As reports continue to emerge, daily, regarding reckless killings by cattle rustlers, gun-trotting men that have commonly become known as “unknown gunmen”, kidnappings and inexplicable gruesome beheading of family members in disturbing circumstances across the nation, many genuinely concerned Nigerians may have been wondering whether facts about the need for state police have come to prick our mind and poke us directly on the face.
Without doubt, the necessity of state police has become increasingly attractive in the wake of steadily growing insecurity in states though the countable few opposed to it would rather it remained in the closet of our minds. Despite the fusillade of falsehoods running rings round the proposition and the unimaginable conspiracy against state police, newspaper headlines in the last few months, offer clear justification for state police. Perhaps, it will help us to take a look at some of the trending newspaper headlines: Two Brothers Beheaded in Portharcourt, Rivers State; Headless Body Of Female Undergraduate Found at Dumpsite; Police Arrest Man With Human Body Parts in Osun State; Council Boss Narrowly Escapes Assassination, Armed youths go gaga in Ohaji, Imo State, among others. The list is endless and certainly swirls distance away from any sane expectations of an organized society that places premium on safety of life and property.
Indeed, for anyone following politics at the national, state and council levels in the last decade, it certainly leaves sour taste in the mouth as to the height of insecurity in the land. Ask anyone opposed to state police, you are likely to expressly hear that it is the exclusive preserve and responsibility of the federal government to fund and provide security across the nation. And, no other, not even the states. So, it would seem you were expected to understand that where a failure to adequately provide security leaves gapping holes for crime architects to explore, whatever argument there is, should end at pointing fingers at the federal government and be left there.
Most conveniently in some cases, too, the finger pointing bizarrely ends without a mention of the gargantuan economic loss and possible investigations aimed at putting a stop to it. That is how warped the argument had been for decades, and still, even as it is curiously wished that the emotional strains that come with the sudden loss of a father, mother, sister or brother or, better still, a breadwinner, and by extension, destruction of farmlands and crops; in horrifying circumstances, are better condemned to a mute mode because life goes on.
These and many more possibly explains why talks about state police have always been seen as cheap propaganda fueled by ethnicity, political and religious undertones, and qualifies for an open invitation to anarchy to let governors take over policing in their respective states and communities. They insist that to do so would breed dictatorship and autocracy, because state governors would readily deploy state police to advantage to remain in power against democratic principles, as well as, intimidate and harass political opponents.
Interesting as these reasons seem, the chilling accounts of hapless farmers and their families, and as often is the case, entire communities, overran by armed gun men with little or no efforts by security agencies to keep them at bay, highlights the urgency in our times, to not only revisit the subject matter of state police, but to set in motion efforts aimed at allowing state governors to take full responsibility of securing their territories as is common in all western worlds. For, so far, experience over the years has shown that the one thing those opposed to state police have shown weakness in dealing with is the reality of the matter and by extension, the need to act decisively to avoid further damage to our collective peace.
Sad enough, it has taken many years of needless debates and constant bloodletting to sustain these falsehoods, which today, epitomize the very regrettable low level of policy initiatives that have characterized our system and left everyone vulnerable to attack before the subject matter of state police could once again come to the fore, and needing emergency approach. Even more so, has events of the recent weeks, demonstrated that facts really do take tolls on falsehoods and forcing the reality of the times right on the face of our eyes.
For reasons many can explain off easily – and, one of which is, fear over the unity of Nigeria and, the second, the possibility of state governors cashing in on state police to agitate for resource control, the few well-heeled holding the nation on a gridlock have, for decades and on, continued to spin untruths by creating fears just to keep a grip on our common patrimony at the risk of our non-negotiable right to peaceful co-existence. They also point to election rigging, saying state police could potentially provide cover for state covers. They say political opponents would become preys in the hands of power-thirsty state governors, who would conveniently pounce on them and ensure they are securely put away, especially during elections, or, that state-induced crimes would geometrically increase and create more problem in the states. They point to the rising crimes on the Niger Delta region and increasing cases of pipeline vandalism; they point to growing youth restiveness, saying, state police is recipe for anarchy in the land. Curiously, there were no real life solutions, but just talking points that tended more to tear the nation apart as against uniting its fabrics.
It has been a costly propaganda and still is, but clearly, the sins of sustained falsehoods fed into our spins seems to have caught up with us with the grim realities of our failure to adequately police the nation. Now, something worse has emerged – a recurring and frequent communal clashes that have defied table talks for years and spiraling out of the control of everyone, including the federal government whose primary duty it is to police communities, and state governors, who pitiably, often rely on the co-operation of the federal government to quell violence anywhere around the states. Worse still, youths are taking on oil companies in their communities and running them out of town. Ritualistic have since been on the prowl, even as acts of kidnapping have grown bigger and worrisome than anyone ever imagined. These, certainly, are reality checks that could stand the morsels of sentiments thrown around to discredit calls for state police.
Understandably, no society is crime free, just as no one, or government, has ever won the fight against crime without steadily planning ahead, as well as investigating its remote causes, and finding possible solutions to it. The world over, governments and agencies spend monies running into several billions to combat crime, part of which includes initiating a welfare package that aims at improving on the lives of those whose responsibility it is to fight crimes. From securing modern crime-fighting facilities to improving on mobility and communication tools; from attractive insurance policies for security agents to moral and physical support for their families in event of death; from a sustained and regular training of security agents to implementation of security program by government irrespective of political party affiliations. These cut a minute size of the entire security problems than probably the readiness to authorities – in fact, federal government and those, who benefit from a state of fear and insecurity, to accept fact that only communities or states can identify the criminals within it and know how best to fight them.
Evidences abound in countries like Great Britain and the United States where community policing is a huge success, as to how well county police respond to security alerts coming from states, and the states, from the federal, in that order, in split seconds and successfully curtail ongoing crime or, prevent criminal activities as the case maybe. This wholly joint operations and co-operations of counties, states and federal security agencies has in no small measures steadily upturned crime statistics or at best, reduced crime to the barest minimum such that everyone understands the risk and huge price tags to patronizing crime.
Now, the real challenge. My real concern over state police more than any other premordial opposition to and proposition for state police is the parasitic over-reliance on the federal government for economic survival by most states in Nigeria, particularly through monthly federal handouts. With higher responsibility of providing security for the state through funding of a state police, more states will certainly join the league of salary arrears.
Indeed, if anything, the growing insecurity in Nigeria today, with an apparent short fall in federal government’s efforts aimed at curtailing the situation, underscores the urgent need to revisit the subject matter of state police and looking at its clear merits in their full strength. It is high time the National Assembly (NASS) set in motion constitutional measures that would guarantee better funding for the police and decentralise the control mechanism of the police by giving more powers to the governors. For once, and in the interest of the helpless majority, who, daily, are exposed to security dangers, let reason prevail over propaganda and facts over fiction.
*Oba can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org