Insecurity: State police divides Northern, Southern groups

Interest groups across the country are drumming support for the creation of state police in order to arrest the festering insecurity in the land. The renewed clamour for the creation of state police comes as a result of unending widespread kidnapping for ransom and other forms of banditry.

To mitigate rising criminality in different forms, some state governments have resorted to setting up vigilance groups to complement the efforts of security agencies particularly, the Nigeria Police. There have also been regional security outfits like the Amotekun in the South-West and Ebube Agu in the South-East. These outfits were created out of pressure on state governments and regional interest groups to cub insecurity.

In recent times, there have been fresh arguments for and against the creation of state police. While state governors and interest groups particularly from the southern part of Nigeria are rooting for the creation of state police, there seems to be opposition against the idea from the north. 

Despite that President Bola Tinubu has not made his position on state police known since he was sworn-in on May 29, 2023, the Inspector- General of Police, Kayode Egbetokun, has rejected the idea of state police. His position is consistent with the view of his predecessors. However, the Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE) is in full support of the creation of state and local government police in order to improve security of lives and property in the country.

Secretary-General of the council, Chief Oladipo Oyewole, made this known to Saturday Sun at the end of its recent meeting held in Ibadan, Oyo State.

On the potential abuse of state police by politicians, he said the YCE “is of the considered opinion that the law establishing that particular force should spell-out control measures, which will specify punishment in case of abuse or a semblance of same by anyone in position of control, if proved that the force is manipulated by anyone.”

The council also expressed its satisfaction that advocacy for creation of state police has gained attention of all and sundry, saying: “the council is convinced that it will improve the security of lives and guarantee safety of property.”

“The YCE is firmly of the position that the success of its establishment will begin with the process of the selection of its personnel. The orientation and training they will be given to complement the regular police training school curriculum.

“If properly planned, it may be a permanent solution to insecurity, to invasion, to vagabondage and to insurgency in any and in all parts of Nigeria.”

Afenifere, a prominent Yoruba socio-political organization, challenged the Inspector-General of Police, Kayode Egbetokun, over his statement that Nigeria is not yet prepared for state police.

The group, under the leadership of Pa Ayo Adebanjo, found the Inspector-General’s remarks bewildering and mind-boggling in the face of insecurity in the country.

Mogaji Gboyega Adejumo, Afenifere’s National Publicity Secretary, in a chat with Saturday Sun, warned that failure to establish state police within the next five years could have unprecedented consequences that may jeopardise the nation’s unity.

According to him, Afenifere firmly believes that the creation of state and local government police forces, as part of Nigeria’s restructuring, is the key solution to address the escalating security crisis.

Adejumo advised the federal government to approve the creation of state police for states that are ready to establish the sub-national policing system towards strengthening the security architecture of the nation.   

According to Dr. Alex Ogbonna, Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the creation of state police has been the position of the group to tackle the security challenges in the country. He argued that the country is supposed to have four or more levels of security architecture.

“It is very clear that the federal government cannot cope with the security challenges facing the country. It is also inappropriate or unexpected for an Igbo man, for instance, who doesn’t understand the language of another tribe or the topography of another geopolitical zone to do very well as a policeman.”

He expressed the view that security is better decentralized so that the people in the local communities would be able to understand the system. “Traditional rulers, town unions, local government areas, and the states should be able to organize their security systems while the federal government should be coordinating among the four levels.

“In any federal system like the US, Switzerland and others that I have already known and studied, it is not possible to have central police. Ohanaeze believes it is better to have a state police; that is what we called Ebube Agu, even though the governors could not carry it out. The concept of Ebube Agu is that we would be able to manage our own security.”

Similarly, Dr. Bitrus Pogu, President of the Middle Belt Forum (MBF) told Saturday Sun that state police have been the position of the MBF.

Pogu argued that despite copying the American presidential system of government from the United States, Nigeria is the only country that operates a centralized police system. According to him, when the country operated the parliamentary system, the native police, which was the equivalent of a state police, was in place and the system was working. However, it was the centralization of the police by military regimes that brought the country to a deplorable state of insecurity.

“States should be empowered to set up and control their security outfits in states and local government areas. We were for state police, and we are for state police and would be for state police.”

