The case for state police

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.

Imagine a state in Nigeria where men are recruited into the force based on personality types that are motivated by the desire for peace and stability within their states. These men have zero tolerance for crime and criminals within their hometowns.

But you don’t only see these policemen when there is crime.

They are well-known faces within the communities. They visit schools and teach the children the importance of obeying the law and shunning crime.

They frequently patrol the streets, interacting with members of the public, noting complaints, intervening in minor arguments before they escalate to violent clashes. They sponsor and attend community events such as cultural days, sporting events and even Independence Day festivities. They are interactive on social media and are adept at sensitizing the public on security awareness.

The State Police are usually well equipped, well funded, well trained and well mannered. If the state has a population of 17 million, there should be no fewer than 38,000 men to police the state. This is within the recommended UN ratio of one policeman to 450 citizens. The state runs one of the best police training academies in the country. Well maintained, with the best forming part of the training staff. Rarely do you see able- bodied men sitting around idly—doing nothing. Unemployed graduates are promptly recruited and trained to form part of the effective state police force.

This State Police usually take pride in the fact that their community, their town or city, their LGA, and their state, year after year, is consistently on the list of lowest crime rates in all of Nigeria. The state police’s allegiance is to the peace and security of the state, not to any political group or sitting government administration.

The state governor as the Chief Security Officer of the state knows that running a low crime state is attractive to investors and tourists and in the best interest of his state. He also knows that these days, the people of the state have no patience and have zero tolerance for non-performance. They are interconnected and have heard all about the peace and stability being experienced in the neighboring states. They will vote the governor out in the next election if he does not ensure safety, security and protection of all citizens of the state.

Why the need for state police

The level of insecurity across Nigeria today is multi-faceted, and is currently threatening the stability of the country. There are high levels of crime in the South-west; secessionist movements and kidnapping in the South-East; rampant kidnapping, gang related violence and destruction of critical national infrastructure in the South-South; terrorism in the North-East; violent herdsmen attacks across the Middle belt and extensive theft and cattle rustling in the North-West. Other criminal issues plaguing the country include: cyber crime, domestic violence, assault on women, ethnoreligious clashes, political conflicts, illicit trafficking, cultism etc

In order to effectively tackle the increasing level of insecurity within the country, the Nigeria Police will need to undergo some long overdue restructuring or “unbundling” which involves the Federal Government relinquishing the job of securing the various states to the state government through the establishment of state police.

In today’s threat environment, crime perpetrators are usually well known within the community. Effective policing will require a police force that is in close relation within the community and the members of the public have to be comfortable sharing information with the police. Aside from the decades of mistrust there is also the issue of familiarity that is preventing effective information sharing between law enforcement and members of the public.

For instance, the people in Borno State are more familiar with a Camerounian from the Extreme North region than they will be with a Nigerian from the South-South. In other words, sending an Ijaw policeman to serve in Borno is not the most effective way of policing a society.

The Police are aware of this connection between affiliation and sacrifice, and have instituted a “back to state” policy which according to the Nigeria Research Network “stipulates that most rank and file officers should be drawn from the local communities they serve, or police joint patrols with community security groups, or police registration and official identification of vigilantes. This policy is a clear indication that even the police agree that using natives to police their states of origin is a more effective strategy.

The fear surrounding the state police idea

Opponents of state police believe that Nigeria is not ready for it because like the Presidential Committee on Police Reforms said, “The country will break up.’’ Opponents believe that the state police will pay allegiance to the political party in power and would be used to suppress rival political parties. This school of thought is not unfounded.

During the British colonial era, the major role performed by the police involved repressing groups and individuals considered as disturbances by the colonial rulers. After the Nigeria Police Force was created in 1930, it co-existed with local administration police forces who served the regional powers in the Northern and Western Regions of Nigeria. These local forces were eventually abolished because they were involved in partisan politics including brutalisation of opponents towards the collapse of the First Republic. After independence in 1960, Nigeria Police Force still operated much like the colonial era forces where they were being used by politicians and the ruling political class to harass opposing parties.

As a result of these actions over the years, the perception the Nigerian public have towards the Nigeria Police has remained negative with lack of confidence in the force and distrust.

Some of this fear still exists today and with the secessionist talk in the South-East and violent political rivalries in some Niger Delta states, it is easy to see why opponents of state police fear that a police force that is fully funded by the state will most likely do the bidding of the state governor and consequently the ruling party.

Another argument against state police is that not all states will be able to afford an effective police force. According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) Nigeria Poverty Profile in 2012, a state like Lagos has a poverty rate percentage of 8.5 percent, compared to Yobe and Zamfara which have poverty rate percentages of 90 and 91.9 percent each. Such numbers already show that the quality of state police forces will differ from state to state based on the economic disparities.

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