State police: To be or not to be?

… Gets outpouring of support

…It’s dangerous without proper funding – Jide Ojo

‘…Roles for Federal, State Police must be clearly spelt out’

…FG, NASS, others must discuss modalities – Ohanaeze, others

In response to agitations by Nigerians to apply grassroots approach to the country’s security challenges, the federal government has tacitly acceded to state police. However, there have been calls for comprehensive assessment, dissection, and planning before implementation, CHIZOBA OGBECHE, AGI ONDA, and ADEOLA AKINBOBOLA write. 

A wide spectrum of Nigerians across divides have given nod to the plan by the federal government, in liaison with the governors of the 36 states of the federation – to establish state police for the effective handling of the protracted security challenges facing the country.

They describe the move as a welcome development, especially against the backdrop of years of tension, following the activities of Boko Haram, criminal abductions for ransom across the country, cultism and violent-extremism, which require the application of a community-policing strategy to address.

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu alongside state governors Thursday agreed to establish state police in the country, a position that has been canvassed by socio-cultural, religious, ethnic-based groups, lawyers and human rights organisations across the country.

Minister of Information and National Orientation, Alhaji Mohammed Idris, while briefing State House correspondents at the end of an emergency meeting summoned by the President at the Council Chamber, Presidential Villa, Abuja, disclosed there would be series of meetings to fine tune the modalities for setting up the state police.

He said, “But now, there is also a discussion around the issue of state police. The federal government and state governments are mulling the possibility of setting up state police.

“Of course, this is still going to be further discussed, a lot of work still has to be done in that direction. But what the federal government and state governments are agreeing to the necessity of having state policy.

“Now, this is a significant shift. But like I said, more works need to be done in that direction. A lot of meetings will have to happen between different government and sub nationals to see the modalities of achieving this.”

Blueprint Weekend respondents, however, warned the federal government and other stakeholders not to compromise on the very reason why state police was the most viable option presently; the need to root out insecurity from the root, devoid of politicisation or witch-hunting, using operatives that are recruited from the grassroots and working in their places of origin.

Structure, funding must be spelt out – Ojo 

Reacting, Friday, a Public Affairs Analyst, Mr Jide Ojo, lauded the federal government for the initiative, saying he has been an advocate of state police over the years.

Jide believes that the development is in the best interest of the country “but it must have a state policing structure such that the Federal and State operatives know where and how to coordinate their activities so as not to clash. 

“Their areas of operations have to be clearly spelt out, what is exclusive to the Federal Police and exclusive or concurrent to State Police must be clearly spelt out,” through amendment.

“We need to get the structure very clearly spelt out too. When they are armed, and they is no proper funding, it might look like we are cutting our nose to spite our face because they may be on the road and start kidnapping themselves.

“Funding must be properly put in place. There must be sufficient motivation for them so that they don’t mishandle the weapons entrusted in their care.

“There must also be areas of operation; and arbitration should be clearly stated.

“If there is a warrant of arrest between Federal and State policing mechanisms, there must be a board that comprises the IGP and others so that lessons must be learnt from the operation of the native authority and regional police,” he said. 

It must be properly discussed – Ubani

Similarly, a human rights lawyer, Monday Ubani, argued that the nation should proceed cautiously in establishing a state police force.

The former vice-president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) stated this on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily, Friday.

He said: “My answer to that is that we must try as much as possible to make the law to be very robust. What do I mean by that? We must create a system in which we state what constitutes an abuse by the state agencies. If there is any likelihood of abuse in any place we have allowed for the policing system, then this and this will apply.”

Ubani called for caution and proffered solution to fears of abuse by state governors, saying “We must also make it optional.

“That is very important because any state that wants to run a state policing system must have the requisite funding, make sure that we have the requisite number of police and all the things that they require in terms of kitting, welfare, and all the instruments they will use to ensure effective policing system in the various states will be made available.”

‘Constitution needs amendment’ 

In their reaction, a group known as The Federalists, commended President Bola Tinubu and the 36 states governors “for looking at the direction of state-owned policing system as obtainable in most federations of the world.”

Reacting in Abuja on the aegis of Coalition of Federalists for Good Governance (CFGG) in a statement issued by its national Coordinator, Taiye Odewale, and Secretary, Aisha Jibrin, The Federalists called on the National Assembly to back the proposal up with the required constitution amendment.

“The absence of state police, arising from overcentralised federation imposed on Nigeria by the military since 1966 is one of the systemic dysfunctions afflicting the Nigeria federation over the decades, and stifling her growth and development across the various sectors,” the group state.

It called on the 469 federal lawmakers at the National Assembly to key into the proposal with required constitution amendment and concurrence from at least 24 out of the 36 state houses of assembly to facilitate its establishment.

