Some Ex-Police chiefs have consistently oppose the establishment of State Police Force. The Northern Social Political Group, the Arewa Consultative Forum recently rejected Nigerian Governor’s Forum demand for state police. They described creation of state police force as invitation to chaos. Sunday Ehindero, former Inspector General of Police warned that the creation of state police will lead to eventual disintegration of Nigeria. He further stated that “It will take us back to the days of ethnic militia”
Should Nigerian constitution be changed to allow establishment of State or even local government police force?
Nigerian civilian police force consists of custom, immigration and prison enforcement. The Nigerian Police Force (NPF) according to section 194 of the 1979 constitution is designated as the national police force with exclusive jurisdiction throughout the country. Other branches of the police force protects the harbor, waterways, railways and airfield sometimes in conjunction with the military. The NPF also performs conventional police functions and is responsible for internal security. This article focuses on regular police force incharge of internal security.
Organizationally, the Nigerian Police force is under the general administration and operational of an Inspector General of Police appointed by the president and ratified by the senate. Police primary responsibility is maintenance of law and order. The Inspector General of police is supported by deputy Inspector general of police (DIG) and by police Commissioner assigned to each state. Nigerian constitution provided for establishment of Nigerian Police Commission which is responsible for Nigerian Police Force’s finance, policy, organization and administration.
Criminal Investigation Department (CID) is the highest investigative arm of the Nigerian Police Force which is headed by deputy Inspector general of Police. It’s function includes investigation and prosecution of serious and complex criminal cases within and outside Nigeria. Nigerian police force personnel are frequently sent to Economic and Financial Crime commission to help with investigation and prosecution of criminals.
With the massive deployment of police force all over the country, one will expect that Nigeria will be safer and less corrupt today. Sadly that is not the case. Corruption in Nigeria is endemic and more entrenched than ever. When it comes to fighting corruption, Nigerian police have long abidicated their responsibility which gave corruption the avenue to corrode every sector of the country. Police became so unresponsive to corruption that the federal government had to establish parallel organizations called Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) and Indepent Corrupt Practices Act (ICPC) to fight corruption. Corruption is so prevalent in the police force that former inspector general of police, Mr. Tafa Balogun went to jail for corrupt enrichment. It is not unusual to see police collecting bribes from privately owned public transport vehicles in major highways all over the country. In some cases, police will delay transport companies on the highway if they fail to give them bribe.
A lot of these police officers are ill-equipped. Some criminals are more equipped than the police. The result is that some of them get killed on the line of duty. Some will wait for criminals to finish they operation before showing up at a crime scene.
Another major problem with the type of centralized police force we have in Nigeria is that they are too removed from the people. Relation between them and local communities is little or non-existent. Effective policing becomes more of a challenge when they is little trust between the police and local communities. Local inhabitants who know these criminals are unlikely to report them to the police when trust is lacking.
Boko Haram’s challenge in Northern parts of Nigeria, rampant crime and corruption all over the country makes it imperative that other alternatives be explored and recommended solutions implemented. Insanity is doing same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that creation of state police force will provide lasting solution to Nigerian security problem and reduction of corruption in the long term. Populace of each state will have more confidence in local police force than centralized one from Abuja or Lagos. They will be more likely to report criminals in their mist to local police authority. Local governments should also be allowed to establish local police force. Local police will be more familiar with the local custom, language and sensitivities of the inhabitants.
The people who said that decentralization of police force will bring chaos to Nigeria have a strong point bearing in mind that some state and local officials are power drunk and will more likely misuse the police, especially deploying them against their political opponents. However, a mechanism should be put in place where erring state or local government police could be nationalized when officials continuously overstep their bounds.
Establishment of state and local police force will be chaotic in the beginning but it will sort itself out over a period of time. Typical example is here in United States where they have no national police, where state and local police provides the bulk of security. Local policing here in United states did not start out smoothly but is now the pillar of security in communities all over the country. Establishment of state police in Nigeria is inevitable, and the earlier the better. Multiple layers of security apparatus is the long term panacea to rampant lawlessness prevalent in Nigeria today.