The community police being put in place excites a few and worries many

On the heels of the launching of ‘Operation Amotekun’ to address widespread insecurity in the South west last month, the federal government directed the police hierarchy to commence recruitment of special constables for community policing. The Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu had in turn asked state commissioners of police and others to liaise with traditional rulers and community leaders in their domains to screen volunteers who would be engaged. The idea does not appeal to many Nigerians.

Even though the clamour for community policing had been on for years, many are hesitant to buy-in as the concept is likened to the failed Abuja-controlled policing system: the rules are simply being remade at the local level. This is even more so when the police IG said the officers would be under the control of the Nigeria Police Force. The recruits are expected to carry out same functions and duties of the conventional police, including wearing the regular police uniforms and are expected to be paid allowances by the federal government. There are several questions left unanswered. Will this brand of community police meet the security needs of the people? Will it not suffer the fate of the regular police? Can it operate independently of Abuja?  

At the Southeast security summit initiated by the police IG last week in Enugu, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, a socio-political group dismissed Adamu’s model of community policing as unworkable. Even though the initiative was reportedly embraced by the governors in the region, the pan Igbo oganisation said the IG’s “police architecture” did not take into consideration the governors who are the chief security officers of their various states. Indeed, the President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Nnia Nwodo, said the exercise with its command and control “is dead on arrival.”

Amid the increasing wave of crime and banditry in the country occasioned by the failure of the Nigeria Police to maintain law and order, there had been calls for the establishment of community police for effective local policing. The aim is to hire locals familiar with the environment, language and all the nuances of culture to help identify, fight crimes and solve problems. The success of the Civilian Joint Task Force in the North-east is an eye opener.  Indeed, the All Progressives Congress (APC) committee on federalism headed by the Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufai endorsed the establishment of state police as a means of effective policing, a promise reinforced by the Vice President Professor Yemi Osinbajo when he said that “you cannot police a country of this size, with a police command that functions out of Abuja. We must have a state police, community police.”

However, the community policing they spoke about is not one controlled from Abuja, that has failed the nation woefully. There could be areas of mutual cooperation between the federal and the state, but the not the suffocating model that is in the works. Community policing is better handled by the state. The Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) has long championed the call for state police. The call is an expression of concern and indeed a vote of no confidence in the present structure. 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 over these police commands.

As it is, nothing has changed. That explains why governors and others will repose more faith in regional security outfits than the one being imposed from Abuja.