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State Police: Nigerians divided as FG, governors mull options



The call for the establishment of state police in Nigeria has gained traction in the last eight years.

Since 2015 when the All Progressives Congress, APC, upstaged the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, at the presidential election, giving birth to the Muhammadu Buhari presidency, there has been an unprecedented level of insecurity in the country.

All kinds of criminal gangs, ranging from the Boko Haram Islamist sect to bandits, Fulani herdsmen militia, unknown gunmen, and most recently, kidnappers, have been killing, maiming, stealing, raping and destroying property, farms and people’s means of livelihood.

Nigerians say security, which is one of the primary responsibilities of government, is no longer guaranteed.

From east to west, north to south, the story is the same. Fulani herdsmen have killed hundreds of thousands of Nigerians in their sleep. The situation has continued to worsen, with other non-state actors like kidnappers and bandits complicating the situation.

Kidnapping for ransom has become a big business, such that even members of some churches now organise the kidnap of their pastors and reverends, only to demand for ransom.

It has got to a stage where the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, has come under heavy attack, with kidnappers invading people’s homes and kidnapping scores.

Following the security situation, there have been renewed calls for state police.

While many people are saying that creating state police is long overdue, others are afraid that state governors would deploy them for their own selfish end.

They fear that they could become tools in the hands of the governors who might use them to torment their political opponents.

Responding to the wishes and yearnings of the people, the Federal Government on Thursday, hinted about the likelihood of embracing state police.

This followed an emergency meeting between President Bola Tinubu and state governors at the Aso Rock Villa.

The meeting was sequel to the recent hike in food prices, economic hardship, and pockets of insecurity recorded nationwide.

Minister of Information, Mohammed Idris, who addressed State House Correspondents, alongside Govs Caleb Mutfwang (Plateau), Ubah Sani (Kaduna) and Sheriff Oborevwori (Delta), after the governors’ meeting with President Tinubu, said the 36 state governors and Mr. President were considering the possibility of state police.

He added that a lot of work needed to be done before a state police force would be created, but assured that the president and governors had agreed to work out the modalities for that to happen.

Idris assured that a series of meetings were in the pipeline to determine the modalities for the setting up of the state police, even as he stated that nothing concrete had yet been determined.

Recall that the former Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, had presented a bill for the creation of state police in both the 8th and 9th NASS, but the proposals never saw the light of the day. His efforts were frustrated on each occasion.

Idris also revealed that a committee has been set up to synthesize all that had been discussed at the meeting.

He said: “Recall that this meeting was at the instance of Mr. President to intimate the state governors about what is happening, and what the Federal Government is doing, and to also hear from the state governors their inputs about issues of development in this country. ⁣

“A lot of issues were discussed about the security situation in the country. The apparent food issue that the media have also been reporting about and some other measures that will help in improving the state of our nation.⁣

“Now, the first point is that the governors and Mr. President have agreed to set up a committee to deepen the conversation that has happened at the just-concluded meeting. Of course, you know that it is impossible to complete most of the issues that were raised at the meeting, so it is going to be a continuous one. ⁣

“Secondly, Mr. President and the governors have agreed that these kinds of meetings will continue in the interest of our nation. ⁣

“It is important that at all time, the Federal Government and the state governors, who are leaders at the sub-national level, continue to engage and interact collectively, so that issues of national importance will continue to be addressed, and we don’t leave room for any speculation or for people who may seize the opportunity to say things that are not in the interest of our country.

“Now, in this direction, Mr. President and the state governors have also discussed the possibility of improving the numerical strength of forest rangers to train them, so that they can keep our forests and our borders very safe.⁣

“There is also a discussion around the issue of state police. The Federal Government and the state governments are mulling the possibility of setting up state police. ⁣

“Of course, this is still going to be further discussed. A lot of work has to be done in that direction. Both the federal government and the state governments agree to the necessity of having state police. Now, this is a significant shift, but like I said, more work needs to be done in that direction. ⁣⁣

“At the end of it all, the 36 state governors and Mr. President are all on one page, irrespective of political differences, to ensure that Nigeria remains peaceful, united and prosperous, going forward. And this kind of conversation, like I said, will continue to be deepened. Engagements between the Federal Government and the state governors will continue.”

Reacting to the government’s plan, Yerima Shettima, president of the Arewa Youths Consultative Forum (AYCF), told DAILY POST that it was a welcome development and the best thing for the government to do, considering the current security situation in the country.

“I am in support of state police and that is why I am an advocate of restructuring. And those are the key issues.

“I also look at the economy, where states will be viable, and state governors will not be lazy. They will go behind their doors, within their corridors, harness their resources and take percentages to the centre; they will not rely on the centre any more.

“We cannot continue to collect loans. Every state has resources to use. We can generate money within our various states- the internal revenue and make use of it to develop our areas,” he said.

Emphasising the imperative of state police, he said Nigeria should learn from countries like Israel, even as he submitted that Nigeria would make great progress if the state police is created.

“On the issue of police, we know that Israel, which has almost 80 million citizens, has nothing less than four million police personnel.

“But in Nigeria, we have less than 400,000 police watching over about 220 million people. This is not justifiable; it is not practical and it is not done anywhere because it cannot work.

