By John Bulus
Once again, the Southern and the Northern zones of the country, the 36 state Governors appear ruffled over calls to tinker the 1999 constitution for the creation of State police which to many people will curb the rising tide of insecurity, amongst other social vices in Nigeria. Saturday Vanguard’s John Bulus in this special report galvanizes submissions of various opinions on the issue.
Like most Governors in Nigeria , Governor Jonah David Jang of Plateau State is not entirely a happy man. And he may not have always been since he got elected by the people of the state who obviously renewed his mandate for a second term in office in 2011 elections.
Reason: Apart from necessary democratic essentials a governor provides for his people and the state, Mr. Jang may not have fully realized the security needs of the people because he is obviously not in charge of the headship of the state security.
Perhaps, this could be why the governor recently agreed with the submission that though the governors are called the Chief Security Officers of their states, in reality, they are far from being one as they don’t have the control of the security apparatus of respective states.
Similarly, Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State is another man who is so much passionate about the welfare and most important, the security of the people and so, craved the need for a comprehensive security network with a fiscal federal status that will cater for the increasing population of the country, especially his state.
No doubts, from the reactions, one would grasp that the two governors appeared to have obviously backed the plethora of calls for the establishment of state police in Nigeria .
Hear Amaechi: “Rivers State has 5.6m people. Are 11,000 policemen enough for Rivers State? “We didn’t say police should be entirely in the hands of governors. We said create jurisdictions for each to handle. Those who support state police say after amending the constitution, make a law on what they can do, such crimes as robbery, murder, kidnapping etc. Let them not deal with election, right?
“A whole country like Nigeria has no forensic lab. Is it not shameful? You have no data of criminals. The argument of those who are in support of state police is that the law should be simple; those states with capacity to establish state police should be allowed to”.
With a population of about 160 million people, Nigeria is seen as the most populous nation in black Africa . Made up of 36 states with Abuja as the Federal Capital Territory , FCT, many people have come to believe that the country is too vast to be left in the hands of central police system, stressing that it deserves a decentralized system that will give vent to a crime free society.
Consequently, calls have reached their apogee on the need to give the federating states the powers to establish their respective state police systems expected to properly checkmate the rising tide of insecurity in the country amongst other things, especially amidst recent happenings which seem to have plunged the country into an orgy of terrorism. Evidently, life has been snuffed out of many innocent Nigerians and sleep is also murdered in many states which make it expedient for states to introduce their security outfits to assist the federal government.
But the call is not getting favourable acceptance by the majority of Nigerians especially from Northern Nigeria .
Of serious concern is the degeneration of the issue to ethnic debate. There have been arguments and counter-arguments on the issue. While many support the call, many others see no reason for the establishment of state police.
Those who oppose the call chiefly based their argument on the abuse of the system by state governors who wield enormous influence on their subjects. They also submitted that it is against the provision the 1999 constitution. But even at that, it does appear that there are more voices and superior argument for the creation of state police.
First to endorse the move were the 36 state governors who underscored the need. Under the Governors’ Forum, the Chief Executives on June 24 this year, showed a desire for state police. The chairman of the Forum and governor of Rivers State , Mr. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi said: “Forum reiterated its commitment to convene a Governors’ Forum conference on security in Nigeria . “State governments are currently overstretched in funding security and call for a special intervention fund, from the Federal Government, especially to the states that are most affected. Forum identified the increasing need for State police as a strategy for combating the rising insecurity in the country.”
Indeed, the unanimous decision of the governors was greeted with unusual applause from the members of the public who themselves agreed that owing to the incessant security challenges in the country, more drastic steps such as that needed to be taken. But to the chagrin of everyone, the Northern Governors’ Forum at its meeting on July 26, presided over by its Chairman and Governor of Niger State, Alhaji Babangida Aliyu, barely one month after the unanimous decision of the Governors’ Forum made a U-turn. The NGF came up to say that it is not in support of the development.
A communiqué issued by the NGF which had 18 of its 19 members read: “The forum is not in support of the creation of state police. It, however, resolved to prevail on the FG to embark on police reforms that will assist the states in the control and management of police affairs on a sound philosophy of modern policing by amending the provision of Section 215 of the constitution.”
