It’s time for state police

While asking the federal government for a special security intervention fund to enable states contain the myriad of crises, the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) recently reiterated the call for state police. While the call remains an expression of concerns about the present structure and management of the Nigeria Police Force, we enjoin the National Assembly to work with other stakeholders to realise the goal as a strategy for combating the rising insecurity across the country.

There is hardly any part of the country that is safe today, although the greater challenge is in the North. But it is clear that the current structure has failed in maintaining law and order, internal security, intelligence gathering and in checking the increasing wave of crimes. The entire police force is so overwhelmed that a huge slice of the military asset has to be deployed to perform police duty with serious implications on professionalism. This anomaly has also created several other problems of its own.

However, the issue of state police is a constitutional one. Section 214 (1) of the 1999 Constitution, provides that ‘There shall be a police force for Nigeria, which shall be known as the Nigeria Police Force, and subject to the provisions of this section, no other police force shall be established for the Federation or any part thereof’. But the governors have very compelling reasons to ask for the decentralisation of the Nigeria Police Force as presently constituted. They, as 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. Yet they have no control or power over the police command in their states, until they get clearance from Abuja.

The case of the governors was aptly put by the Ekiti State governor and chairperson of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, Dr. Kayode Fayemi. Besides immediate security needs, Fayemi said the call for state police is an extension of true federalism as each federating unit is supposed to have control of its security apparatus. “Each of the federating units (which are the states) should have control over their own security apparatus. 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,” Fayemi explained.

Many retired officers of the police have put their weight behind the idea of state police because it would improve the management of internal security and the maintenance of law and order. Their position is that personnel of such a force would have local knowledge of the environment and would be more effective in dealing with local crimes, protecting law and order and in intelligence gathering. The timing could not be more auspicious considering the current national security realities.

While we are aware of its potential pitfalls, we believe that the merits of having state police far outweigh its demerits. With the active support of the media, the civil society, the legislature and indeed the judiciary, genuine concerns can easily be addressed. But we are of the strong view that the country is overdue for the establishment of state police. It is perhaps the only solution to the current crisis of insecurity that puts Nigeria at the risk of becoming a failed state.