By Josef Omorotionwan
EVERY one needs the police. At the political sphere, those already in power need the police to sustain the status quo; those in the process of acquiring power require the police in the struggle; and those who have just fallen from power need the police to be able to stay at peace with the winners.
Yet, the need for the State police remains one issue on which unanimity of opinion is virtually impossible to get. Whatever their political persuasion, leaders in power – be they PDP or APC – are likely to throw their full weight on the support for State police; while those in opposition are likely to be against it.
What this means is that all those opposed to State police do so because of the perceived abuse of the powers in the hands of the police.
It is those who have power that abuse power. Essentially, power is given to people that they might use it; but some people abuse power. Are we, therefore, going to refrain from granting such powers? We have seen the abuse of police powers both at the State and Federal levels.
Again, the enormous powers in the hands of the police – any police force – are so widespread that they cannot always escape moments of profound crises when they must step on toes. Searching for a totally unoffending police department might be an exercise in futility.
In the First Republic, those in the opposition; and who came face to face with police brutality will run away at the mere mention of State Police. The Action Group, AG, was in power in the defunct Western Region while the National Council of Nigerian Citizens, NCNC, held sway across the Niger. The NCNC had large followership in the current Edo South. There was the Native Authority Police, NAP.
In each Local Government Election, the AG used the instrumentality of the NAP to round up all the NCNC candidates and locked them up at Agbor prison; only to release them after the close of nomination. That was how the AG candidates were returned unopposed in each election. This was a thorough abuse of State police powers.
This had its parallel in the recent history of the Nigeria police in the hands of the Federal Authorities. Come with me on a short historical excursion where 2014 was truly the peak of the era of parallelism.
On November 17 2014, seven members of the Ekiti State House of Assembly, backed by the Nigeria police “impeached” the Speaker of the 26-member House, Adewale Omirin, and installed a kangaroo Speaker, one Olugbemi. That was how Ekiti State joined the league of States that ran parallel legislatures – the PDP House and the APC House; and, where, indeed, the majority could have its say while the minority kept having its way, no thanks to the powers of the federal government, via the instrumentality of the Nigeria police. Nigeria had at that time perfected her experiment with minority rule at the Rivers and Edo States Houses of Assembly.
In each case, honourable members of the majority party were virtually flogged out of their chambers and hopelessly humiliated. That brutality was code-named Federal Might.
On Thursday, September 25, 2014, in the same Ekiti State, the judicial arm of government was violated when thugs invaded the State High Court premises; beat the Judge to polp; and reduced his suit and court records to shreds, no thanks to the Federal might and the Nigeria police!
We are not in a hurry to forget how the Inspector General of Police IGP, in 2014 locked out members of the House of Representatives and how these members had to scale the high iron fences to gain access to their offices. This was when the IGP openly refused to recognize Hon. Aminu Tambunal as the Speaker of the House of Representatives, after he had been duly elected by his colleagues – a blatant abuse of the powers of the Nigeria police.
We have gone at this great length to show that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely; and it is not only the State police that abuses power. Rather, the Nigeria Police, as currently constituted, is guilty as charged here.
The establishment of State Police will not in anyway lead to the abolition of the Nigeria Police. Much as the Nigeria Police may not continue in its current omnibus form, it will still exist side by side with the State Police – to handle federal and inter-state crimes.
Those who are still apprehensive of the abuse of the enormous powers in the hands of the State police must be assured that Nigeria has left the crude level of life of the First Republic where everything was possible. There is virtually nothing that a State Governor can do with the State police that he cannot do with the Nigeria police as currently constituted. In essence, the State police is the only way of bringing policing to the grassroots and giving community policing a more democratic face.
Come to think of it, State police is already with us in many spheres of life. At Oba Ovonramwen Square or in any market place, that Officer who deals with you when you park wrongly is an Edo State Police on Traffic matters.
If you commit a parking offence, he deals with you, regardless of whether you are APC or PDP. True, an APC member is likely to be approached in the event of an infraction that is being handled by the police – Federal or State.
The universal best practices today simply demand that policing must, as far as possible, be community-based, where everyone knows everyone else. In an ideal community, people with particular criminal tendencies are known; and this is where crime detection becomes a lot easier. Nigeria can no longer continue to be tied down by primordial sentiments that worked only at Lord Lugard’s era. State police is the only way to go now!