“The Coalition of Federalists for Good Governance in Nigeria (CFGG) commend President Bola Tinubu and the 36 States Governors for finally settling for establishment of State Police in Nigeria as obtainable in 24 other federations of the world.

“As a result of self-inflicted systemic dysfunctions afflicting the Nigerian Federation over the decades, the centre (federal government) is obviously getting suffocated with challenges and responsibilities at hand, one of which is the security of the citizens and the country itself.

“We The Federalists welcome the lofty idea of creating State Police in Nigeria at this very challenging time security wise, and also to correct one of the abnormalities of the over-centralised federation imposed on the country by the military from 1966 to 1999 which supposed to have been corrected within the last 25 years.” 

It’s ray of hope – Ohanaeze

In a related development, the apex lgbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo worldwide, has lauded the federal government and state governors for agreeing to the establishment of a state police across the country.

Ohanaeze had been at the forefront of advocating for the creation of state police as a strategic measure to address the prevailing security challenges in the country.

A statement signed on Friday by Ohanaeze’s factional Secretary-General, Mazi Okechukwu lsiguzoro, said the decision reflects a realisation that security is a local matter, and community policing is the indispensable ingredient needed to combat insecurity, especially in the South-east region.

Ohanaeze said the implementation of the state police aligns with one of the key recommendations of the 2014 Constitutional Conference reports, which the previous administration under President Muhammadu Buhari failed to act upon due to apprehension.

“We commend President Bola Tinubu for indirectly steering the implementation of this vital recommendation. This momentous decision brings an end to the era of fear concerning the deployment of Igbo and Christian personnel to Boko Haram-controlled areas.

“In the past, Igbo youth perceived police recruitment exercises as potential death sentences, fearing they would be posted to Northern regions grappling with Boko Haram terrorists and banditry. However, with the introduction of state police and community policing, a new ray of hope emerges,” it said.

The body said the creation of state police and the embrace of community policing presents remarkable avenues for job creation, specifically addressing the massive youth unemployment crisis.

It suggested that the deployment of personnel within their respective localities to ensure that every employed individual serves their community with unwavering dedication.

“Consequently, with the President’s recent pronouncement on increased police recruitment, Igbo youths will wholeheartedly seize this opportunity, unburdened by the fear of deployment to the North.

“Ndigbo insist that they firmly believe that the establishment of state police is the long-awaited answer to our prayers, a crucial step towards resolving the pervasive security challenges plaguing our nation.

“We express our unwavering commitment to supporting and collaborating with the government and relevant stakeholders to ensure the successful implementation of this landmark decision,” it added.

Process should be transparent, open – HURIWA

On his part, the National Coordinator of Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, said the National Assembly ought to listen to the voices of Nigerians who are buffeted by attacks from armed non state actors, terrorists, kidnappers, and many rogue elements in Nigeria who have engineered the heightened state of insecurity by collaborating with state governments and the federal executive arm of government to set in motion the creation of a state police through a thorough constitutional reforms that would make the state police autonomous from the whims and caprices of the politicians who dominate the 36 states as governors and who are currently going about their duties as if they are emperors.

“The National Assembly, in making the law for the creation of state police, must make provision for the command and control of these state police not to be domiciled in the hands of governors but a collective governing board made up of Representatives of all spectrum of citizens including professional bodies, military and federal police and of course the 36 states with one Representative each to be the body that will decide the operational strategies of the various state police so the governors do not convert the state police into their killer gangs for political reasons.

“This process of creating state police should be transparent and open and thoroughly debated by Nigerians at open fora in the National Assembly before a general legislative framework or constitutional amendments are effected to create state police. The state police is an idea whose time has come.”

‘Step in right direction’

For eminent Technocrat and Corporate Chieftain, Dr. Ernest Ndukwe, the creation of state police was a step in the right direction towards enhancing security in Nigeria.

Ndukwe, who is the Chairman of MTN Nigeria, commended President Bola Tinubu and the 36 state governors for agreeing on the need to establish state police.

He urged them to remain steadfast and ensure the crystallisation of the idea in the shortest possible time; even as he enjoined the government and the people to join hands to bring to fruition the idea of state police.

According to him, state policing will increase the numerical strength of security personnel saddled with the responsibility for internal security.

State police will not only increase the overall number of police officers in the country but will ensure that officers of the state police force will operate in their own localities or in very familiar territories which will help to enhance their effectiveness and efficiency, he maintained.

Mindful of the often-expressed fears in some quarters about the possible misuse of state police by the sub-national political authorities, Ndukwe advocated for laws and stringent operational guidelines to curb such likely excesses.