Quoting the section of the constitution, the communiqué read, “Subject to the provision of this section, the governor or such commissioner of the government of the state as he may authorise in that behalf may give to the commissioner of police of that state such lawful directions with respect to the maintenance and securing of public safety and public order within the state as he may consider necessary, and the commissioner of police shall comply with those directives or cause them to be complied with”.
While everyone had thought that the debate was ebbing as it were, it rather became surprising to many who want to allege that some northern elites are trying to make mountains out of the anthills. For instance, the former Governor of old Kaduna State and the Chairman of Conference of Nigerian Political Parties, CNPP, Alhaji Balarabe Musa recently accused the Southern Governors of having some things up their sleeves for insisting on the development.
“The North is divided over having state police and it is the same with the South. The North had always welcomed the idea in the past but for the first time, the North is opposing it. The South-West has been calling for state police since the Second Republic and the issue is now so controversial. In the North, we are opposed to it, even though some still want it. The South only plans to misuse the system and it would worsen our security condition.”
Since taking the decision, their Southern counter-parts and indeed, most Nigerians have wondered why the NGF made the U-turn in its earlier decision to support the creation of State police.
For instance, the Akwa Ibom State Governor.
Governor, Mr. Goddswill Akpabio has this to say: “state police is the only solution to resolving most of the intra-conflicts in the country. In most developed democracies, policing is not a federal thing alone. In Abuja , policing 160 million is not possible. You must allow the local council to have its say in policing. The state government should have its say and then the Federal Government should have its own say in policing. Outside this country, we have federal parastastals, state parastatals and municipal parastatals. These things are found in the country”.
Babatunde Fashola, Lagos State Governor also lent his voice: “The opposition to the establishment of state police structures in Nigeria has largely been driven by an exaggerated, misleading and unfounded precedent focusing on the abuse of state police through political interference and manipulation”.
Chief Chekwas Okorie, the founding National Chairman of All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA, in his own submission said “State Police is the reform that is needed to check criminal activities and even reduce corruption within the police force and the society. It is not that it is the answer to all of these but the issue of effective policing in Nigeria can never be achieved with the present structure of the Police.
The geographical area of Nigeria is too large for a central police command. All the states in the world, especially the United States have developed state police.
Now, you come to the police organization itself, there are some states in this country who have far more number of Commissioners of Police that even the entire geo-political zones. Let the revenue avenue be adjusted to give the state more money to handle their police and if they decide to make everybody Commissioner of Police, it is their headache so that the normal growth and reward will be noticed.
Another thing is on the posting of police men. Some hardly go to their states of origin to work. They go to other states to make money because they have to make returns at home. That is why a police man will give bribe to be posted to another area of the country where they consider lucrative.
If a police man is from a locality and prefers to be corrupt, at the end of the day, he will retire to live with his people. If a police man decides to live above his means, the people will know it. A police man posted to Onitsha and Aba is expected to build an estate. There are so many things to be looked into.
A meeting scheduled by the Governors’ Forum to further deliberate on the issue penultimate week was rather a stalemate as most northern Governors who made up the Forum were said to be away to Saudi Arabia on Lesser Hajj.
Former Military President, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, IBB, is one man known to many people for his passionate zeal to champion the Northern cause at any given time. But IBB recently stirred the honest nest as he saw nothing wrong with the call for creation of State Police.
“There is the need for us to go forward; I do not think there is anything wrong with the state police and I believe that the state police will work. “In 1959, the police and Dandokas (local police) were used to beat and harass people in the elections, but the situation is different now. I don’t believe the fear of what happened in the 1950s should continue to haunt us. We should try to move on.
We have gone beyond that level now in this country. Honestly, I don’t think any governor now can use state police to intimidate and harass anybody. The whole essence is to provide security of lives and property of the people. I feel the fear is unfounded.”
But for certain Northern interest, IBB was to get the most lambastation of his life from his kinsman and former Inspector General of Police, (IGP) Muhammadu Gambo Jimeta.
