In a recent interview on Channels Television, President Muhammadu Buhari stated emphatically that State police is not an option as solution to the myriad of security challenges facing the country. His main grouse against State Police is his understanding that State Police will be abused by the State Governors if allowed to be. As a military General, who witnessed the Nigeria Civil War, his fear may not be unconnected with his suspicion that any State that feels cheated within the Federation may use the State police to levy distress against the Federal Government and secede from Nigeria, if it can muster superior fire power against the Federal Government. The second fear may be the possibility of State Governors using the State Police to intimidate political opponents.
With profound respect to the President, any group of people who would want to secede from Nigeria will not wait to be elected by their people and then use the instrumentality of the State Police to secede from the Federation. When Obafemi Awolowo was charged and convicted for treason, he was not in government and when Ojukwu declared Biafra, he was not an elected Governor of his State. Today, none of the secessionist agitators is an elected Governor of his people. We can deduce, therefore, that incumbent democrats do not use the instrumentality of the State against the very people that elected them into power. The solution to this is for the President to bequeath a legacy of free and fair elections and be rest assured that no elected Governor can fight the Federal Government with State Police, if he allows it. Nigerians must also ensure that military incursions are permanently exorcised from the political arena of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The possibility of some State Governors using the State Police to intimidate political opponents is real. But the President should address his mind to the fact that some Presidents have used Federal Police to intimidate their Vice Presidents. Some powerful political figures in some states have used the Federal Police to intimidate some Governors and some Governors have used the Federal Police to intimidate some political opponents in their States. President Olusegun Obasanjo unilaterally declared the office of his Vice President vacant and used the Federal Police to sustain it, because his Vice, Atiku Abubakar, joined another political party to achieve his political ambition of being President of Nigeria. Governor Chris Ngige of Anambra State was kidnapped and falsely imprisoned for some hours, while his resignation was purportedly read on the floor of the State Assembly, in an apparent coup d’etat against his government. The political actors that dethroned him used the instrumentality of the Federal Police to carry out this act. An Assistant Inspector General of Police was eventually used as a scapegoat to assuage the cry of Nigerians over the brazen act of intimidating a sitting Governor. If the situation in Imo State is anything to go by, the accusations and counter accusations of intimidation and harassment flying back and front between a former Governor and an incumbent Governor is carried on through the instrumentality of the Federal Police.
But all these abuses were resolved through the instrumentality of the law. The Supreme Court held that President Obasanjo does not have the power to declare the office of his Vice vacant. The abuse of Governor Ngige was also resolved politically and most of the perpetrators of the crime in government were dealt with in accordance with the law. The present feud between the Governors in Imo State will also be resolved democratically with infractions on the law investigated and dealt with judicially and judiciously. This is the beauty of democracy. It simply implies that there are inherent mechanisms to resolve disputes in a democracy and this mechanism will also be deployed to solve disputes that may arise in the likely event of any Governor abusing State Police under his command. Victims can seek redress under the law and the State Police will still be under the authority of the Federal Police which can be de- ployed at any time to subdue any errant State Police that is going beyond its powers.
The fear, therefore, that State Police will be abused may not be substantial to deny its establishment now. Moreover, when compared with the abuse Nigerians get everyday from the bandits, kidnappers, terrorists, insurgents, secessionist agitators, without the possibility of any victim seeking or getting any compensation in law, makes the establishment of State Police imperative.
In considering whether to accept State Po- lice, the President must realise that conflict is inevitable in all human endeavour and according to Paige, a non-violent society is impossible because of three basic reasons: “First, man is a dangerous animal capable of killing by nature. Second, there will always be a scarcity of economic resources, which in turn, will lead to violence. Third, violence may be used in the case of self-defence or defending loved ones”. This is why in our world, there will always be flurry of violent conflicts across many countries, Nigeria inclusive. He must also realise that the security and welfare of the people is the primary purpose of government. If he fails in securing the lives and property of Nigerians, his legacy may forever be tainted. He has about one year four months to deliver.
The President may wish to know that the greatest cause of insecurity today in Nigeria is the insufficiency of men, materials and money deployed for the fight against insecurity which results principally from the monopoly of the power to provide security and protection for all Nigerians by the Federal Government. We are a country of about 200m people and no matter the number of our men, the mere fact that the entire police force is under the command of one officer, the IGP, is an incurable setback. Ordinarily, the fight against banditry should be a police affair, but it is obvious that the ubiquity of banditry in Nigeria is overwhelming even the army which has about 160,000 personnel in their fold.
The Governors in Nigeria today are men with full responsibility for the security of lives and properties of people in their States but zero authority to execute such responsibility. It is a managerial blasphemy when the authority and responsibility given to an employee is not at par. If authority is bigger than responsibility, it leads to power abuse, but when the responsibility is bigger than the authority, it leads to lack of performance. It’s unfortunate that some people are calling for foreign support to assist us in fight- ing insecurity, which will further diminish our scarce foreign exchange, when we have not exhausted local, more efficacious option – devolution of the power of policing to the state and local government levels, in what we now refer to as state policing. Count one month from any day state police is legalised and authorised and our security challenges will be reduced to the barest minimum.
The situation we presently have leaves the Governors as weeping children rather than working Governors. The security situation in Kaduna is trying to compel the Governor, Mal- lam El-Rufai, to almost practically eat back his words of absolute non-negotiation and non-payment of ransom to criminals. When El- Rufai was given a bulldozer as the Minister of FCT, he brought down all the illegal structures in the FCT. Give El-Rufai state police today and he will bring down the bandits within a month.
There will be no need for the Governor of the President, Aminu Masari, to be advocating for every citizen of the State to bear arms and de- fend himself, if he is authorised to have State Police with which he can defend his people. The alternative then to State Police is State anarchy. If the President cannot defend his State, Katsina, which State can he defend? One wonders why he has not embraced State Police as the legitimate alternative to this intractable security situation.
In any case, the President is already running behind schedule in the issue of State Police. Maybe, unknown to the President, some states already have their own police. What is remain- ing is for a brilliant President to step in and claim credit for its formation. No great army can do anything to an idea whose time has come. When States discovered that anarchy was imminent in their States, they developed clever methods of defending their people, pending the official proclamation and ratification of the birth of State Police. States in the South West formed Amotekun to maintain law and order in the South West. Kano State established Hisbay to enforce Sharia law. Ebubeagu has come into force to maintain law and order in the South East, while most other States have established vigilante groups of different nomenclature to defend their people. There’s no doubt that these establishments are not allowed to bear heavy weapons, but it’s not the bearing of heavy weapons that shows that an institution is a Police Force. In the olden days, one police with a baton can police a whole village, because citizens were very timid and respectful, even fearful to anything called Police. What makes an institution a Police Force is that it’s bestowed with the power to maintain law and order. To the effect that all these organisations assist in the maintenance of law and order, they all qualify to be called a Police Force. So the President’s comment has been overtaken by events.
In any case, crimes have fallen drastically in most States in which these quasi Police Forces are efficiently operational and it’s the Federal Government that takes the credit. Before the emergence of Amotekun, South West was increasingly becoming a killing field, Olu Falae was kidnapped, Afenifere’s Strongman’s daughter was slain and so on. Today no such reports are heard from South West. In fact, South West has paraded the least crime rate so far in 2021. Do you know who the law gives credit for the reduction in crime rates in the South West? – The President. This can be replicated in all the States of the Federation and it will be said that the President has ended insecurity in Nigeria. This is his call and choice to make and whatever choice he makes will determine how his regime will be remembered.