“So, we must complement them with state police. The state police can work within their vicinity because they know the criminals in their areas and they will complement the federal police to deal with them decisively.

“That is how it should be. So, I think we are going to make progress with the development,” he submitted.

But, a former House of Assembly member in Katsina State, Hon Yusuf Shehu believes creating state police at this critical point in the country’s security history would be counter-productive.

He told DAILY POST that there would be a clash of power between the federal and the state police.

He also expressed fear that the state governors could use the state police to haunt their political opponent.

He would rather want the government to create community police that would not bear arms but work in synergy with the federal police in the area of intelligence gathering to ensure a safe environment.

He said: “When you look at the security situation in many parts of the country today, I don’t think introducing state police is the best idea. I think what the government should do is to go for community policing, where they would work in synergy with the Nigeria police.

“There should be synergy because it will not be good for the community police to bear arms. This is because there will be a clash of power between them and the Nigeria police. And the state governors might also use them for other illegal things that could threaten the peace of the state, such as using them to fight their political opponents.

“I support state police if it is in the mould of Amotekun, Hisbah in Kano and the like, so that there will be synergy between them and the country’s security agents like the Police, the DSS, the Civil Defence Corps, among others.

“They should be called community police or any other name but not state police. They know their terrain more than the police, so they should assist the police by giving them useful information to maintain law, order and security of property and people’s lives.”

Expressing reservation on the appropriateness of state police, he added: “The state police will not work because there will be different executions of powers and directives by neighbouring states.

“For instance, Zamfara and Sokoto states, with different state police will differ in their actions and this might push people to begin to move from one state to the other, depending on the state with better policies or laws.

“If there are different rules and regulations, it will affect people. There should be cohesion between the Nigeria police and the state police.

“Our cultural diversity will come into play. There could be restriction of movement, and molestation. Look at Plateau State where the issues of religion and cultural differences have been a problem.

“For me, state police is not the best idea for Nigeria at this critical point of the nation’s history. Rather, I will prefer community police that will assist the Nigeria police because Nigeria is a federation.”

However, Dr. Pogu Bitrus, the president of the Middle Belt Forum, MBF, agreed that state police is the best way to go at the moment considering the level of insecurity in the country.

He said he was in total support of the creation of state police by the government.

He said: “I am for state police and I believe our security situation will be better addressed if we have state police in place. We had something like that before and it worked for Nigeria very well.

“Today, insecurity is all over the place. People are being kidnapped everywhere, farmlands are being destroyed, people are being abused, and we are forcing our military to do police work.”

“The military is supposed to be out there protecting the territorial integrity of the country but we are forcing them to do police work.

“Having state police will serve this country very well and many of our problems will be addressed. I think I am in total support of it,” he told DAILY POST.

On his part, a foundation member of the All Progressive Congress, APC, Osita Okechukwu has advocated for the establishment of Constabulary Police in line with Sections 105 to 109 of the Nigeria Police Act, 2020.

Okechukwu, who is the immediate past Director General of Voice of Nigeria, VON, warned that state police could be abused by state governors, the same way they breached other democratic institutions, such as the judiciary, the legislature and the local government system.

He told DAILY POST on Sunday that it was far better to progressively migrate from Special Constabulary of Nigeria Police Force, NPF, to State Police, to avoid relying on decisions taken amid palpable grief.

He implored all to take time and peruse the NPF Act 2020 so as “to examine the pure kernels and appreciate the relevance of Constabulary Police and the imperative to overhaul the NPF in addressing the same gruesome insecurity we out of grief wittingly or unwittingly assume that State Police is one size which fits all.”

Okechukwu pointed out that “Special Constabulary is a Silver Bullet which will resolve the intense paradox of public paranoia against the NPF which failed to secure us and our Emperor Governors that have scant regard to the rule of law.”

He said, “I agree that there is horrible and terrible grief in the land and that NPF itself needs rejig hence the imperative of urgent solution.

“However, State Police in my considered view is politics of grievance, which outcome may be worse than the solution envisaged given the anti-democratic antecedents of the custodians of the sub-national units and poor financial status of some states.

“We all contributed in no small measure to escalating the insecurity and gross inequality in the first place and the solution cannot be carving out Kingdoms for Emperors.

“In sum, my recommendation is that the establishment of Special Constabulary, in line with Sections 105 to 109 of the Nigeria Police Act 2020, is a better solution and that of using one stone to kill two birds at once.”

He added that, “All we need as a matter of urgent national importance at this hectic and trying period is well trained, and well equipped Special Constabulary with sophisticated arsenal to contain kidnappers, terrorists and insurgents, without authoritarian antics.

“This is especially when they will be recruited from indigenes of the given state in collaboration with the governors, albeit local communities, with tiny Federal strings for necessary moderation.

“Whereas, one understood the metastasis of grief, helplessness, despair, despondency, and the sordid scenario of a country overwhelmed by insecurity, it will be less strategic in the midst of confusion to hastily throw away the baby and the bath water.”

“For when careful consideration showed that majority of our dear governors are more or less akin to Emperors, who are constantly in the breach of fine democratic tenets and civil liberties, have stymied our local councils and have blatantly mangled State Judiciary and State Legislatures into rubber stamps; my dear countrymen, does it in all intents and purposes make altruistic sense to further empower Emperors?” Okechukwu quipped.

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