He said: “The likes of Babangida and his cohorts, who are calling for the creation of state police, are doing so because they want raw power to deal ruthlessly with situations, without regards and respect for the laws of the land. We better all unite ourselves those who can, to fight the mafia in this country. They have destroyed all systems in this country and the only thing they want to happen is for them to be exposed.
So, anybody who loves this country has a tremendous job to do. We are no longer in the era where government would wake up in the morning and by afternoon they think of an idea and by six o’clock in the evening, there is a decree. “The former military president, who is in fact my boss, whom I served for a considerable time and I also happened to have read in details what he had said, because it was reported in the dailies, and all I would say is that there is, with due respect, a wide margin of differences of opinion between us, the operators and professionals in police administration and people like my former boss.
I must say that while we were in office, while I was serving with him, we had serious differences on a lot of law and order issues, on the differences in our position as operators and commanders of the system at that time.
It was very clear to me that there was and as it is today, a lot of misunderstanding and total ignorance of the establishment of a law and order agency in a democracy. And as you could remember, the First Republic only lasted for about four or five years under a democracy when the military struck. And since then we have not been a normal nation.
That is why today, we have a lot of misunderstanding and outright ignorance because the generation of today, thank God, since we came back to democracy, could not understand how a government would wake up in the morning and by afternoon, they think of an idea and by six o’clock in the evening, there is a decree.”
Even as the debate goes on, many believe that the National Assembly would tinker with the 1999 constitution to provide for the state police.
But the development may suffer some lapses as the Presidential Committee which has just submitted its report on Police Reforms opposed the creation of State Police. Its chairman who also doubles as the Chairman, Police Service Commission, retired Deputy- Inspector General of Police, Chief Parry Osayande said: “ one, they (states) cannot afford it.
Two, do you know how much it is to police a country? What we are recommending is this: “If they allow the Police Council to function, with the President as the chairman, the chairman of police service commission is a member, governors are members, the IGP is a member, and you bring your policing plan to the council, they will decide on what to do. We don’t need state police. The country will break up. Take it from me.”
But fiery Lagos Lawyer and Human Rights Activist, Femi Falana thinks differently. To him, state police is an ingredient of a Federal system of Government which Nigeria operates. And so, it is of necessity to the country to strike a balance even though he appreciates the fears of many voices on the issue.
“The issue of establishing state police is not really about whether the country is ready for it or not. It is necessary in a federation. What has been militating against the re-establishment of state police has been the fear that the state executives, just like the Federal Government, can use the state police to harass political opponents.”
To this end, if Nigeria adopts the option of a state police, it would be going the way of Britain whose police maintain separate areas of jurisdiction ranging from county to county, Borough or a group of many counties.
The Metropolitan Police (under the Home Office), which covers an area of 15 miles radius, does not have jurisdiction over London , which has its own city police. Apart from this, the railway, dockyards, and armed forces have their own police. There are also other specialized units like motor patrols, police dog handlers and an anti-riot mounted branch.
The US on its part has many police agencies that exist separately. While the state police take charge of highways and enforcement of state laws, cities have their separate police under the authority of a commissioner, who is an appointee of the mayor. At the federal level, there are nine agencies that work hand in hand with local police formations. Another country that operates a decentralised police is France . While the gendarmerie is supervised by the armed forces, the Surete Generale is under the authority of provincial prefects, the equivalent of governors. Paris , the capital, has its own police, called the Paris Prefecture .
The Nigeria police too took off along the same line. When Britain established the Nigeria Police Force in 1861, it started with a 30-member consular guard in the Lagos Colony. It followed this up in 1879 with a 1,200 paramilitary Hausa Constabulary. Seventeen years later, it formed the Lagos Police and in 1894 the Niger Coast Constabulary in Calabar, under the authority of Niger Coast Protectorate. In 1888, the Royal Niger Company set up the Royal Niger Company Constabulary in Lokoja.
But in the early 1900s, these were collapsed into two: the Northern Nigeria Police and the Southern Nigeria Police. Although there was an amalgamation of the northern and southern protectorates in 1914, the two regions maintained two separate police forces until 1930 when they were merged to form the Nigeria Police Force with headquarters in Lagos . That merger is what has grown to become the centralised police system, which is at variance to a federal system Nigeria currently operates.