Is State Police The Panacea to Insecurity?

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Matthew Odu Bande canvasses constant training and capacity building of the Nigeria Police Force

In recent time, the call for the establishment or the reintroduction of state police has continued gathering steam and momentum. Proponents have been visibly holding conferences and writing pungently to galvanize support for the realization so that it conforms with the political structure of federalism in Nigeria. Such meetings have taken place in the South-west, South-south, and South-east, to mention only a few.

Furthermore, the need to constantly review the security situation in Nigeria cannot be overemphasized especially as crime also develops and advances and the society develops. It has therefore become imperative for governments to be reminded of the cardinal reason for which they are formed. Cicero was apt and infallible when he said “Salus populi suprema lex”- meaning the safety of the people is the supreme law.

A recent newspaper publication quoting Dr. Bukar Usman’s book “My Literary Journey” re-echoed the call. Mr. Busuyi Onabolu had drawn his energy from the book to buttress his call for the creation of state police. You will not be wrong if you call Dr. Usman a past master in the field of security. He is to me a vaticinator, a czar, and a magna cum laude that should be taken seriously. He has provided us with mental food for thought and we have to think through his postulations and see whether the conditions precedent for the establishment of the state police have been or can be met.

Again, this call good as it seems, has been interpreted by some minority groups as a clandestine attempt to return the country to regionalism so that the majority groups will resume their dominance. Have we forgotten the ugly experience of the first republic so soon when the state policing mechanism was experimented? I am just afraid that our fragile political structure will be at the brinks of disintegration with the establishment of state police.

I have my sympathy for the Nigeria Police Force because of its constant battering and balkanization without solution as to how the Force could move forward. I think Nigerians are not fair to the Nigeria Police Force by constantly lambasting and lampooning it. It remains a surprise to me as to how the Nigeria Police Force persistently do well and come home with accolades and honours at international engagements and has regrettably performed so abysmally low at home.

Chief A.K. Horsfall is also of the opinion that the Nigeria Police Force has not been well treated. Chief Horsfall is one who should know having served as a former police officer and the Director General of the defunct National Security Organization (NSO). Let us hear from the horse’s mouth: “So what we had set up as a police, whether the Nigeria Police Force or the security intelligence services which I fully participated in bringing about are very solid structures, but you know that if you build a house, you have to keep upgrading it. Every year or every five years or three years, you have to paint the house and look at the areas of it that have become necessary to repair, this is what is lacking”. Rather than upgrading, repairing and repainting the house, the Nigeria Police Force has remained stagnant because of its persistent neglect. For reasons obviously not caused by the Police Force, its head is always called for. This killing of the Nigeria Police Force by instalments, the Force will sooner than later be completely annihilated.

Furthermore, the fission of the Nigeria Police Force into the State Security Services, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, the Federal Road Safety Corps, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps to mention but a few have all been spared of all the insults while the police is seen as the scum of the earth. I think that rather than a further balkanization of the Nigeria Police Force, a continuous development should be encouraged through training and capacity building.

Again, who are those who will be in the state police? The same gang leaders, the ring leaders, the rapists, as well as the kingpins and their followers? Our royal fathers have been involved in the recruitment into the Police and other security forces whether by way of recommendation or attestation. I know we all come from various villages and we are aware of those giving the headaches. There is no “mai angwa” or village head that does not know who the criminals are.

There is no unanimity in all the federal structures across the globe neither are there a perfect structure. All of them are at different stages of development and also work-in-progress. There are similarities no doubt, but they are not the same, including all those that have adopted the state policing mechanism. True federalism may just be an illusion as all of them are adopting measures that are workable given their individual peculiarities.

The constant fission of the Nigeria Police Force has not made policing more effective. For instance, the establishment of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency has merely reduced the cartels and their markets. There is no residue of doubt that there exist open drug markets everywhere in Nigeria including the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. No doubt there also exists a nexus between drug and criminality. But wait a minute! Where are the farms located where cannabis sativa also known as Indian hemp is cultivated? Are they not in the communities where we have our respectable royal fathers and local government chairmen and councillors? Should our royal fathers wait until their roles are enshrined in the constitution before they discourage their subjects from cultivation, consumption as well as the subsequent commission of crimes? These are questions begging for answers.

Similarly, even the local government chairmen whether appointed or selected are part of the problem rather than the solution through the formation of militia groups which they use during elections. To create state or local police for me is to licence them for more atrocities. If we take cursory look at the selections organized in the states, you will see that even a Minister or Senator cannot secure a councillorship seat in his community because he is not in the party that is in power in the state.

