At Last, Tinubu, Govs Mull State Police

It is a cheering news that for the first time since Nigeria returned to democratic rule in 1999, the Federal Government and the 36 states have finally succumbed to and considered the call from groups and well meaning Nigerians towards the decentralisation of the policing system in the country. President Bola Tinubu and state governors, at an emergency meeting in Abuja penultimate Thursday, agreed to establish state police in the country as part of measures to check the rising wave of insecurity in the country.  The president further approved the establishment of a committee comprising state governors and representatives of the Federal Government to work out the modalities for the actualisation of the policy.

It will be recalled that Pan-sociocultural and political groups like Afenifere, Arewa Consultative Forum, Ohaneze Ndigbo, Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), Southern Nigeria and Middle Belt Development Forum, former military president Ibrahim Babangida,  Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka, among others, have for long been clamouring for the restructuring of the country in which more powers will be devolved to the federating units which will give birth to state police and resource control. Nigeria is perhaps the only country in the world which claims to practice federalism but in actual fact running a unitary system, supported by the constitution, where powers and resources are concentrated in the center at the expense of the federating units.

On the contrary, Nigeria had witnessed a decentralised police system during the first republic in which state and local council police authorities existed alongside the federal police as entrenched in the 1963 Republican Constitution. But with the intervention of the military in 1966, a unitary system of government replaced the federal system in which everything became centralised including the police. With the return to civilian rule at different periods giving birth to 1979, 1989 and 1999 Constitutions, the powers and resources of the federation were vested largely in the federal government thereby forcing the country to continue the unitary system in spite of the claim of federalism in those constitutions.

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Various arguments have been advanced for and against the idea of state police. Those against the idea have fears that state police could be subject to abuse by the governors and could lead to persecution and witch-hunt of perceived political opponents. This was one reason state police and council police were canceled in 1966. however, the reality now is that Nigeria needs a major shift from the existing order given the widespread insecurity that seems to have overwhelmed the central police. For instance the giant strides made by the various sectional security outfits in the country like Amotekun in the south/west, Ebube Agu in the south/east, vigillante in the south/south and Hisbah in Kano and other northern states under different identities despite their limitations in equipment and arms, are a testimony that state police is the way to go.

As a matter of fact, should Nigeria fail to implement state police, it may be heading for the rocks given the level of insecurity and its negative effects on agricultural practices and the economy at large. This is because crime and criminality are both global and local. The advantage of local police lies in the strength of its personnel to understand the terrain both in language, culture and geography which remains a herculean task to the federal police. 

Now that government has set up a committee to work out modalities for the implementation of state police, all hands must be on deck to make it a reality. Thus,, critical stakeholders in public and private capacities like relevant government agencies, traditional institutions, religious bodies,  village, town and city based associations, civil societies among others should be carried along by this committee in its assignment. Government must be committed to this noble idea and work with the existing sectional security outfits to make state police a reality. We also advise the committee to provide the required framework that will prevent abuse by the states.

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We are well aware that state police is more than a government policy but rather, a constitutional matter. Therefore, we urge Nigerian governments at all levels to push for a constitutional amendment that will give legal teeth to state police. More importantly, we call for a holistic constitution review which will lead to major restructuring of the country rather than piecemeal approach to constitutional amendment. The 2014 confab report is a ready made document to help actualise the above. Thus, President Tinubu and the governors will do Nigeria a great favour by dusting and implementing the 2014 confab report.

At Last, Tinubu, Govs Mull State Police

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