From Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
The agitation for state police is not new. However, it has heightened recently as state governors push for the decentralization of the police with fervour, amidst rising security challenges nationwide.
Unlike in the past when the clamour was championed by majorly South West governors and stakeholders from the zone, the renewed clamour for states to establish their own police, in line with the principles of true federalism cuts across the country.
From All Progressives Congress ( APC) to Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governors, as well as the various geo-political zones, there is now a near consensus in the demand for the decentralization of internal security in the country to pave way for the creation of state police.
Section 214(1) of the 1999 Constitution ( as amended) vests the control of the police and other security agencies exclusively on the Federal Government.
But the state governors have often lamented that although they are the Chief Security Officers of their respective states, there are more or less lame ducks, when it comes to security issues in their domains.
However, the Federal Government, under both the PDP and the APC has never been disposed to the idea.
When demands for state police reached a crescendo two years ago, the Federal Government pointedly said that it was not disposed to the idea.
Federal Government, in its quest to strengthen security across the country, had opted for community policing, rather than state police as canvassed by several stakeholders.
The immediate Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, while submitting the report of the Committee on Strengthening Internal Security Framework and Community Policing in Nigeria to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, in September , 2019, had stated that community policing will better serve the interest of the country.
Adamu explained that while state police would require each state government to create, recruit, train, and manage a policing system separate from the federal system, the community policing initiative would entail engaging the community in every aspect of policing.
According to him, “because the advantages of community policing outweigh the idea of state policing, the disadvantages of state policing are more than the perceived advantages. So, the way to go is by community policing, which will take care of all the demands and agitation for state police.”
However, nearly two years down the road, the Federal Government community policing initiatives, which has since taken off, has proved ineffectual in tackling the spate of insecurity across the country.
In recent times, insecurity has enveloped the length and breath of the country, while both the citizens and government appear helpless.
From North West, where bandits are having a ball giving citizens sleepless nights, to North East, which is the hotbed of terror attacks, as well as North Central, South East, South South and South West, where killer herdsmen are on rampage , it has been same tale of woes for traumatised Nigerians.
Frustrated by the security situation, state governors have resorted to setting up vigilance groups in their respective states and regional security outfits, as part of efforts in tackling insecurity in their states.
Last year, the South West geo-political zone established a regional security outfit, code named Amotekun, to complement the efforts of security agencies in fighting crime in the zone.
A few weeks back, the South East governors, taking a cue from the South West announced the setting up of their own regional security outfit named Ebubeagu as their response to the rising crime wave in the zone.
Unfortunately, the regional security and various state and community vigilance groups have brought little or no succour to the people so far security-wise.
Renewed push for state police
Against this backdrop, the agitation for the decentralization of the police in the country for the organization not be the exclusive preserve of the Federal Government, has heightened.
State governors, exasperated by the current state of affairs, say state police remain the panacea to the security challenges confronting the country.
According to the Ondo State governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, state police is a necessity if the country is serious about tackling the myriad of security challenges confronting it.
“We are of the firm belief that the police central command be brought so near the federating units for effective monitoring.
“We have been relentless in advocating for the establishment, therefore, of state police and we will continue to call for it.
“There can be no other way, if we are indeed serious about securing lives and property. Every state must be allowed to secure its space,” Akeredolu stated recently.
The chairman of the PDP Governors Forum and governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal, wants the National Assembly to isolate security and electoral act in the ongoing review of the 1999 Constitution ( as amended) and give them expeditious passage.
Tambuwal, who spoke at a meeting of the PDP National caucus, recently, said the governors are ready to work with their respective state assemblies to treat the issue with dispatch, as soon as the National Assembly does their part.
The Sokoto State governor noted that the PDP Governors Forum had already “advised the government and the National Assembly to possibly expedite the constitution amendment that concerns security and the Electoral act. Only these two, single them out. Give the expeditious hearing and pass it. All.
“The governors are on the same page. We will work with the state House of Assembly to achieve a decentralization of the security forces of this country. It is key and fundamental in addressing the challenge we are facing today.”
The National Assembly, apparently in response to the rising clamour for the decentralization of the police has listed state police as one of the key items to be considered in the ongoing review of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
Concerns over state police
However, there are equally concerns if the governors can isolate the state police from partisanship and fund it effectively, to deliver the expected results.
Opponents of state police have often expressed fears that governors could turn it into political weapons to hunt their rivals. They are quick to point to the way the governors have managed the State Independent Electoral Commissions( SIECs).
The SIECs, which is saddled with the task of conducting local government elections, in most cases have been turned to appendages of the various ruling parties in states, making it near impossible for opposition candidates to win elections, no matter how popular they might be.
Nevertheless, the Taraba State governor, Darius Ishaku dismisses the fears that state police will be mismanaged.
Ishaku told journalists recently that “no matter how bad the state police will be, let us experiment it. After all, we have the State Electoral Commission. After all, the state governments are running the elections of the states.
“In my state, oppositions win elections; we allow them to go, nothing is wrong; we are going peacefully.
“ So, who is telling me that the State Police will fail? Let us try and let it fail, then we will reverse, but not trying at all does not give us anything different. We will still continue where we are.
“ In any case, in a country of over 200 million people, how can you expect the management of police to be at the center?”
The governor added : “Our constitution was copied from USA, and in America, you have the local police, you have the state police, and you have the national Police.
“What is greater than the local police; take it to the state police. What is bigger than the state police goes to the national Police.”
Regardless, former deputy chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Federal Capital Territory ( FCT), Sergius Ogun said the issue of state police cannot be treated in isolation.
Ogun, who represents Esan North East/ Esan South West federal constituency of Edo State, noted that unless there is devolution of power to make more resources available to the state, state police if created will flop.
The lawmaker stated that “ if they ( governors ) want the constitution to be amended, so that they will have state police, yes. It is all good. But that cannot go alone. That cannot be discussed in isolation.
“If today, we say okay we are amending the constitution, they are ready, from the body language. You amend the constitution, it goes round the country in one month. Where will they get money to pay the state police? Where will they get money to first and foremost recruit, train and hire them?”
He added: “like President Obasanjo said, a poorly trained policeman is worse than an armed robber.
“To recruit, that takes some time and money to go through that process. The training, the equipping and then you put them on salary.
“So, if we don’t tinker with the exclusive list, to give some power to them and money; that is why we are talking about devolution; true federalism where they will have money to handle things like that, and we say okay just go; if we treat that in isolation, they are going to struggle to pay them and then we will be back to square one. If not, even in a more precarious situation, they will have state police and there will not be money to pay them.”
Analysts say as persuasive as the argument for state police may seem, the concerns by opponents of a decentralization of the police cannot be completely discountenanced, especially the issue of funding.
Pundits say the issue of funding can be addressed effectively if the Federal Government supports moves by the National Assembly to devolve more powers to the state. Ironically, the Federal Government is seemingly not enthusiastic about devolving powers to states.
There is no doubt, that whether the Federal Government, especially President Muhammadu Buhari supports the renewed push for decentralization of the police or not, it will not make a big difference in the clamour for its actualisation.
Whether or not the governors will be able to get President Buhari to throw his weight behind the clamour for state police is another issue, all together.