all began like a security outfit to checkmate rising cases of banditry and criminality. In many instances, the idea was defended to mean that it would operate under the police in order to provide intelligence reports. While many have applauded the move, others condemned it saying it would be used by politicians, especially governors who fund them, to prosecute their political opponents. State police structure gradually gaining wider acceptance in the country, but inevitable judging from events in the recent past.

Recently, the governor of Ekiti state, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, announced that a joint security outfit initiated by the six South-west governors would commence as from January 9, 2020. The announcement which was not a surprise to many was as a result of the spate of killings and criminal activities that have taken place within the region in the recent past.

Fayemi said, “On January 9 2020, the Western Nigeria Security Network known as ‘Amotekun’ shall commence operations in all the six states in our zones.

“Ekiti is very active in this initiative which would go a long way in securing the people and protecting the state. Since we are not an island, we are working with neigbouring states to strengthen our security architecture.

“I have personally kept a close watch on the security situation within and around Ekiti state and I can assure you that as a government, we are leaving no stone unturned to ensure safety of lives and property in our dear state.

“The fact remains, however, that criminalities cannot be totally eradicated even as we are working meticulously at reducing it to the barest minimum; the evidences are there for all to see and acknowledge that we are making steady progress.”

Apart from the numerous cases of rape, kidnapping and other vices in the region, the murder of the daughter of Pa Rueben Fasoranti, Mrs. Funke Olakurin, last year appeared to be the last straw in the resolution of the governors to face the challenge before the entire region is turned into a killing zone.

Fayemi had, during the South-west Security Summit in July 2019, insisted that the creation of state police had become inevitable in many states, and that the move was not intended to undermine the conventional police.

“Our clamor for state police is not intended to abolish federal police. They go side by side anywhere in the world. Our call for state police is not to abolish the existing Nigeria Police Force.

“In all the meetings I have been attending, it is security. Even in Abuja last week when the National Economic Council was inaugurated, we had only one agenda. It was security.

“Our quest for state police is not tantamount to abolition of federal police. We have deployed drone system in order to ensure that criminal elements are tamed. Wherever they are, we would track them.

“We must tackle poverty in the region; we must tackle poverty in our midst. All hands must be on the deck to ensure that we stop the criminal elements in our midst.”

South-east too

Already, the South-east governors in July 2019 pledged to establish what they call forest guards in all the five states that make up the region to complement the conventional police in community policing.

Speaking at the event, the chairman of the South-east Governors Forum, David Umahi, said, “Historically, the forest guard had existed even before the civil war, although it appeared to have been literally moribund over the years; therefore, its resurrection is not for witch-hunting any particular group of people, but to ensure that unlawful and unwarranted things do not happen in the forests.”

The decision was among the measures to be adopted to tackle security challenges in the zone, particularly kidnapping, armed robbery, rape, herdsmen incursion into farm lands, among other, crimes being committed in the region.

Following this, Enugu state subsequently established its own version of the forest guard. The governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, announced the formation after a meeting with members of the state House of Assembly and chairmen of local councils. He said a total of 1,700 personnel of the guards are to be engaged to man the forests in the state with modern well-equipped modern communication gadgets and light weapons. A former Inspector General of Police, Ogbonnanya Onovo, is the consultant in charge of the guard.

It was gathered that a total of 260 security vehicles was purchased for each of the 260 electoral wards in the state, 260 motorcycles for security operations in each ward, including procurement of communication gadgets to facilitate optimal community policing. The state has had unpleasant experiences of herdsmen invasion of farm lands, rape of women, mass sacking of an entire community bothering on farmers, herders’ clashes, among others.

Whether it is called Forest Guard as it’s called in the South-east or Amotekun in the South-west, they all bear semblance of conventional policing with legal backing. 

For instance, during the formal unveiling of the Forest Guard in Enugu, Governor Ugwuanyi said, “We would be working closely with the House of Assembly for the necessary enabling laws. Once passed into law, funding for security will become institutionalised, attract corporate support and run as a trust, thus easing the financial burden borne by the state government which has long funded the logistical needs of security agencies that are, statutorily, the federal government’s responsibility.” According to him, the state government would carefully select uniform for the personnel such that it does not resemble the light green camouflage worn by military men.

An analyst’s viewpoint

Writing on the imperatives of state police, a public affairs analyst, Tayo Ogunbiyi said, “State police is an important component of true federalism and emblem of authority of governance since sovereignty is divided between the federal authority and federating components. Although the 1999 Constitution provides for a single federal police, this precludes states from taking charge of the protection of lives and property of their people as chief security officer and denied them the emblem of authority. If Nigeria is really a federation, this is a constitutional lacuna that must be addressed through constitution amendment to pave way for state police.

“The unpleasant state of public security in the country has once again reverberated call for the creation of state police. Though, for some time, there have been several opposing arguments concerning the subject, it has become reasonably necessary for appropriate authorities to take a deeper look at the need for state police, especially with regards to current wave of security concern in many states.”

Osinbajo favours state police

Also, the vice president, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, in 2018 acceded to the readiness of the federal government to bow to mounting call for state police as a way of enhancing improved security across the country. He was speaking in Abuja at a security summit. He said, “State police and other police methods are clearly the way to go as the government cannot realistically police a country the size of Nigeria centrally from Abuja.” Although it appears the government is not disposed to state police even though the presidential committee on the reform of the police set up by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2018 finally submitted its report in 2019. That committee headed by the executive secretary of National Human Rights Commission, Tony Ojukwu, recommended, among other things, the establishment of state/local government police and other various reforms to make policing most effective in the country. However, the senior special assistant to the president on media and publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, said even though the committee recommended the creation of state police, President Buhari was yet to give his nod for its creation in the country.

Recent events in the recent past however points to the fact that in no distant times, state police would come to stay alongside federal police given the legal backing of the special security outfits created in most states.