State Police and Community Policing: The Urgency of Now (Part 2)

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Introduction

Encore

Last week, we commenced our discourse on this vexed and intriguing issue, regarding the desirability or otherwise of having State Police. I have personally crusaded for State Police, for over two decades. Today, we shall shed more light on it and take a critical look at the merits and demerits, the thesis, anti-thesis and the synthesis, of having State Police. I shall then give my firm conclusion, unapologetically, stating that having State Police and community policing must be achieved with the urgency of Now.

SOME OPPONENTS OF STATE POLICE (continues)

Dr. Samson S. Ameh, SAN, once added his voice to this debate, as follows: “We should maintain the Nigeria Police on the exclusive legislative list of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999. The idea of having a State Police is a good one, but the time is not ripe for it yet. We should remember that Nigeria started as a British colony, indeed, a creation by a foreign power and thereby, any institution like the Nigeria Police which emphasises our image as a nation, as one country, should be encouraged for now”.

Nella Andem-Rabana, SAN, forcefully argues that: “Unless Nigeria thinks through the necessary amendments/provisions to be made with regard to the following: (a) 2011 Constitution (as amended) (b) the Revenue Allocation Formula; and (c) infrastructure, and until it puts into effect those amendments for effective State policing, it may not be expedient to whimsically dismantle the existing Police structure.

“The fact that the Nigeria Police Force is under the command of the IGP, an appointee of the President of the Federal Republic, means that all Commissioners of Police report directly to him, and have limited powers/authority to make on-the-spot or far reaching decisions and in maintaining and securing public safety and order. This is a constitutional matter, which must be expressly addressed in order to decentralise the Police Force.

“Also of constitutional significance, are matters such as purchase of firearms, ammunition, explosives, banking, financial crimes, fingerprinting, identification and criminal records, all of which are on the Exclusive Legislative list in the 1999 Constitution (as amended). These matters should be put on the concurrent list to give States necessary and relevant powers to enable them prevent, investigate and prosecute such crimes independent of Federal Police. This would give the Federal Police the opportunity to concentrate on Federal crimes which would have by then been clearly determined such as, interstate, cross-border crimes and national security issues”.

She argued that strengthening the Police to cope with current insecurity in the country, requires optimal professionalism. “The need for up-to-date technological and scientific expertise, robust and comprehensive criminal justice training especially in areas like psychology, forensic investigation, report writing, handwriting analysis, voice analysis, the purchase of hi-tech equipment, interrogation, negotiation, fingerprinting analysis, study of bomb composition and disposal, Cybercrime, deep sea diving etc, have to form part of the ongoing training program”, she argued powerfully.

Yet, some others have argued that creation of State Police is simply an invitation to anarchy, because even if we create State, LG, clan, community or family Police, it is the same corrupt Nigerians and corrupted institutions they will manage. They remind us of the havoc Native Council and Emirate Police caused Nigerians, during colonial times and the First Republic.

Chief John Ochoga noted that: “modern type policing began in London with the establishment of the Metropolitan Police by Sir Robert Peel in 1829, whereas the Nigeria Police Force started as a body to meet the British colonial needs. The Consular Guards was established in Lagos in 1861, and later by 1879 became the Hausa Constabulary, an armed Force. Subsequently, there was the Northern Nigerian Police (1886), Royal Niger Constabulary (1888), The Niger Coast Constabulary (1894) and The Southern Nigerian Police Force (1906). By 1906, three distinct Police Forces existed in Nigeria. And in 1930, they were amalgamated; thus, the present name of The Nigeria Police Force.

“It is, therefore clear that, our colonial history produced our current policing status. We can therefore, not separate our political development from our Police Force”.

Nigeria’s 1966 political experience of coups, counter-coups, civil war and military regimes have made our democracy “a learning process”, even at the age of 53 years.

“In Northern Nigeria, opposing politicians and their Lawyers were detained at electoral/polling units, to ensure nomination forms and documents were not filled against the ruling NPC (Northern People’s Congress). Multi-party democracy was nothing but a big sham… The primordial nature of Nigeria, still makes State Police an idea whose time has not come. Our leaders are still emperors in pretentious democratic garbs”. This argument, from the reverse side of the coin is also very compelling. Now, let us see more.

Merits and Advantages of State Police

The following are considered by some schools of thought as the merits and advantages of establishing State Police and Community Police Forces in Nigeria:

It will help curb the rising tide of insecurity, amongst other social vices in Nigeria. It will reduce the rate of unemployment, as more people would be recruited into the State Police in proportion to the population of each State. It will help check criminal activities and corruption within the Police Force and the society (Chief Chekwas Okorie as quoted by Bulus, 2012). It will curb the attitude of Policemen who hardly go to their States of origin to work, but go to other States which they consider lucrative to make money, even when they do not know the terrain of such States. State policing will prevent unwarranted attack, and imposition of Islam or other ideologies on some unwilling States. Having State Police will reduce the financial burden on the central Federal Government. It will help abate the ugly trend of kidnappings and militancy, in the Southern part of Nigeria. It is easier to operate close systems and shorter processes because of less loops, error percentage and you know your target (Mr Ekene Nwogbo as quoted in Kehinde, 2013). State Police will help institutionalise true Federalism, and localise/confine criminal activities to their areas of origin. Every State knows its peculiar problems and challenges, and how to adequately engage State Police will also help reduce corruption in the Police, because in community policing, every citizen knows the Police officer up to his pedigree and genealogy.

