Insecurity and state police in Nigeria
By Afolabi Aribigbola
One issue that has been attracting people’s attention and resonating in Nigeria in recent times is the desirability of evolving local policing in Nigeria because of escalating insecurity and killings of Nigerians across the country. Insecurity that seems to have abated last year have again be on the rise in recent months making it absolutely essential to design new methods and approaches to address the cankerworm of kidnapping and killings prevalent in the country.
The mass media have been inundated with records of people kidnapped as well as those that lost their lives through the activities of increasing criminal elements in different parts of the country. Some of the recent heinous killings included the brutal killings of over 160 Nigerians in three Local government areas of Plateau State on Christmas eve in 2023. Undisclosed number of passengers were killed in Cross River State, South-South Nigeria.
Also, the Civil Society Joint Action Group revealed that 17,469 Nigerians were abducted under the Muhammadu Buhari and Bola Tinubu administrations from 2019 to date. In Abuja the Federal Capital Territory of the country, available records indicated that kidnappers have killed 87 Nigerians since May 28, 2023 while gunmen suspected to be kidnappers recently killed two Ekiti monarchs on the Ipao-Oke Ako Road among several other kidnappings and killings in the country.
Indeed, many experts and opinion leaders have attributed the intractable and rising insecurity in the country to the failure or inability of the highly centralised security architecture in the country especially the police charged with the responsibility of maintaining internal security of the country to cope with the humongous insecurity challenges. This realisation again brought to the fore the national discuss on the need to decentralise the policing system or formation by establishing state police that will be more closer to the people and hence make them more effective in securing the States. This issue was reemphasized by the Sharia Council recently while calling on the President to give more powers to the Governors so that they can confront the intractable insecurity problems in their various jurisdictions.
The reality in the country at the moment is that the present arrangement cannot effectively protect the people and their property from being decimated by bandits and other destructive criminal gangs that have taken advantage of the weak security system of the country to visit on the innocent citizens with their nefarious evil acts of kidnapping and killings with impunity. Indeed, Nigeria in 1979 copied the flourishing American President system but failed to replicate some essential inbuilt mechanism and elements such as decentalisation of power to the states that permits the system to work in the God’s Own Country. One of such ingredients is the decentralization of the policing formation. In that society, there are federal, state and local police, all of them working to secure the citizens of the country within their jurisdictions. This was the practice in Nigeria until 1966 when the military government of Major General Aguyi Ironsi foisted a unitary government on the people of Nigeria. Consequently, from 1999 when Nigeria returned to democratic governance, the state Governors were regarded as the Chief Security Officers of their States presiding over state security council that included the Commissioner of Police posted by the Inspector General of Police but cannot control or issue orders to them.
As we know, the Commissioner of Police takes instruction from the IG that is based in Abuja instead of the Governors in their states of operations. Of course, beside the fact that it takes longer time to seek and obtain order from the centre, there have been instances in which some Commissioners of Police have been found to resist or failed to take instructions from the Governors of states in which they operate. This retrogressive development has been giving some individuals and groups serious concern over the years because it renders the Governor impotent in the face of glaring security challenges and breaches in their states. It has also contributed significantly to the spate of insecurity and the killings in different parts of the country. Some of the issues that require answers were why maintain a centralized policing system when it is obvious it cannot address the hug security problems prevalent in the country and what essentially can be done to stem the dangerous insecurity and killings in the country?
The country appears to be maintaining the present ineffective policing system because some individuals and groups seem to be profiting from the warped situation and they prefer to maintain the status quo to continue their dominance of the political arena in the country not minding the consequences on the vulnerable members the country and their decimation and loss of several innocent lives and valuable property. Although, some have argued that the abuse and misuse of regional and local police during the first republic was responsible for their abolition and consequent creation of a central policing system in the county. It should be emphasized that there are incontrovertible evidence that it is an aberration in a federal system and that a central policing system can no long cope with the size and modern day security challenge of the country.
The rising insecurity in the country and the impact of Amotekun in Ondo State in curtailing bandits and kidnappers make it imperative to look at the issue of addressing insecurity from a wider perspective that will involve localization of policing by creating state police. Suffice it to say that the experience of Ondo State in tackling insecurity in the last three years is a pointer to the fact that the country could only solve the mounting security problem by creating state and local police. The argument that it would be deployed or used to victimise political opponents can longer hold water in present circumstance. It is an experiment that is worth venturing into again in the country.
The presentation and exposition so far indicated that insecurity that has been with the country for some years is yet to abate. The reality is that there have been spike in kidnappings and killings across the country. The spike calls for a rethink and a rework of the country’s security system and strategy. The leeway is to amend the constitution of the land, allow the states to be involved in policing so as to make the internal security more efficient and effective. The country is too large and diverse to be controlled from the centre. It is the people who are conversant with a local environment that will be more effective in policing such environment.
They would understand the terrain, be more dedicated and committed to defending their own people as against deploying them to areas where they are not conversant with or have little or no stake in the local affairs. This is not to suggest that there are no committed officers in the present arrangement, there are of course some but because of the size and other issues affecting morale and effectiveness, they have not been able to make much difference. Serving in one’s community will ensure greater commitment on the part of the officers, while operational control area will be smaller which will enhance and promote efficiency. There is therefore the urgent need for the establishment of state police in the country, if the country is serious in tackling the problem that have killed many people and businesses. It will afford the Governors more powers and responsibilities to salvage the precarious security situation of their states.