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Fellow Nigerians, let us welcome converts to state police advocacy

A Nigeria police officer A Nigeria police officer

In Nigeria, before now, the highly placed used to believe that they were well-shielded from the menace of insecurity. This is especially so, when they’re ensconced in their air-conditioned homes, and offices in Abuja, Lagos, or any of the capital cities across the country. The reason is not far-fetched. They have access to elite security protections, thanks to their well-oiled connections in the corridor of power. Those who are not connected to the powers-that-be have the wherewithal to pay for “VIP” protections, all year round. The poor don’t have such means. Whenever tragedy strikes, all the elites do, especially the political class is, dust their draft of condolence and condemnation speeches, rolled into one, written in flowery English, to be issued, as bandits hit the rural communities.

Some people, including yours sincerely used to think that Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) is a forte of sort, with an aura of seeming impregnability that keeps kidnappers, and bandits at bay. This erroneous notion was irrigated by the fact that, the city plays host to a number of elite security establishments’ headquarters. Chief among them are the Defence Headquarters, the (Police) Force Headquarters, the State Security Services (SSS) Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corp (NSCDC) among others.

But lately, the menace of insecurity has come out with a renewed vigour, especially lately, and it doesn’t seem to be a respecter of status or location anymore. The notion of Abuja, the seat of (the federal) government being impregnable was demystified, when a gang of kidnappers reportedly invaded a Military Estate in the city, and abducted people. Another family in Bwari- a suburb of Abuja, suffered the misfortune of having six sisters, and their father abducted. The father was, however, later released with a mandate to go, look for ₦60million as a ransom to secure the freedom of his six daughters. When the ultimatum elapsed, and the father could not muster enough fund to meet the demand, the eldest of the six sisters was murdered. The corpse was dumped somewhere for her parents to bury.

This is in addition to the tale of unabated killings in Plateau State that included a cold-blooded murder of no fewer than a hundred people on the eve of Christmas last December. Bandits in the forest of Birnin Gwari in Kaduna State are also having a field day. On January 29, in Ekiti State, three traditional rulers who were reportedly returning from a meeting were waylaid by kidnappers and two of them gunned down. The two of the monarchs killed were, the Onimojo of Imojo, Oba Olatunde Olusola, and the Elesun of Esun Ekiti, Oba Babatunde Ogunsakin. About the same time, school children on an excursion had their bus hijacked and diverted to an unknown destination. They’ve since been released, after an undisclosed amount was allegedly paid to the kidnappers.

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In the neighbouring Kwara State, another traditional ruler – a retired senior military officer, the Onikoro of Koro-Ekiti in Ekiti LGA of Kwara State, His Royal Majesty, Peter Aremu, had his palace invaded, and was killed by kidnappers who also took away his wife and some of his neighbours. They are now reportedly demanding ₦40 million as ransom for his wife and other abductees.

As a response, following a marching order from President Bola Tinubu, to bring the situation under control, the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Kayode Egbetokun inaugurated a special squad, named the Special Intervention Squad (SIS) to, rapidly intervene or respond in real time to any distress call, from any part of the country, especially, States bordering the FCT.

With these incidents following one another in quick succession, debate over the desirability or otherwise of the need to devolve policing power in the country, has once again been triggered. Whether a decentralised policing system would be a panacea to insecurity in Nigeria, or not, is now in the front burner of national discourse once again.

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A lot had been written and said about the over-centralisation of the administration of the Nigeria Police Force, which often results in slow decision-making on matter that requires urgent and strategic responses. The over-centralised police administration in the national security architecture robs the security personnel, at the rural location, of the needed reflexes in crime-bursting endeavours. A Constable at the Divisional level, for instance, has to take orders from his Divisional Police Officer (DPO), who also depends on instruction from the Area Commander. The Commander on his part can’t do anything without the Commissioner of Police in charge of the state saying so. Meanwhile, the Commissioner still looks up to the Zonal Assistant Inspector-General for green-light to act. And the final authority comes from the desk of the Inspector-General of Police. This chain of command, it has been argued, is too long for any real-time decision and action as a response to a local crisis. The red-tapism it throws up always works to the advantage of the criminals, hence the need for the much-touted rejig of the security architecture of the country.

In the wake of the above-listed incidents, we have seen people who were hitherto opposed to the idea of a State Police, join in its advocacy. Chief among them is a former National Security Adviser (NSA), General Aliyu Gusau (retired). He was at the graduation ceremony of the Zamfara State community protection guards in Gusau, on Wednesday, January 31, 2024, when he said, it is a “very tall order” to expect a single police force to effectively manage a nation like Nigeria. According to him: “With an estimated population of 223.8 million, and a diverse terrain covering 923,768 square kilometres, Nigeria is a difficult country to secure”. He added, “Therefore, expecting a single police force to patrol and control such a large and complex nation effectively is a very tall order indeed. The time has come for us to rethink this strategy in the best interest of our country.”.

