As 36 State Houses of Assembly, CSOs Back Creation of State Police…

Speakers of the 36 state Houses of Assembly under the aegis of Conference of Speakers of State Legislatures of Nigeria as well as Civil Society Organisations have thrown their weight behind the agitation for the creation of State Police. Sunday Aborisade reports.

The 36 state houses of assembly in Nigeria recently threw their weight behind the agitation for the creation of state police.

They argued that it was the best way to tackle insecurity in Nigeria. They made the call in a communique issued at the end of their meeting in Abuja. The communique was signed by their Chairman, Rt Hon Adebo Ogundoyin.

The speakers pledged their support for the creation of state police if included as part of the constitution review.

Part of the Communique read: “The Conference strongly advocates for state policing to check the negative trend of insecurity in our country.

“To achieve this, the Conference appeals to the National Assembly, Presidency and other relevant stakeholders to leverage on the ongoing constitution review exercise.

“The Conference observed that in spite of the constitutional provisions that grant Financial Autonomy to the State Legislature, the implementation has been observed in breach. We therefore, call on all the relevant stakeholders to comply with all the provisions in the Constitution and not by breach.”

President Bola Tinubu, had on Thursday, February 15, 2024, met with state governors in Abuja during which they considered “the possibility of setting up state police.

Details of the meeting were disclosed by Information Minister Mohammed Idris who addressed journalists after the meeting.

The Minister had said, “Now, there is also a discussion around the issue of state police.

“The federal government and the state governments are mulling the possibility of setting up state police”.

Idris said attendees at the meeting agreed on the need for state police but more discussions are still needed on how to implement it.

His words, “This is still going to be further discussed. A lot of work has to be done in that direction. Both the federal government and the state governments agree to the necessity of having state police, now this is a significant shift. But like I said, more work needs to be done in that direction.

 “A lot of meetings will have to happen between the federal government and the subnationals to see the modalities of achieving state policing.”

Meanwhile, the representative of Kaduna Central Senatorial District in the 8th National Assembly, Senator Shehu Sani, opposed the establishment of the state Police in a post on his verified X handle following the meeting between Tinubu and the governors.

He explained why he will not support the proposed creation of state police across the country saying having state police may lead to anarchy.

State police, he noted, could be used by governors for election rigging, adding that there would also be recruitment of the state’s ruling party thugs into the force.

Similarly, the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Kayode Egbetokun on 22 April, 2024, registered strong opposition to the proposal for the establishment of state-controlled police forces.

He cited a wide range of challenges and potential risks. The IGP articulated the position of the leadership of the Nigeria Police Force, at a forum organised by the House of Representatives

He asserted that the country was not yet prepared for such a transition

Highlighting the obstacles that currently beset the Nigeria Police Force, the IGP enumerated a series of critical challenges.

Egbetokun raised the concern over inadequate manpower and operational resources essential for effective policing.

He also underscored the scarcity of essential equipment such as vehicles, arms, ammunition, communication devices, drones, aerial surveillance cameras, security helicopters, and armored vehicles, stressing their pivotal role in maintaining law and order.

Egbetokun expressed concern about the readiness and capacity of personnel, pointing to deficiencies in training programmes as a significant area of concern.

He said the acknowledgment of institutional shortcomings underscores the need for comprehensive reforms within the Nigeria Police Force to enhance its capabilities and efficiency.

In addition to operational challenges, the IGP raised substantive issues regarding the potential ramifications of implementing state-controlled police forces.

He cautioned against the likelihood of conflicts of jurisdiction arising from overlapping authorities between federal and state law enforcement agencies.

Egbetokun expressed apprehension about the susceptibility of state police forces to abuse by state governors, highlighting the risks inherent in entrusting localized law enforcement powers without adequate checks and balances.

Also, the Minister of Budget and Economic Planning, Atiku Bagudu, penultimate week,  said his opposition to state policing in Nigeria has not changed.

He nevertheless conceded to the stance of President Tinubu who is promoting state policing.

In 2012, Bagudu, then a senator, said Nigeria was not ready to operate state police.

His main argument, similar to that of many critics of the proposal, was that it would be abused by state governors, many of whom have shown the penchant to be intolerant of criticism.

However, some security experts and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have applauded the backing of the creation of State Police by 36 State Assembly Speakers.

The security experts and CSOs in separate interviews with THISDAY, argued that creation of State Police would go a long way to address some of the country’s security challenges.

Commenting on the development, Major General Obashina Ogunbiyi (rtd), noted that it was a good step in the right direction.

He said: “I think it is a good step in the right direction because the people have been clamouring for that and in terms of aiding the security of the community, this is very important.

“If parts of the community are recruited as policemen, it would go a long way in improving the security architecture of the state. This is because they are more familiar with people in the community and know who is who. It will aid in the dispensation of security for each state.

On the fear of abuse, he reiterated that State Governors need to think more about the security and safety of their state which is far bigger than politics, if the state police must achieve its purpose.

According to Ogunbiyi: “If we have honest leadership at the State level, that should not pose a challenge as such. But the advantages override the disadvantages.”

Also speaking on the matter, ex-Comptroller, Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), Zone A, Lagos State Border Patrol Command, Chukwuemeka Obua said, “That is the way to go.”

He said, “At this moment in the security architecture of Nigeria, the creation of state policing is imperative, we should have done it yesterday and that’s the way we can get a high level of security.

“You bring in somebody who doesn’t understand the language, culture and nitty-gritty of his environment he won’t be able to even source for intelligence.

“If the people are speaking a language he doesn’t even understand, how will he know what they are talking about for him to be able to source for intelligence?

“Anybody serving his state will have a greater desire to fight and protect his state because he has things to lose, but if you bring someone from Borno for instance, to police Ogun State, he will think about his family in Borno and won’t put in his all but if you put an Oyo man in Oyo State, his family is there and he is from there.

“Let me tell you why State policing will be different: Yes, the politicians will try to use it for themselves but they are all indigenes of that State. If you ask them to go and kill people in a particular place, you may be telling someone to go and kill his father and mother.

“Also, the issue of bribery and corruption will be reduced because if I go and mount a toll gate in my hometown, the people I am likely to extort money from are my uncles, aunties, brothers, family members and they will not take it lightly with me but if you are talking to a Yoruba man in Imo State, a Jukun man in Abia State, a Kanuri man in Oyo State, he has nothing at stake so these are the issues.

“There is no way we can compare state police to the federal police we have now. Don’t forget the structure we have now was inherited from colonial masters yet it is structured to protect the colonial masters, so these are the issues”.

Also commenting on the issue, Founder of the Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre, Okechukwu Nwanguma, noted that if the state police are established, the federal police could be used to check the excesses of the states.

According to him, the state security outfit will handle little crimes while the federal police will handle big crimes.

“The federal police can maintain the Nigeria Police while the states can have a security architecture that is unique to the state,” he added.

The 2014 National Political Reform Conference had recommended devolving policing after its painstaking deliberations.

This implies allowing states to create their police, in addition to enabling community policing.

However, former President Goodluck Jonathan who initiated the 2014 conference, and his successor, Muhammadu Buhari, did not implement the recommendations of the report despite the challenging security situation in the country.

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