Wither Nigeria: National or State Police?
By Sunday Ehindero
NOW that there appears to be consensus but not unanimity on the desirability of State Police, let me serve a caveat before its implementation. But before then, may I adumbrate my understanding of the concept of State Police.
Concept of a State Police
Simply put, State Police means the absence of a National Police Force. It means a locally controlled Police Force. The Police Forces in the state will not be under the control or supervision of the Inspector- General of Police. Rather, it will be the responsibility of the Governors of states to maintain law and order without the interference of the Inspector-General of Police or the President. In other words, section 214 of the 1999 Constitution as amended which provides for the whole country, Nigeria, a single Police Force and prohibits the establishment of any other Police Force for Nigeria, has to be further amended.
Concomitantly, section 215(3) of the 1999 Constitution as amended has to be altered to remove the authorisation of the President or the Minister to give direction to the IGP on the maintenance of law and order and public safety. Similarly, the Proviso in section 215(4)of the Constitution which requires that the direction given to the CP by the Governor of a state may be referred to the President, has to be amended. This proviso has, in fact, to be deleted in order to have a State Police.
I wish to remind all that sometime in the 80s, the Federal Government experimented with State Police but had to revert to status quo. All officers from DSP downwards, including Inspectors and Rank and File were transferred to their states of origin. The result of the experiment was revealing. Some states do not have enough manpower. Others had more manpower than they required. More importantly, attainment of Justice was threatened in the states. Non-native civilians residing in the states other than theirs could not get justice. Have you also averted your mind to impending conflicts that may arise in cases of boundary disputes amongst contiguous states when state police is in place?
But let us consider the reasons for and against the desirability of a state police.
a. The need to control crimes. It has consistently been argued that policing is essentially a local affair and as most crimes are local, we need a local police force. We all know that most crimes are not local. Crimes such as terrorism, trafficking in drugs and human persons, money laundering, Kidnappings, armed robbery, herdsmen/farmers’ clash are not local. They are national, international and trans-border crimes. They are crimes beyond the capacity and capability of State Police to control. The danger in our democracy does not lie in a central police force that is too strong but in a local police force that is too weak. Crimes are no longer local affairs. Britain, from whom we derived our policing practice, today is moving towards a National Police Force. In the 40s, Britain had 180 police forces. In 1962, she had 120 police forces. In 2011, she had amalgamated the forces into 43. The process is on-going.
b. The other argument raised in favour of state police is that the State Governor who is the chief security officer ought to have the control of contingent of police in the state. But our experience in the past was such that Local Government Police and Native Authority Police were used to subvert the democratic process. The state police was used and manipulated by politicians to intimidate, prosecute and suppress perceived political opponents.
c. It is my candid opinion that state police may be an invitation to secession and dis-integration of the country. There are divisive elements within and without the states, mutual suspicion of one another, religious and political intolerance in the country.
d. Police is too expensive to be left in the hands of the states. Apart from Lagos, Kano,Ogun and some few states, others are unable to pay salaries of workers.
e. My opinion is that the country is not yet ripe for state police. Why don’t we experiment it for a year and see the result?
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