The chairman of Pan Niger Delta Development Forum (PANDEF), Sen. Emmanuel Ibok Essien, affirmed that the group is fully in support of state police. According to him, every state should be allowed to have its own police, as it would help in policing the state properly; give a governor the authority to appoint his commissioner of police; and virtually everybody that would be employed will be an indigene of that particular state. The officers will be known by local people, and it would be easy to select people of good character for the police.

There are growing fears that governors may abuse the system by using state police to hound their adversaries. But Essien dismissed the fears, stating that, as it stands today, a governor could still use the federal police if he so desires to witch hunt anybody. He cited a case in Akwa Ibom State, sometime in 2019, when police commissioners were replaced six times in a space of two months, yet the dynamics of politics in the state did not change. “So, I don’t think the state police would be used as an instrument to witch hunt the opposition. Instead, it would help in internal security of each state.”

Prof. Benjamin Okaba, president, Ijaw National Congress (INC) said that as part of the strategies for the restructuring of the country, the INC supports state policing. In line with the position of PANDEF, he said that “there is no policy that doesn’t have pitfalls. The fear of the state governors hijacking the state police may not be there. From the experiences of places where these policies are already implemented, it is helping to curb insecurity; it is also doing well in dealing with banditry and all other criminal elements in such places.

“We think very strongly that at this time in this country, where the security situation has gotten so bad, the best thing to have been a state police. So, we support it.”

The Igbo National Council (INC) has declared total support for state police saying that it will curb the spate of insecurity in the local areas of the country.

President of INC, Chilo Godsent noted that insecurity in Nigeria was most rampant in the rural areas.

“Considering that the numerous crimes, banditry and terrorism taking place in various states and regions of Nigeria are being carried out mainly within local communities, the Igbo National Council supports the proposal for the establishment of state police because it will ensure effective intelligence gathering at the local level where many of the crimes, banditry and terrorism take place.”

He contended that state police will strengthen the efficiency of community policing, improve manpower and decentralize funding of the police force and the command-and-control mechanism which presently is centralized to the detriment of the welfare of the police personnel. This, he observed, seriously and negatively affects their morale and performance in carrying out their constitutional responsibilities of securing the lives and properties of the citizens.

Conversely, the Alaigbo Development Foundation (ADF) said that it prefers a regional police structure. According to ADF National Secretary, Chief Abia Onyike, if Nigeria is reconstituted or re-negotiated along regional lines, it will give rise to regional police.

Onyike said: “We don’t believe in any form of state police in the current monolithic federation because it would only make the governors more prone to gross impunity than what obtains now.”

But from the North comes opposing views. Even though the Kaduna State governor, Uba Sani has thrown his weight behind the creation of state police, other interest groups are yet to welcome the idea.

Former Secretary General, Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Anthony Sani kicked against the establishment of state police, stressing that state police whose personnel are ill-trained and not fully equipped; not well motivated, cannot be the magic wand in securing the nation.

“There will be a problem of abuse by state governors reminiscent of how state electoral commissions have been abused to kill democracy at local government level.

While Sanni may not be speaking for the north, he raised questions about potential conflict between federal and state police; as well as what happens in states where there is diversity; and feared that state police personnel could take sides with their ethnic or religious groups during conflicts.  He canvassed the idea that the president should recruit a good number of well trained and well equipped and motivated police personnel to secure the nation”.

National Director, Media and Publicity, Rescue Movement for New Nigeria (RMNN), a nongovernmental organization, Rev. Emmanuel Olorunmagba advised the federal government to ensure policies that will checkmate state governors to avoid the situation where state police will be turned to witch-hunting tools against perceived opponents.

“We have been witnessing the situations in this country where politicians use every power within their reach to persecute and witch-hunt those regarded as opponents.”

Leader of the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG), Jamilu Aliyu Charanchi said the state police was not popular in the North because then people don’t trust the leaders, noting that the state police would be used against perceived adversaries.

He also argued that a state that has been unable to pay the minimum wage would be unable to finance the operations of a state police. 

“We should rather equip the present police. We should rather equip the present security organisations, give them the necessary training, and give them good welfare package and the logistics they require so that you can get them to do what you want. For you to create another police, which you cannot maintain, I doubt if it will not lead us to any meaningful outcome. It is unworkable,” he told Saturday Sun.




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