In the same vein, in one of the states that recently conducted local government election during this period of corona virus (COVID- 19), the party of a former senior civil servant, a former Governor, (elected and re-elected), a Senator for three assemblies – 6th,7th,8th and a serving Minister was unable to win a councillorship election. Before some people fire back that his party did not contest, the state electoral commission had disqualified his party from contesting! I see the failure of family and the destruction of communal life as being the bane of security in the country.

Furthermore, the 1976 local government unification law took powers from the traditional rulers and placed same in the hands of the Executive Chairmen of local government areas/councils. The modus operandi for the operationalization of state police still remains very nebulous. Where will the local police draw their authority from? The local police will be answerable to whom, the chairmen or the traditional rulers?
In another development, the quality of the royal fathers (traditional rulers) is by far higher than those who ruled when the local policing mechanism was experimented. Today, you will find professors, technocrats, retired generals, and retired judges just to mention but a few as traditional rulers. My apprehension is the imminent clashes that may ensue between the chairmen and the traditional rulers. Have the functions been defined and demarcated for the highly skilled, competent and proficient traditional rulers in order to obviate the altercation that is most likely to occur between the politicians and the traditional rulers?

Surprisingly, the ivory towers like the traditional institution have been found wanting in so many ways. Universities bestow honours to all manner of people, so is the traditional institution as people of questionable characters are being conferred with chieftaincy appellations hitherto reserved for well-meaning citizens who have demonstrated the age-long virtues of integrity, hard work and honesty. I am afraid; this jiggery-pokery will consume us all if we do not go back to the drawing board so that we can curb the ugly trend of pandering to the dictates of everything is a commodity and goes to highest bidder.

Another area of my sympathy is the military. Anytime the Nigerian military gathers momentum in its fight against Boko Haram, Amnesty International calls an international press conference and lampoons the military for not observing the rules of engagement, but when the military suffers huge losses and casualties, the military is never sympathized or empathized with. Either way, the military is at the receiving end. No one remembers that the insurgents know the military that are in turn fighting with an unknown enemy or war very well known as asymmetrical. Where do the insurgents come from? Who are their parents, siblings, their wives and their husbands? These insurgents, kidnappers and rapists come from communities. Most of these communities have both legal and traditional authorities. It seems to me that there is a subtle community collusion or outright connivance by way of information dissemination to the criminals as well as the shielding of same from the law enforcement agencies. The connivance is obvious as food and other essential commodities are being supplied regularly to the hoodlums. The communities to say the least have been complacent and are paying direly for it.
I was very reluctant doing this write up until I found a newspaper that Dr. Usman gave to me sometime in June 2017. He titled the article MY CULTURAL IMMERSION IN BURKINA FASO. In that publication, Dr. Usman on his return from Ouagadougou the capital of Burkina Faso, wrote on the experience he got on the sidelines with some of the traditional rulers of that country.

At the first instance, His Royal Majesty Naaba Booggo granted audience to the conference and cultural participants. The royal father spoke thematically and summarily on the upbringing of the child. He observed the changes that time has brought and emphasized that attention should be paid to the upbringing of the child. Let me quote him verbatim. “The royal father observed that times have changed and emphasized the need for elders to pay more attention to the upbringing of the children to ensure that they grow up to be law-abiding and respectable citizens.”

Again, Dr. Usman continued, we gathered more wise sayings in the palace of Sarkin Hausawa in Zango Quarters. The royal father took the conferees through lessons in leadership and succinctly told them the difficulties of administering a kingdom or a country. Again, I will quote him ad verbum, “while it is possible for the herdsman to move hundreds of cattle in one direction with a stick, it is much more difficult to control human beings in like manner.” The fulcrum of the discussion was that while it was difficult for kings and governments to govern with arms and ammunitions, it is a lot easier for a 10-15- year- old boy to control hundreds of cattle with a stick.

Perhaps the most interesting message for me on the writing of Dr. Usman on his return from Ouagadougou is this. “Aside from the royal message, there is something valuable that a visitor to the palace could take away inscribed boldly in the three languages (Moor, Djula and Fulanci) on a dome, “Wherever you find a respectable elderly person, it is difficult for things to go wrong.” The question is what then does Nigeria lack that things are going wrong? Does she lack respectable or elderly people? I think Nigeria has both especially given the calibre of people who have taken over the reign of power at our palaces.
––Bande, a former banker and publicist, wrote from Abuja.