Demerits and Disadvantages of State Police

In spite of the compelling attractiveness of the merits and advantages of having State and Community Police, some schools of thought have equally pointed out the numerous demerits and disadvantages of establishing State Police in Nigeria.

They argue that the system is susceptible to abuse by dictatorial State Governors, who wield enormous and overbearing influence over their subjects. They argue that having State Police is too costly and resource-consuming (Chief Parry Osayande, quoted by Bulus, 2012). State executives can use State Police to harass and intimidate political opponents. State Governors will surely abuse it to the detriment of their political opponents and opposition. State Police can lead to secession where one powerful Governor, considering his full control over fully armed security personnel and arms, would declare his own country (Nwachukwu, 2012). There is likelihood of conflict of jurisdiction between States, especially where the conflicting States are run by different political parties (Kehinde, 2013); The lack of uniformity in financing, may also pose a great challenge to the establishment of State Police Forces in Nigeria. Some States are financially stronger than others. Lesser paid Police officers in poorer States may get jealous of their better remunerated colleagues in richer States, and thus, lead to demoralisation and low input. Some Governors can be reckless by embezzling the money budgeted for same, and will not therefore finance it properly. It can lead to a diversion of criminals and criminality from one strong State with effective policing, to another weak State with poor community policing. State Policing will lead to anarchy and chaos, with no moderator appearing to be in control. It will enthrone tribalism, nepotism, cronyism and favouritism; There may be conflict of interest between the Federal Police Force, and that of States. Having State Police is not financially feasible (Ahmed, quoted in Nwogu, 2012).

According to a Report released on 16th August, 2012, during President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, by the Presidential Committee on Reorganisation of the Nigeria Police and the Forum of Former Inspectors-General of Police (IGPs), they warned that the institution of State Police in Nigeria will be a prelude to the disintegration of the country.

Even former IGPs, that include Alhaji Muhammadu Gambo-Jimeta, Alhaji Ibrahim Coomasie, Mr. Sunday Ehindero and Sir Mike Okiro, have since argued that the clamour for State Police was an invitation to anarchy, because it was not in the interest of the nation’s democracy. They argued that the most unreasonable thing for any administration to do at this time was to allow State Police, stressing that with the current ‘political climate in our country, a State Police would only be a tool in the hands of political leaders at the State level’. These, no doubt, are very strong reasons to discard with State Police.

My Humble Submission

However, notwithstanding this powerful line of thinking, it is my humble submission that the current ratio of 1:602 with which the Nigeria Police is operating, is grossly inadequate and far below the United Nation’s ratio. This, notwithstanding the fact that 20,000 Police officers have since been recruited to fill the yawnin gap. This is still a very far cry from the UN ratio of 222 Policemen to 100,000 people, or 1:400. With this, to meet up with the UN ratio, the Nigeria Police Force requires over 170,000 additional Police officers in the next five years.

This is coupled with the ugly spectre that a large chunk of the officers and men of the NPF are attached privately to top elites, politicians, government officials, companies and money bags.

Our argument for the desirability of State Police, is further strengthened by a disclosure by the then Inspector-General of Police, Mr Ibrahim Kpotum Idris, at a public hearing on Police reforms at the House of Representatives. He maintained that the Police would require N1.13 trillion annually, to effectively execute Police operations.

He noted that the N560 billion recommended by the MD Yusuf-led Police Reform Committee in 2008, was a far cry from the current amount required to reposition the Police.

He told the Committee that fuelling of Police vehicles alone annually, required an average of N26.9 billion, including maintenance costs of course, with spiral inflation, these figures have since gone up. With this frightening scenario, why should the Federal Government alone be saddled with policing matters?

Conclusion

There is the clear and urgent need to have State Police. It accords with common sense, modern trends and true Federalism. We could still have a Federal Police like the FBI, that deals with cross-border crimes, high profile crimes, treasonable, drugs and narcotics matters.

Emerging criminal behaviours have necessitated the creation of State Police and Community Policing, to address the various needs of the Police, including proper funding and staff strength.

State Police would also bring security closer to the people, while making the people part of the new security arrangement.

Modern community policing, appears to be the in-thing nowadays. By the way, tell me the difference between State and Community Police, and Amotekun, Eastern Security Network.

In any event, State Police is not going to be created for any particular person, as there would be laws to regulate its operations. We cannot, because of fear of the unknown, resist an idea whose time has come. Now is the time for State Police. It is the URGENCY OF NOW.

THOUGHTS FOR THE WEEK

“I am in favour of community policing, because it builds better working relationships with the communities”. (Vincent Frank)

“The way you make communities safer and Police safer, is through community policing” (Tim Kaine)