The Upper Crust

Why I opposed state police (1)


With Uche Nnadozie

Recently, a policing system that gives right to Nigerian states to control and design the kind of police it wants made headlines. The National Assembly, in particular the Senate pioneered that call. It has become fervent that many stakeholders have bought into it. On the face value, there is really nothing wrong in having a kind of police system that takes its orders or comfort from the second tier of government. I dare say, there is nothing wrong in having even local governments maintain their own police force. Surely, I believe that the continued killings by herdsmen militias and other bandits including cattle rustlers may have informed this renewed love for state police.
I also have had opinions to the effect that the recent faceoff between the Senate and the Inspector General of Police may have brought this up so that the legislature can pay the police back in their own coin.
Since it appears that this police as presently led by Kpotum Idris has proven to be too rascally to come under the oversight of the parliament. Whatever maybe the remote or immediate cause of the campaign for state police may be justified in the long run, however, I am not convinced. I am sorry, I may look conservative, yet I appreciate the fact that the National Assembly must do something whichever way to show that they can indeed do something, especially when it appears that we are helpless.
Nevertheless, our problem with the police isn’t about who controls it and at what level. That to me will reduce the argument to a very mundane level. A police controlled, fed and directed by state governors at this time of our development cannot stop herdsmen killings or cattle rustling. This means we have not fully diagnosed what the issues are. Or we are deliberately sidestepping the issues.
There is hardly any relationship between state policing and the terrorism we face. For example, not only has the federal government sent special police forces to Zamfara state, they also sent the Army and Air Force. Yet killings still happened last week, as it did the week before.
In Benue, the state government set up a state run militia to tackle open grazing and push back regular murders and arson in communities. What happened afterwards? The death toll spiked. While the Federal Government was chasing headsmen with the police, it turned out that most of the killers were the same people that the state government had armed to fight off herdsmen. Now, surely there are herdsmen militia or terrorists, but we should be alarmed that the “police” set up by Benue state to curb killings where themselves the major culprits. My point is not in the disappointment with regard to the double dealers; it is that killings in Benue could not be curbed by a police set up by the state.
The National Assembly has found it herculean to deal with the federal police. So how do they think that State Houses of Assembly can oversight state police controlled by their governors? At the federal level, at least there is still some measure of respect from the executive for the legislature, but what we have seen of our governors lately with regard to impunity, misuse of funds, disregard for State Assemblies and complete relegation of local governments is a pointer to the uselessness of a state police. It is not so much about the nuisance they will make of the police but the fact that the police would just be there. Ill trained, low supervision, poor work ethic, corrupt and all those things. The police will just be there in name satisfying the egos of the state governors.
State governors who have turned local government funds to slush funds, who refuse to allow for autonomy for councils will never allow the police to function. But I understand that state police will not investigate all offenses. Maybe they will major on smaller infractions and murder. They could be used to enforce state laws. However, some of the issues that plague us today are not issues that state police undertake in other climes either. Terrorism, financial and economic crimes are offenses undertaken by the national police. Even kidnapping and high armed robbery are very high crimes that the national police usually undertake their investigations.
I have also argued that state governors know how to use the present police to oppress their opponents, harass opposition and carry their wives bags but cry all over the place when real issues on security happen in their domains. Let’s be sincere in our country, some of the states that have suffered most in the unending killings are such states that the governors do not stay in their states. They have part time governors who are mostly based in Abuja. Zamfara and Sokoto state governors are Abuja based. They should return home to govern their people. There must be a place for community relation in local policing. Everything must not be guns and bullets. Our communities are broken and it is the local authorities that must fix it. A situation where you have communities pontificating about why certain persons must vacate their lands shows that policing isn’t the only problem.
You can’t tell other citizens to vacate a land simply because of the language they speak or the religion they profess. You are looking for trouble. Nigerians must begin to tell themselves the truth. While killings will never solve our problems neither will hatred. In fact, hatred is the worst security issue you can have between citizens. All hands must be on deck. From traditional rulers to councilors to legislators to governors to president must be sincere in applying solutions to our security challenges.. State police at this time will exacerbate the crisis.

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