The case for state police – Part 2

Members of Lagos State Rapid Response Squad 2015, as the state government donated close to N4.8 billion in vehicles and equipment to the state’s police command.

Members of Lagos State Rapid Response Squad 2015, as the state government donated close to N4.8 billion in vehicles and equipment to the state’s police command.

Counter-argument
The main counter argument to the two issues of state police meddling in politics and the inability of some states to afford state police is that the central police structure the country currently runs is already threatening the stability of the states and there is increasing crime across the country.

Having a centralised police structure already increases the vulnerability of the police force to political interference. Case in point was the incident in Rivers state in 2013 when the Commissioner of Police for Rivers State ordered the invasion of the state’s House of Assembly in which he was acting on “orders from above.”

When it comes to some states not being able to afford a state police, there is already a disparity in the level of security received from one state to another. One just needs to visit a state like Lagos where the state government donated close to N4.8 billion in vehicles and equipment including helicopters, patrol vehicles, gun boats, and power bikes and so on, to the states’ police command.

Proponents of state police have quipped that states that are ready for the restructure should be allowed to set up and start, while those that are not ready can continue on the federal structure and pace themselves. States may also collaborate.

Also the central police body can serve to ensure and encourage high standards in the force across the country, making sure that the various state police understand their roles in staying politically neutral. The federal police could also enforce the neutral police laws by ensuring those found abusing their professional powers and meddling in state or federal politics, face appropriate punitive measures.
Effective centralised police

A country’s law enforcement is supposed to embody the government within the communities. If there were stronger local law enforcement, a lot of criminal activities being experienced today would have been put under control before their escalation to the point of requiring the intervention of other security agencies such as the military.

Having a centralised police force is meant to be beneficial in the area of tackling crimes that cross state borders. For example, cattle rustling and herdsmen attacks that are taking place across the country. Or another example, are the various bank robberies, kidnappings and pipeline vandalism incidents that take place in Lagos but are perpetrated by criminals and criminal gangs from other parts of the country.

An effective central police force is able to expedite the capture of the perpetrators of these crimes, by gathering information from the local populace and sharing it among the various divisional, state and zonal headquarters for further action. But anyone who has had to file a simple crime report in a police post or station knows that getting policemen to act on information is not that easy. The victim gets passed on from station to station in the name of jurisdiction.

Ineffective centralised police
In essence, the centralized Police structure in Nigeria has not been effective in defeating crime that transcends across state borders. Instead, it has brought about an endemic situation where majority of human and material resources dedicated to the force have been concentrated mainly in the center, with remnants trickling down to the frontline units who then remain under-equipped, underfunded, undermanned and subsequently ineffective.

The Federal Government cannot afford to effectively fund a central police structure and ensure that every organisational level down to the police post is well manned and fully equipped. A case in point, Ahmed and Salihu from the University of Kano carried out a geospatial analysis of crime in a specific local government area of Kano State. Their findings indicated that crimes occurred mostly in areas where there were no police stations. Although there were police outposts, in these areas, crimes still took place because there simply wasn’t enough equipment and manpower in the outposts to effectively and efficiently tackle these crimes.

Some may argue that the government should simply increase the budget allocation and then the lower level police structures will be better funded. Unfortunately, this strategy has not worked. According to Human Rights Watch, the Nigerian government has steadily increased the Federal allocation to the Nigerian Police Force but since the budget is centrally planned with little input from those who are directly tackling crime in the state and divisional commands, the funds still end up being mismanaged and wrongly allocated.

Some may argue that the government should simply increase the budget allocation and then the lower level police structures will be better funded. Unfortunately, this strategy has not worked. According to Human Rights Watch, the Nigerian government has steadily increased the Federal allocation to the Nigerian Police Force but since the budget is centrally planned with little input from those who are directly tackling crime in the state and divisional commands, the funds still end up being mismanaged and wrongly allocated.

Transitioning to state police
Running a state police organisational structure will ensure that even rural communities in the outskirts of the states have adequate law enforcement representation. The policemen won’t be from a faraway land, living in a barracks and disgruntled about paying for daily transportation to their post.

The members of the police force will be from that community, therefore, they will have a stake in its security. They won’t sit in a stationary police vehicle all day, and drive around only when ‘IGP’ is in town. They will actively patrol the streets and engage members of the community collecting vital information that will be the key in destroying any criminal networks that want to threaten the safety of their children and future generations to come.

When implementing state police structure, the state governments must not make the same mistake of allocating more resources to the higher echelons, the goal should be that highly trained and highly skilled personnel operate within the Police outposts. The police stations and posts must be exceptionally maintained and fully equipped with reach-back capability directly to the State Police.

The federal police will exist to handle cross border jurisdictional crimes, carry out checks and balances by ensuring that no state police or personnel is jeopardising national sovereignty and they will seek to make certain that high professional standards are met and exceeded by the various state police across the country.

Conclusion
The commencement of the police recruitment is a welcome development in that it shows the government is being honest about the challenge of an undermanned force. But let’s be honest, 10,000 police recruits is but a drop in the bucket and is still a short sighted strategy. A long term strategic approach will involve investigating the feasibility of state police and actively working a phased implantation of the same.

If states such as Lagos, Rivers, Anambra, or Adamawa are ready to start recruiting and training locals or what Yorubas call “omoluabi” (a local who embodies a person of integrity) to serve in the state’s police force and bring about genuine peace, security and stability to the state, then by all means they should be allowed to. The willing states should draw up a detailed plan with phased implementation and then other states can cop on as they see the effectiveness of this structure and are ready to do so.

Policing threats in Nigeria will become increasingly challenging due to macro socio-economic issues such as population growth, climate change, mass migration, widening income inequality, corruption, globalization, and volatile oil market and so on. Nigeria’s 21st century may have only begun, it is time to adjust the current security structure to meet the times.
• CONCLUDED
Email: tanwa.ashiru@bulwarkintelligence.com
Website: www.bulwarkintelligence.com
Twitter: @bulwark_intel



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