TO BE

At the end of the day, the goals are simple; safety and security – Jodi Rell

For a while now, the word “restructuring” has been making rounds on Nigeria’s table of consideration. And it has sustained much attention, not because of the calibre of people that have used it, but because we, as a nation, find ourselves in a situation where we face the need to revisit our federalism and every other thing surrounding the status quo. We face an insurmountable need of mapping out strategies to solve or reduce the problems we have. And it is upon this basic need, not want, that I join the majority, in proposing that state policing be adopted as against the current uniform structure, to attack more critically the issue of insecurity of lives and properties.

With a land area of about 900,000 square kilometres and over 180 million people scattered around her cosmos, Nigeria remains a populated country that needs a substantial level of decentralization to effectively drive growth and development on the road of consistency. State policing, being a form of decentralization, is a sub-national territorial police put under the control of the state governments. The formation of state policing breathes a more penetrative force and widespread effect, with a relatively more community friendly system. It gives the sense of an ideal society where everyone basically knows one another. As against the centralization under the Nigerian Police Force, State Policing gives us a bottom to top approach in the fight against insecurity by placing concentrated attention in every state.

At this juncture, I have to point out that in our dear country of green and white, corruption is the herbicide that has stunted our growth and corroded our peace into a recurrent stillborn. And just like the yellow network, corruption is everywhere you go. So, yes! We recognise the argument that both the state and federal governments are corrupt and as such the formation of state policing could be a replay of what currently obtains. However, in times like this, you weigh the odds and choose the one with the lesser evil, and in this case – State Policing. Milords, an intellectual intercourse with common sense tells us that putting the entire police under the control of one Nigerian Police Force increases the chance of corruption and the effect of this is an overall hardship on the entire Force. It is a silent way of treating every state equally due to the undoing of some “Ogas at the top”. However, state policing gives us the avenue of being able to individually assess each government, as the success or otherwise of the Police Force would then be attached to the State. This way, the fog is cleared and we know where to point our searchlight for corruption and maladministration.

Today, one of the foremost practitioners of State Policing is the United States of America. In 2016, the State was ranked, by the Global Peace Index, as the 103rd least peaceful country in the world out of 163 countries assessed. My lords, do not let your judgement be clouded yet because according to the same source in its 2017 reports, Australia was the 12th least peaceful country in the world and the country also practices State Policing. So, it comes under the ambits of illumination that the problem is not State Policing, but the circumstances peculiar to each country. And while that stands, United States stands accomplished to an extent, because while they were rated 103rd, Nigeria found a seat at 148th street of consistency. Hence, State Policing is a step in the right direction, bearing in mind that development is a journey, and State Policing is an essential component of the car to convey us. It cannot do it alone.

For those who campaign against the formation of State Policing under the umbrella of it eroding the Nigerian Police Force of her powers, I have news for them. State policing that we advocate for does not operate to wipe out the NPF. Rather, it works for hand in hand – independent but somewhat incorporated. There would be a reclassification of offences into Federal and State, which would work to solve the problem of jurisdiction. So, worry not about your fears are covered. Moreover, the majority has shown interest in State Policing, in a survey conducted by NOI polls, as reported by Vanguard in February 2018; about 61% of Nigerians endorse State Policing. My Lords, This is not to say Vox populi, vox Dei, but I think it’s not out of place.

Lastly, let’s take the opposition at their best. What they are proposing is a total reformation of the process and improvement of the current system – Lol. My Lords, I will not dwell on quoting Albert Einstein on his take on repetition, but simply avert our minds to the fact that it’s time we challenged the status quo.

FOR WHAT EXACTLY?

“To secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands, but the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself.” — Lao Tzu.

For the wrong reasons, a few years back, Chibok and the nation at large were thrown into turmoil. In recent months, some herdsmen have held the security of a slice of the nation at gunpoint. Your Honour, close to two fortnights ago, we were woken by the gory news of the abduction of 110 girls from Government Girls Science and Technical College, Dapchi, Yobe state. Clearly, the security level in the country has cratered. As a countermeasure, security personnel — of more concern, in this case, is the Police Force — have been battling tooth and nail, with the skin of their teeth, to crack the code of insecurity. In spite of this, however, the possibility of ensconcing Nigeria is seeming to be a false dawn. Then, in comes the proposition of State Police. While the Defence Counsel has come with good reasons for State Police to be, I have come with better reasons for it not to.

