State Police and Community Policing: The Urgency of Now



Nigeria is currently in a state of dire security quagmire. Nigeria is literally at war with herself, with large swaths of lands flowing with blood of innocent Nigerians through serial killings. Insecurity of lives and property, has taken the centre stage. For over a decade now, Nigeria has been facing the heinous torture, maiming and gruesome killings by Boko Haram, Fulani herdsmen, kidnappers, armed robbers, armed bandits and other insurgents. All this has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives of innocent Nigerians. Any government’s legitimacy is measured by its ability to secure lives property, and give democratic dividends to the governed. See Section 14 of the 1999 Constitution.

With the ongoing wanton killings, many have wondered if Nigeria truly indeed, has security agencies paid with tax payers’ money, to protect lives and property. Notwithstanding the existence of the Army, Navy, Air force, Nigeria Police Force, DIA, NIA, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps and the Department of State Security Services (DSS), unspeakable crimes still take place unabated. Of all these security agencies, the Nigeria Police Force is the one that is constitutionally saddled with the responsibility of the day-to-day protection of lives and property of Nigerians. While Nigeria was still reeling from the April, 2014 abduction of Chibok girls, one year to the 2015 elections, the spectre of yet another abduction of school girls was reenacted at the Federal Government Girls Secondary School, Dapchi, Yobe State. It was perpetrated by the same Boko Haram insurgents. Then, Kankara, Kagara, Jangebe, etc. It is now a daily affair. It is simply merchantilistic, the highest paid industry in Nigeria today.

Most concerned Nigerians, daily reel under this danger. Some have suggested ways and means of dealing with this menace. Some have created local security outfits, eg, Àmòtèkun, Easter Nigerian Network, Yan Banga, Yan Kasai, Hisbah, Neighbourhood Watches, etc. This aligns with sustained demands for the creation of State Police, and community policing.

Origin and State of Policing in Nigerians

“Police” is a word derived from the Greek word, “Polis”, which consists of non-ecclesiastical administration that has to do with safety, health and public order of the State. Though derived from the Greek, it was the Romans that actually perfected the system, with the Roman “Policies”, which equated with the Greek “Politeira” – a symbol of power that resided in a central authority. In the UK, policing developed as a local affair which makes every person maintain law and order.

State or provincial Police constitutes a type of sub-national territory Police Force that abounds particularly in the Oceania, South Asia and North America. State Police simply means the absence of a centralised national Police Force, which is outside the control of the IGP. This means a death blow to the over bloated, behemoth Federal Police Force established under Sections 214, 215 and 216 of the 1999 Constitution. Section 214 thereof provides for a unified and centralised Police Force that operates from the centre, and prohibits the establishment of any other form of policing in Nigeria.

This was why and how Governor Ortom of Benue State, cried out. Herdsmen had given him notice of a future attack. The State Commissioner of Police was aware. The helpless governor cried to the centre in Abuja. No help came. The herdsmen attacked. The Governor wept like a baby. Lives were lost. Mass burial took place. The world was shocked.

It appears that Nigeria is the only prominent democracy in the world, that still maintains a unified central Police Force over a population of 210 million people, 36 federal States, and 774 LGAs. The New York Police Department is one of the most organised Police Forces in the world, founded by the New York City Government that is headed by a Mayor. In the UK, there are about 45 territorial Police Forces, and three special Police Forces. So, why must Nigeria retain her non-functional centralised Police Force?

What is State Police All About?

The Concept

State Police can be described as a body of Police Force unique to each State of the federation, having State wide authority to conduct law enforcement activities and criminal investigation across that particular State. The concept of State policing, is not altogether a new phenomenon in Nigeria. It has been widely recommended, as one of the means to address the issue of insecurity in our country. This concept has received wide acceptance by most Nigerians, for their peculiar exclusive reasons. The Government has recently joined. Some say that the Federal Police Command is incompetent, or has failed in its duty of securing Nigerians. Some others believe that the closeness of State Police, will help for more effective policing. I belong to this school. I have, over the years, advocated for State Police and community policing. From the 2005 National Political Conference (where I had the Civil society group); to the 2009 Vision 2020 (where I participated in the Law and Judiciary Thematic area); up to the 2014 National Conference (where I headed the sub group on the outcome of the conference, within the legal, Law Reforms and Judiciary Committee), I have always shouted myself hoarse on the desirability of embracing this true Federalism concept. I stand by it. Its advantages far outweigh its demerits.


State policing has therefore been defined as, a Police Force under State authority, rather than under the authority of a federal, city or local government in the State. It has also been defined as the Police organised and maintained by a State, as distinguished from that of a lower sub-division (as a city or LGA) of the State government (Mersim, 2012). However, in the Nigerian context, State Police consists of a kind of sub-national Police Force, which is organised, maintained and operates under the jurisdiction of a particular State Government, as opposed to the Federal Government.