GOVERNORS AND STATE POLICE

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The police force is in dire need of reorganisation

The Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) rose from a recent meeting in Abuja to constitute a six-man committee of its members to explore funding options for policing the country, with a mandate to also examine the prospects for introducing state police. The decision by the NGF was coming at a time the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, raised the alarm about the increasing deployment of soldiers to take over civil and security duties that were constitutionally reserved for the Nigeria Police Force.

The United Nations estimation is that the average police force should have three police persons for every one thousand citizens. This means that Nigeria falls far short of this requirement given that the total strength of our police force is still less than 400,000. But the real challenge is that many members of the force serve just a few people more or less as guardsmen. When you juxtapose this with inadequate remunerations and low morale which pervade the police force and other agencies that are saddled with keeping the nation safe and secure, it is easy to understand why the nation is currently in a security bind.

Statutorily, only the president, vice-president, governors, local council chairmen, legislative principal officers in the states and at federal level, magistrates and judges are entitled to police protection. But for some curious reasons, this privilege has over the years been abused by senior officers in charge of police commands and formations, who assign most of their men to undeserving politicians and businessmen, leaving ever fewer numbers of personnel for real police work. The level of degeneration is such that all manner of characters now go about with policemen who carry bags and umbrella for them and their spouses.

It is noteworthy that this is not the first time the NGF would toy with the idea of state police. After one of its meetings four years ago, the then Ekiti State governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, now the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, made the same case on its behalf. “Each of the federating units (which are the states) should have control over their own security apparatus,” said Fayemi. “That is not to say that we still won’t have a federal police which responds to federal issues but in terms of wider knowledge of what obtains in my locality, the best person to use is somebody from that locality who has a much better, much richer understanding and will be faster in response to the immediate needs of that environment.”

However, whatever may be the merit in the idea of state police, even from the statement released by the NGF, it is very clear that it is not a silver bullet given that the same subversion that has rendered the federal police ineffectual could easily be replicated by the states. But we agree that the current situation where our policemen have become an easy game for a more sophisticated world of crime calls for a radical solution.

As we reiterated in a recent editorial, there may be a need for some clarity of thought and the benefit of historical hindsight. The greatest legacy of the post war era in Nigeria is the emergence of a national military and police. The personnel of these federal institutions live and operate alongside colleagues from across the nation in mixed barracks and operational formations. The lines that dangerously divided the polity and threatened national cohesion are thus blurred as the central command takes precedence over regional or ethnic nudging. Therefore, we hope the committee established by the governors will explore all the issues before coming up with its recommendations.