The State and demand for State police

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By John Amoda
THE recent resurgence of demand for state police stems from observed security lapses or deficit at the Federal level. The introduction of this column will consist of appreciation of a sample of opinion advocating or opposing the proposal.

Decision by the National Assembly in favour of it will involve an amendment to the present Constitution to make the policing of the society a concurrent responsibility at the state and or local government levels.

In assessing arguments for and against this amendment it will be helpful if we remember to differentiate proposals based on security deficit at the Federal level from those made on the basis of systems of government.

The argument made by the Governor of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, falls under the second rubric and because of the space I want to devote to the review of his argument, I am limiting my appreciation to his call for state police on statecraft grounds.

Alhaji Tanko Yakassai’s objection to the proposal does not constitute a third ground for deciding on the proposal. His objection is based on the abuse of the police at the local government level.

As attested by him in his Sunday Vanguard, September 9, 2012 interview- he was arrested for his politics 14 times by the local police in Kano. On the basis of his first hand experience, he predicts that “the introduction of state police will be the harbinger of the destruction of democracy in Nigeria”.

Government at all levels have been oppressive in the experience of determined exercise of rights by some vocal groups. This fact, however, cannot constitute the sole ground of opposition to the institution of government as espoused by anarchists.

The cure to governmental abuse is reform and only where reform results in wholesale war waged against dissenters are these driven to resorting to organised protests, insurgency, secessionist or revolutionary.

Therefore, while noticing the fact of possible abuse of the police at the Federal level, serious proposals for the introduction of police at the state or local level must depend on the security value of such constitutional change.

The Proposal of Alhadji Sefiu Gbenga Kaka is extracted from his answer to the following question: “Those who are opposed to state police say it could be used by governors to perpetrate political terrorism.

What is your take on that? He answers: “Under Papa Obafemi Awolowo we had constabulary even at the local government and they are the best to police themselves because, a stranger cannot police an area better than the indigenes.

We will still continue to emphasize that we must have local government police and a law will be put in place to control whatever they are doing.

There is no problem without solution. But running away from it is to keep postponing the evil day. And we have postponed it now to the level where quality lives are being lost every day. It is very unfortunate we are where we are but hope is not totally lost for the country”.

To put the Senator’s argument in perspective, it is important to note that it is perception of present security deficit in the Federal security regime that has made the Action Group First Republic practice a relevant proposal.

The Second and Third Republics were ushered in by the Military Government’s Transition To Civil Rule Constitutions. Military rule like colonial rule is unitary and it is important to ask why was local and state police not included in the military’s federal administration regime? We should also ask why the Second, Third and the “Fourth” Republics maintained the unitarist Federal administration of the transition constitutions?

These questions suggest that the rationales for the constitutional changes introduced by the military and the reasonings of the civilian Federal Government to maintain the unitarist structure of the police be reviewed in assessing Senator Kaka’s proposal.

Senator Adokwe’s position on state police as reproduced in the Sunday Vanguard September 16, 2012 interview by Soni Daniel:

“Is it not an irony that governors of the 19 Northern states are stoutly opposed to state police at a time they are being confronted with a lot of security challenges?

“It is indeed an irony because I had thought that the governors of the region would be the first to jump at the idea. I don’t really know the agenda behind the rejection of state police. Some of the fears that have been expressed are genuine going by the ugly experiences of the 50s and 60s when the Native Police Authority was in operation…

But my argument has always been that we should not be afraid to make laws just because of the unfounded fear that somebody will not implement it properly. In law, we have what is called Presumptive Regularity- that is, any official thing that is done is presumed to be done in accordance with the law until the contrary is proved.

So we should make laws with positive expectations in mind. The fact that certain negative tendencies are being exhibited now should not preclude the fact that the law you are going to enact is aimed at bringing positive effects to the society”.

One issue that is tackled head on by Senator Adokwe is the critique of the security-deficit rationale for the introduction of second and third tier police. Northern Governors apparently reject such ground for reform.

Why then is the security deficit argument a Southern argument? Why is threat perception taking the form of regionalist threat appreciation? In the light of the dichotomy in the support and opposition to the proposal of state police can we surmise it as the appreciation of the security challenges facing the nation?

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