By IKECHUKWU NNOCHIRI
ABUJA— President Goodluck Jonathan, yesterday, maintained that Nigeria was not ripe enough to operate the “State Police” system, saying “if there is state police and the governors manipulate their state police the way they are manipulating their state electoral commissions, the instability that it will create even what we are witnessing will be a child’s play.”
President Jonathan who bared his mind on the contentious issue while declaring the 52nd Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, open in Abuja yesterday, said he had already sought the opinion of former presidents of Nigeria who he said warned him against approving such system in view of present realities in the country.
He said: “On the issue of state police, everybody knows I have been Deputy Governor and Governor in Bayelsa State. There was a time we were frustrated and we felt that we should have our police, that we would be able to manage criminality in our state better because of our local environment.
“Police from other parts of the country find it difficult to go into the waters, but for us who were born near the riverside, even in the night we can enter ordinary canoe to go to anywhere and we feel that if we have our local police it will be better for us because our police can reach everywhere in our state.
“When I discussed the issue of state police with former presidents before a State Council meeting, they said it’s a good idea, that probably one day we’ll get there, and that is the emphasis I want to make, one day we’ll get to that point. But presently we have to be careful on how we go about it.
“Experiments have been made, there was a time when the police came up with a policy that police officers from the rank of inspector and below should be posted to their states of origin as a way of testing whether police familiar with the environment will make changes, but it was realized that when police officers from the rank of inspector down were posted to their state of origin, it was worst off to manage the situation so the police had to discontinue that policy.
“We also considered the way the governors are handling elections in their states with the state electoral commissions, where opposition parties hardly win even councillorship elections.
“So, if there is state police and the governors manipulate their state police the way they are manipulating their state electoral commissions, the instability that it will create even what we are witnessing will be a child’s play.”
Meanwhile, the NBA disagreed with President Jonathan, stressing that “Nigeria is overripe for state and community police.”
Speaking through its outgoing National President, Mr Joseph B. Daudu, SAN, the NBA warned that “the state of insecurity has assumed a very alarming dimension,” noting that “apart from terrorism, crimes like kidnapping, violent robberies, wanton murders, economic and white collar crimes, e.t.c have become rampant.”
Dauda said, “opponents of state police only cite one constraint which is that governors would use their respective state police to perpetuate their political interests in the run up to elections. Cogent as that misgiving may appear, it is not an obstacle to the proper policing that state police will provide, it must be said outright that a police force is not created for political objectives or for the sole benefit of politicians who are less than two per cent of the population, a police force is created for the maintenance of law and order, to ensure free movement for the conduct of economic, social and cultural activities within the state, to deal with issues of border infiltrations by persons who do not have good intentions for the nation.
“It is really saddening that retired Inspectors General of Police are viewing the matter from the protectionist position of their former offices. May I respectfully reiterate that Nigeria is not occupied by politicians alone and how the police was used by the regional political chieftains in the 40’s and 50’s when there was not much enlightenment is of little moment in today’s Nigeria.
“The truth is that insufficient policing is affecting the economic well-being of over 98 per cent of Nigeria yet the IG’s and their supporters want us to look at politics as the only determinant factor of survival in Nigeria. It appears as if some states don’t want state police, to this I say that it is not compulsory and no state should be compelled to have it if they don’t see the need for it. But states that desire it being component units of the federation are entitled to it.”
Likewise, Governors Rochas Okorocha of Imo State and Adams Oshiomole of Edo State, who were special guests at the occasion, equally joined the debate, with the two governors expressing conflicting views regarding the issue of creating “State Police” system in Nigeria.
Whereas Okorocha called for the immediate adoption of the system which he said would help the Federal Government to curtail the increasing spate of crime and violence in the country, Oshiomole on the other hand, said he was not in support of allowing states to operate their own policing system.
Oshiomole said: “I am not for state police. If created, it would become instruments of state powers. Unless there is good governance and responsible leadership in Nigeria, this country will continue with the current circle of lamentation.”
He said with the abundant natural resources, without good governance and responsible leadership, the country will continue in poverty.
Oshiomhole makes case for review of revenue formula
Oshiomhole, however called on the Federal Government to review the revenue formula, to allow both the states and local governments, control 70 percent of the nation’s resources against the current percent accruing to the two tiers of government.
“The Federal Government does not need more than 30 percent of the national income to run its affairs. The majority of developmental challenges lie with the states and local governments which should get more funds to develop the country,” he added.
Aside advocating the state police system, Okorocha also called for a total over-haul of the current revenue sharing formula in Nigeria which he said has continued to perpetuate “economic Kwashiokor.”
“We cannot harness effectively, the abundant natural resources in our land, until we decentralize the powers concentrating at the centre to allow for the practice of true federalism,” Okorocha argued.
Ikeja NBA protests
Meantime, aggrieved members of the NBA led by executives of the Ikeja Branch stormed the International Conference Centre, venue of the conference to protest what they described as “oppressive high conference fee charged by the Daudu-led national executive of NBA.”
Brandishing placards bearing messages like “NBA is not a Plc”, “No to arbitrary and oppressive Bar conference fee,” among others, the protesters who sang and danced at the entrance gate to the venue of the conference, called for the immediate probe of the outgoing national president of the association, Daudu, SAN, over alleged financial recklessness.