Looming Anarchy: Time to Revisit the State Police Bill

Yemi Osinbajo


Uche Anichukwu

Only last April, the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, revealed that criminals killed a total of 1,071 persons in the first quarter of 2019. Northern states alone, recorded 767 of the killings, with North West witnessing 436 killings. Also, 685 persons were kidnapped nationwide. Zamfara alone recorded 281 cases.

Although many argue that the IGP’s figures were conservative, as it only covered reported/recorded cases, truth is that even by that scary statistics and wanton killings in the past one decade alone, we would have since been wiped out, were Nigeria like some thinly populated African nations such as Seychelles (95,702), Sao Tome and Principe (213, 379), etc.

In the face of bloodletting and economic savagery, one would expect our leaders to be stirred to holy anger. I mean the kind of anger shown by former President George W. Bush after the 9/11 attacks. He vowed before a joint session of the US Congress that  “Whether we bring our enemies to justice or bring justice to our enemies, justice will be done”. And Bush and successive American Presidents made good that vow.

Sadly, our case has been like the story of a mad man and a head-hunter. When alerted byonlookers that a head-hunter was charging from behind with a machete, he laughed and retorted that he had nothing to say until he looked for his head and didn’t find it in place. We have carried on like an ostrich.

Between Summit or decentralised policing

Former IGP, Ibrahim Idris, put our police manpower at 334,000 policemen in November 2018. During the National Security Summit organised by the Senate in 2018, Vice President Yemi Osibanjo confessed: “The nature of our security challenges is complex. Securing Nigeria’s over 923,768 square kilometres and its 180 million people requires far more men and materials than we have at the moment; we cannot realistically police a country the size of Nigeria centrally from Abuja. State police and other community policing methods are clearly the way to go”.

But rather than summon the political will to do the needful, we are back to proposed security summits, while Osinbajo has been flying around the country, “consulting”, since the gruesome killing of Pa Rueben Fasoranti’s daughter. Pray, do we really need more summits to know that just as we cannot build a train and expect it to sail in the ocean, likewise we cannot profess federalism and embrace unitary policing? Do we need to be told that there is no magic by which 334,000 police officers can effectively secure about 200 million people? More so, when the meagre number is poorly recruited (more of ‘man-know-man’), grossly ill equipped, very poorly remunerated, badly motivated, and shackled by a corrupt system.

The Ekweremadu panacea

Many well-meaning Nigerians have ceaselessly called for a return to decentralised policing. Among them is former Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu. He has spoken elaborately about this in papers delivered at prestigious universities and institutions within and outside Nigeria. He has published several newspaper articles on the matter. He also advocates it in his book, “Who Will Love My Country: Ideas for Building a Nigeria of our Dreams” (2016).  Importantly, he tried to push it through in the constitution amendment exercise in the 7th National Assembly, but it was even voted out at the Committee level.

 In the 8th Senate also, Ekweremadu was the lead sponsor of a Bill for the Establishment of State Police. The Bill places on the Federal Police the responsibility to maintain public security, preserve public order, secure the lives of persons and property across the country. A State Police, on the other hand, will be in charge of the same roles in a given state.


Key Provisions of the State Police Bill

 The Bill seeks to have in place a National Police Service Commission (NPSC) and State Police Service Commission, SPSC. The NPSC will, among others, be responsible for exercising disciplinary control over members of the Federal Police, recommending to the Governor of a State the appointment and disciplining of the Commissioner of Police, Deputy Commissioners of Police and Assistant Commissioners of Police of the State Police, supervising the activities of the Federal Police and State Police, and prescribing standards for all police forces in the country in training, criminal intelligence data bases, forensic laboratories and render assistance to State Police in areas as may be requested by such State Police.

The NPSC shall comprise a Chairman and six retired police officers not below the rank of Assistant Commissioner of Police representing each of the Geo-Political zones of the country to be appointed by the President subject to Senate’s confirmation. Others are two representatives of the National Human Rights Commission, a representative of the Public Complaints Commission, a representative each of the Nigerian Labour Congress, NBA, NUJ, and Attorney General of each of the States of the Federation. 

On the other hand, the State Police Service Commission, SPSC, will comprise a Chairman and three retired police officers to be appointed by the Governor subject to confirmation by the State House of Assembly. Others are a representative of the Federal Government (to be appointed by the NPSC), two indigenes of the State appointed by the National Human Rights Commission, a representative each of the Public Complaints Commission, and one representative each of Labour, NBA, and NUJ.

The SPSC shall basically be responsible for recommending the appointment of a Commissioner of Police, Deputy Commissioner of Police and Assistant Commissioner of Police to the NPSC as well as the appointment, discipline and removal of members of the state police below the rank of Assistant Commissioner of Police. In recommending a Commissioner of Police, the SPSC shall propose three qualified candidates to the NPSC.

Although the Commissioner of Police shall be appointed by the Governor for a non-renewable five-year term on the advice of the NPSC, such shall be subject to confirmation by the House of Assembly of the State. Where a Commissioner of Police feels that any order given by the Governor of a State is unlawful or contradicts general policing standards, he may request that the matter be referred to the State Police Service Commission (SPSC) for review and the decision of the SPSC shall be final. There will also be a certification review of the activities of State Police by the NPSC. This is to ensure that they comply with approved national standards and guidelines of policing and that their operations do not undermine national integrity, promote ethnic or sectional agenda or marginalise any segment of the society within the state.  

 Furthermore, a Commissioner can only be removed by the Governor upon the recommendation of the NPSC on account of misconduct in the performance of his official duties, serious breach of policing standards, participation in political activities of any kind either within or outside the state, etc.  However, such removal must be approved by two-thirds majority of the State House of Assembly.

 So, the Bill has elaborately addressed the issues of structure, recruitment, funding, control, and organisation of State Police in a way that addresses the prevalent fears over likely abuse by state governors.


Before it’s too late

Those who always argue that Nigeria is not ripe for state police appear to have forgotten where we are coming from. Lest we forget, From the 30-man Consular Guard established in Lagos in 1861 to the emergence of the Southern Nigeria Police Force in 1906, the coming of Native Authority Police in 1916, and emergence of a Nigeria Police Force with nationwide jurisdiction on April 1, 1930, Nigeria was never structured to be policed by one “superman” sitting in the nation’s capital. The Local Government Police in Western Nigeria, Sheriffs and Court Messengers in the Eastern Region, and the Native Authority Police in the Northern Region were all existed alongside the federal police until General Yakubu Gowon regime abrogated them and set up a single Nigeria Police Force. Conversely, things started falling apart since we undid the policing structure put in place by our founding fathers. Therefore, we can only continue to pretend and play the ostrich to our chagrin and embarrassment.

The IGP recently announced that the police would recruit 40,000 persons for takeoff of Community Policing. With due respect to Mr. IGP, this is like placing the cart before the horse. Beside the problem of single command structure, that number doesn’t even scratch the surface of our problem. We can only get the best out of community policing under State Police. The holistic thing to do is to dust up and revisit the Bill for the Establishment of State Police to urgently bale the nation from the looming anarchy.

For those who claim some states won’t have money to fund State Police, Ekweremadu once explained that it is not compulsory. Those who can afford it should take the lead. We don’t have to wait till all our heads are off.

––Anichukwu writes from Abuja.