In an apparent resolve to fight the general insecurity in the country, President Muhammadu Buhari recently set up a panel to come up with modalities for the establishment of state police. The members of the panel included officials of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), the Inspector General of Police (IGP) and the Solicitor General of the Federation (SGF).
The development came on the heels of the recommendations of the Presidential Panel on Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) reforms. We recall that President Buhari had on August 14, 2019, directed the NHRC to investigate allegations of sundry human rights abuses by SARS and police personnel. The president ordered the panel to recommend reforms to improve public safety and security nationwide. The president also urged the panel to produce a white paper within three months. No doubt, the rising insecurity in the country and the reported excesses of SARS have made calls for state police imperative. While some Nigerians have argued against the creation of state police as being suggested in some quarters, others have given their nod for it. The strongest argument against state police is that it will lead to rivalry between the Federal and State police, as well as being open to abuse by state governors. This argument is punctured by the fact that the present policing arrangement is also open to abuse. The argument for state police has gained more support as a result of the rising crime rate in the country and the inability of the Nigeria Police to contain the challenge. But before state police can be established, there is need to amend certain sections of the constitution that may likely constitute a stumbling block. For instance, Section 214 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) states clearly that “There shall be a Police Force for Nigeria, which shall be known as the Nigeria Police Force, and subject to the provisions of this section no other police force shall be established for the federation or any part thereof.” It is also good that the Nigerian Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has recommended State police. We, therefore, urge the panel to do the work expeditiously, patriotically and within the time frame. As the name implies, State police is a police organised and maintained by a state. State police officers are responsible for maintaining law and order in the state. This includes patrolling highways, enforcing state laws, maintaining peace and assisting municipal law enforcement, when necessary. State police or provincial police are universally accepted as sub-national territorial police found in nations organised as federations and are already functional in countries such as Australia, Brazil, Germany, India, Indonesia, Mexico, and Spain.
In the face of rising criminality in the country, some governors are finding it difficult to ensure security in their states. Even though, the governors are designated the chief security offices of their respective states, they are actually not in control of the police. They have no constitutional mandate to deploy and control police personnel. Some state governors have lamented their frustrations in securing their states and save lives in the face of raging insecurity. Waiting for an order from Abuja before action can be taken in such circumstances will only aggravate the situation. State police will be more proactive in detecting and nipping crime in the bud. We note that Nigeria is one of the most under-policed countries in the world. The numerical strength of the Nigeria police put at 334,000 officers and men is far below the United Nations’ (UN) standard of one police officer to 400 citizens. The force is reported to have a deficit of 90,000 officers. The current police structure makes the police in Nigeria ineffective in crime detection and control. The extant centralised policing is not suitable for the Nigerian federation. Apart from its poor numerical strength, our police are poorly funded and badly equipped. Therefore, we urge for more dialogue on the desirability or otherwise of state police by the government and other stakeholders.