Worsening insecurity sparks renewed calls for state police

The primary responsibility of government is the protection of lives and property. However, successive governments in Nigeria have failed in this regard as killings and kidnappings by terrorists have become the order of the day in some parts of the country.

In a country with over 200 million people, no day passes without the news of deadly attacks that force residents to flee their communities; even worship centres are not spared by the marauding terrorists whose aim is to kill and destroy for no reason.

According to Beacon Consulting in its security incident tracker, no fewer than 29,828 people were killed while 15,404 others were kidnapped across the country between 2021 and 2023.

Crime has become more sophisticated, with kidnapping for ransom, killings, cultism, cybercrimes, drug abuse, human trafficking, and other vices becoming dominant in the country.

The attack on 25 communities in Plateau State, killing about 150 people is one amongst several recent incidents that have continued to attract reactions as to the level of insecurity amid weak security architecture in the nation.

In the South-West, on June 5, 2022, terrorists sneaked into St. Francis’ Catholic Church, Owo, Ondo State, and attacked unsuspecting worshippers, leaving 41 people dead. This happened after other several incidents of kidnapping, armed robbery, and killings despite the presence of the Nigeria Police Force, and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, among other security agencies. Many have lost faith in the current federal structure of the nation’s security architecture, a situation stakeholders say calls for a drastic measure through the establishment of the state police.

One of the steps suggested by security experts is the creation of state police. However, it is believed that if the governors who are by law the chief security officers of their states are directly responsible for their duties despite the huge yearly allocation to security, the several attacks are avoidable.

They said as chief security officers of their states, governors should have control of security agencies, including the police, within their domains to tackle all security threats. This is so because, by law, the entire structure of the security forces is directly under the control of the President, who is also the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.

For instance, the Inspector General of Police is appointed by the President. The IG and AIGs have powers over the Commissioners of Police in the states. In this case, the power of the governors in the state over the police is little or none as instruction dished out by such a governor to the CPs can be overruled by the higher authorities. The argument has always been that such a structure is faulty and against the tenets of a federal system of government.

Some governors who faulted this structure raised concerns that the unavailability of state police undermined their strength to ensure adequate security within their region.

The controversial structure was birthed in the provision of the 1999 Constitution. To amend such provision, in 2022, the Northern Governors Forum and Northern Traditional Rulers Council advocated an amendment to the 1999 Constitution to give legal backing to state police.

According to the forum, the creation of state police would effectively and efficiently address the security challenges of the region.

The former Plateau State Governor, Jonah Jang, while reacting to the recent killings, described as worrisome the situation where governors were denied the power to deploy personnel to confront terrorists, saying, “There is the need to attend to the call for state police as part of measures for boosting security, ensuring early response in crises and confronting the challenges of insecurity headlong.”

 He added, “While we agree with the President that the culprits must be apprehended and made to face prosecution, we must note that these directives have been issued repeatedly. Yet, neither arrests nor prosecutions have been made in the past.”

Also, concerned about the need for a redesign of the state security architecture, former President Olusegun Obasanjo in April 2022, called for the creation of state police to tackle the growing insecurity in the country.

According to the ex-president, the worsened level of insecurity calls for the creation of state police. He added, “It is from that state police that we can now be talking about community police.”

Also, in the same year, the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwolu, called for their cooperation in the agitation for the creation of state police. According to him, in the age of democracy, policing at the community level is not only desirable but important for the states.

He added, “We will continue to advocate for state police. We have said that state police is not in any form to retrench or reduce whatever the Nigeria Police is doing now.”

The governor, who raised concern over the low number of policemen across the country, stated that engaging more Nigerians through the community police scheme would create another level of employment generation while also meeting their constitutional responsibility of protecting lives and property, and ensuring peace and tranquility within the states.

Late former Chairman of Southern Governors Forum, Rotimi Akeredolu, had earlier stated that the devolution of power was the surest way to progress.

He added that the creation of state police is the only logical and pragmatic solution to the problem of insecurity.

Also, in December, the Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, called for the decentralisation of the country’s security architecture to check crime and criminality.

Recently, a lawmaker representing Niger East, Senator Sani Musa, while expressing concern over the spat in the rate of insecurity, called for the establishment of state security apparatus in the region.

On his part, a retired Deputy Inspector-General of Police, Adedayo Adeoye, urged President Bola Tinubu to send a State Police Bill to the National Assembly.

Deliberation on state police has been on the front burner for several years but the failure to attain an amendment to the constitution has made it impossible to legalise, although some governors have created neighbourhood watch in the various states, something close to state police.

As stated earlier, the major problem with the creation of this special policing is the provisions of the 1999 constitution which expressly stated that there shall only be a police force, which is the Nigeria Police Force. There was no provision for state police in the constitution.

Section 214(1) states, “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.”

Therefore, to have another policing system in any state requires an amendment to the 1999 Constitution by the National Assembly; an effort which has not yielded any result since the ongoing clamour has set off.

In a bid to amend the provision in the constitution, the bill passed its second reading at the 9th Assembly of the House of Representatives but was thereafter rejected in 2022 by the Reps Committee on Constitution Amendment.

Last year, the former Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai, while still in office, appealed to the 9th Assembly to pass the state and community police bill before leaving office but the bill didn’t see the light of the day.