By State Police, in the Nigerian context, we mean a kind of sub-national Police Force which is organized, maintained and under the jurisdiction of a particular state government. This means that the safety of lives and properties in each state becomes the duty of each state governor. By what states are we talking about? 36 States out of which “20 states owed their workers, including pensioners their entitlements ranging from one to 36 months?” As recorded in a survey conducted in 2017 by BudgIT, a civic technology organisation. Hand the Police Force to states and see them go on strike while criminals strike; allow them to control the Police Force and see how those in the ministry of defence will be outmatched by those in the ministry of attack.

Asides from the fact that states already have enough troubles up their sleeves, the idea of State Police is akin to inhuming our power of togetherness. Put differently: by the virtue of each state having its own Police, it simply means our Police Force will not be uniform. Each state’s strength of arming it Police with ammunition will vary. Different Police uniform, infrastructures, policies, intelligence sharing strategies will have to be instituted which may lead to unhealthy competition among states. As a result, a huge amount will be spent separately, for the same purpose, when resources could have been combined to make a compact whole. Come to think of it, poor and vulnerable states will be exposed to running a substandard Police Force. One that is similar to the news from an incognito source that: “The Police Station in Kagoro, Kaduna State closes by 7 pm. They say it’s due to security reasons.”

Moving on, contrary to the expectation of my co-scribe that I will mention the possibility of abuse of State Police by state governors, I won’t mention that, Instead, let me make it clear that State Police could be tantamount to reawakening the secessionist tendencies. In a case where one state controls its security personnel, raising arms against the Central government is clearly imminent. It is just a matter of such state using what it has to get what it wants. We already have the shadows of Biafra trailing us like midday shadow; don’t be surprised we may have to slug it out with Arewa Republic, Oodua Federation — or even Wakanda Nation; who knows?

Adding more, the State Police system has not even stamped its foot of authority on its potency to foil insecurity. Of top 25 most peaceful countries on the Global Peace Index, only 7 use State Policing; 1 – Japan – uses Private Police. It is clear that Federal Policing has sustained most of the most secured lands. Nigeria needs not derail from this system. What we need is not State Police; it is an improved national Police Force.

In case there is a claim that Nigeria is too large to be secured by a National Police Force – as Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo recently argued – kindly ignore the claim. Because police in the USA, with approximately 321 million people – almost twice the population of Nigeria – (according to July 2015 estimate) is done by the state; yet the USA is ranked 114 most peaceful nation. India, too, populated by one-seventh of the world’s human is ranked 136th. Thus, adopting State Policing because of the nation’s population will not guarantee robust security.

Your Honour, your minds might have been disentangled from them. But I wish to round up by knitting your minds back with the hackneyed, risible mantras: ‘Police are your friend’, ‘Bail is free’. Venturing into expressing the invalidity of these statements is not better than stating the obvious. Mind you, we are experiencing this in a Federal Police system. Now, breathing life into State Police will suffocate the peace of non-indigene in each state. Because Police Force will no longer be for the people of Nigeria but for the kinsmen of each clan. Thence, nepotism, tribalism, clannish favouritism and every other vicious -isms mind can name will pave way for anarchism. Indeed, all we need is reinvigorating our existing policing policies. No more. No less.

CONCLUSION: This column is about you; it presents the two sides of a case courtesy of two writers from different schools of thought. “Audi alteram partem” means hear the other side before passing your judgment. Take the gavel, make your decision and slam because you are the Judge in this courtroom. You can vote for the scribe whose argument you adjudge better by using the poll option below and forward your comment in the comment box below.
STATE POLICE – TO BE OR NOT TO BE?
Send comments and suggestions to 090-327-88612, 090-977-55359 or your verdict to thecourtroomng@gmail.com.

Do you think State Police should come to be?