Another such figures, who have been opposed to the idea of the sub-national governments having their local policing system are the governors elected on the platform of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), popularly known as the PDP Governors’ Forum, led by the incumbent Governor of Bauchi State, Bala Muhammed. When the herders-farmers clash got to its crescendo about three years ago, Governor Bala would rather have herdsmen bear arms to defend themselves in the bush, than each state have its own police, to effectively police every inch of the over 900000 square kilometre space that constitutes the Nigerian federation, thus guaranteeing safety of lives and properties. But recently, he was singing a different tune, calling for devolution of policing power, on behalf of the group he leads.

The PDP governors during a condolence visit to their Plateau State counterpart, Governor Caleb Mutfwang over the recent killings on the Plateau spoke in Jos, the State capital, through the Bauchi State Governor, said:

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“We are just being very honest with ourselves. We are not just indicting, unreasonably, the Nigerian police or the security agents as they are doing their best, but certainly, the ratio between citizens to police is very low, and the states know the peculiarities of their states and local governments and their towns and villages and even the community crisis and others.
So we have always been advocating. There is no dissent between the governors and the National level, but we need to get some decentralisation of the security apparatus so that we can enhance good governance by having good state police.”

That, coming from one of the most politically visible groups of conservatives, is a wonderful, and an encouraging signal of the consensus on the desirability of the need to devolve policing powers and responsibilities, among the federating units!

My take on his new positions is that, if someone who has been opposed to the idea of the State Police, or at best, hasn’t spoken in its support, now believes that a single police force won’t be effective and efficient to police the whole country, or that the state governors know the terrains and peculiarities of their states more than anyone else from outside, he is invariably advocating for it.

You can, therefore, understand how elated I am, seeing that, there are now new, and influential converts in the shapes of the PDP governors, and the former NSA, Gen. Gusau (Rtd), and Governor Bala, who are just joining the evangelism of state police. I wrote a piece on this column, sometime in September 2022, titled ‘Need for state police: Can an object avoid its shadow?’

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From the look of things, it is beginning to look like, we can no longer run away from our own shadow. State police appear to be an idea whose time has come. And that any further delay, might spell doom for the corporate existence of the geo-political entity, called Nigeria.

It is my pleasure, therefore, to call on my fellow Nigerians to join me in welcoming these new converts as we’re faced with the stark reality of the inevitability of State Police in the country. Join me in welcoming the new converts, as common sense appears to be prevailing at last. It is a matter of common sense that a local crime can better be busted, by deploying local tactics, by a local detective, who gathers local intelligence.

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It would be very difficult, if not impossible, for a detective who is a native of Nasarawa Eggon, in Nasarawa State, for instance, to be deployed to the creek of Niger Delta to curb oil-bunkering effectively in the region, or other crimes with their local peculiarities, successfully. Such a posting that could better be described as a round peg in a square hole, is the reason many police operatives across the country, limit themselves to mounting roadblocks on the highways where they “extort” motorists, thereby giving criminals ample room in the bush, to plan and execute crime like they’re some 007 from Hollywood. In such a situation where the police officer in question is a stranger in his place of primary assignment, it will take some learning for him to understand the terrain, both sociologically and geographically, assuming he does not want to go the way of those highway extortionists.

The earlier, the better, machinery is set in motion, to hasten the process of establishing state police, at least, to complement the efforts of the Nigeria Police Force, in combating crime in the land, so that our country can once again, return to that safe place for human habitation, where businesses thrive, and magnetise further investments from abroad.

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The fear, according to those who are against the State Police, is that the governors might use it to persecute any perceived political opponents. But I argue that if we are scared of the governors using the State Police to harass political opponents, why don’t we think of how to institutionalise measures to prevent that, like we have in the Judiciary? After all, we have State Judiciaries and they are functioning with minimal manipulation by, or interference from, the executive arm of the government.

We are running out of time, and options now. As a way of avoiding the menace of kidnapping before now, some people think, minimising how frequently they travel will do the magic. I used to share that belief too, but not anymore. But the outlaws have upped their games, as they now visit their targets at home. Remember the Onikoro of Korò-Ekiti in Kwara state was killed in his Palace while relaxing on his couch after he reportedly returned from a trip outside the town.

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A stitch in time, as they say, saves nine –if not thousands.


Abubakar writes from Ilorin. He can be reached via [email protected].



Views expressed by contributors are strictly personal and not of TheCable.
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