For instance, the South-West established the Western Nigeria Security Network codenamed ‘Operation Amotekun’, funded and operated by some of the state governments in the South-West, having passed the bills through their various state Houses of Assembly in 2020.

The creation of the security outfit however followed several controversies as the Nigeria Police threatened to arrest any Amotekun operative carrying illegal arms.

Similarly, the Attorney-General, Abubakar Malami, declared ‘Operation Amotekun’ illegal, stating that it is not backed by the constitution.

The government’s reaction generated uproar and protest in the six South-West states, even as the pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, described the position of the Federal Government as a joke taken too far.

Ever since, some states in the region have maintained operations with the outfit while some successes have been recorded with several arrests and prosecution of suspects in Ondo, Oyo, and Osun states.

For instance, last year, the Ondo State Commander of Western Nigeria Security Network, Amotekun, Adetunji Adeleye, disclosed that the outfit arrested no fewer than 7,000 criminals and prosecuted 1,500 across the state within the last three and half years of its creation.

Taking a queue and considering the increasing level of insecurity in Katsina State, the state Governor, Dikko Radda, on October 10, 2023, established the state’s security service codenamed, Community Watch Corps to curtail the menace of banditry in the state.

Before the creation of the corps, 1,456 personnel were inducted, passed out as the first batch, and were subsequently posted to various communities in the state. Ten Armoured Personnel Carriers, 70 Toyota Hilux vans, and 700 motorcycles were also distributed to serve as operational vehicles.

Despite the efforts of some governor in establishing what looks like their state police, the level of insecurity particularly in the North has continued to worsen.

The Executive Director of a civil society organisation, Human Rights and Justice Group International, Prince Nze, said the current situation in the country required a state police but raised concern that the opposition would be at the mercy of the governors if the structure was not well put in place.

He said, “Based on the current state of the nation, there is a need for state police. As a governor, you cannot give a directive to a police commissioner in your state without someone in Abuja countering the directive. The lacuna is that some of the governors can abuse it. The opposition parties would be at the mercy of the governor who would order the arrest of anybody who disagreed with him or her.

“We have not got to that level where governors will manage their temperament. For instance, most of the state electoral commissions take directives from the governors. If we allow a state police that is not been tinkered with by the governor, then we may have a good situation. But without that, the state governors may use the police to detain, maim, and intimidate the opposition.”

Supporting Nze’s view on the matter, a human rights lawyer, Inibehe Effiong, stated that the level at which the governors had subjected current state agencies and commissions to their control was an indication that they would also apply the same to the state police if created.

He said, “I am not against state police but we are not ready for it. Our governors are not mentally and emotionally mature. So, we cannot have state police for now. Most of the governors are what I call constitutional vandals. They don’t have regard for the constitution, human rights, and free speech. If you have state police, what you will have will be a state militia.”

Speaking further, he said, “I think realistically, Nigeria is not ready for state police, not because it is not necessary but because our politicians are not serious and are not people that can be entrusted with such. I think it will be too much of a risk to allow governors who rig elections to have absolute control of state police.”

Also, a security expert and founder of Beacon Consulting, Dr Kabir Adamu, expressed concern that the state police though needed due to the current situation of the country, there should be a mechanism to check the excesses of the governors.

According to him, a law should be provided to allow the state judiciary and legislature to check the governors’ abuse of power.

“I agree that we need improved policing at the state and local government level but I am very worried about the absence of democratic tenet at the state and local government level. At the moment, the state governors are like mini emperors; they can do and undo. If they have control over state police, I am very worried about what they will likely do.

“If however, we strengthen the democratic tradition at the state level in such a way that the state legislature and the judiciary can check the excesses of the governors, then I would have no concern. I prefer we have an independent legislature and judiciary that can check the excesses of the governor and whoever is heading the police unit should not be in control of the governor.

“Imagine what we had during the elections up till now. Imagine if some of the governors had control of the police in their states, what would have happened? Even if we are going to have state police, we should have it in such a way that the police will not be totally controlled by the governors.”

However, on his part, a security expert, Nnamdi Chive, said if the state police were 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.

He added, “The federal police can maintain the Nigeria Police while the states can have a security architecture that is unique to the state. You cannot get somebody from Zamfara State to protect Anambra State. You need people who are indigenous to the community to protect their people. You can have a state police and limit their mandate to specific crimes, and when you have a bigger crime, the federal police can handle it.”

Speaking on the tendency that governors may abuse the use of state police, he said, “That’s where you need a federal police. If you are a politician and the governor is hindering you from accessing the state police, you can apply and get the federal police for security. It is something that can work if properly arranged and the specific laws that are meant for it established.”

Meanwhile, a human rights lawyer and public analyst, Prof Nnamdi Aduba, on his part, urged President Bola Tinubu to transmit the State Police Bill to the National Assembly, saying security is local.

“Information is key and information cannot be given to someone you don’t trust. So, the creation of state police is based on our peculiar circumstances. Crime is local and securing the people too is local. This is the time for the president to transmit the bills and ensure the creation of state police. It may not end the insecurity totally but be sure that it will reduce drastically because the people themselves would be involved in the process of security and the relevant resources would be available.”

However, only time will tell if the renewed debate on state police will yield any fruit, especially as kidnapping for ransom and destruction of lives and property have risen to an almost uncontrollable level.

The post Worsening insecurity sparks renewed calls for state police first appeared on Nigeria Newspapers Online.