• en

State Policing Will Address Demands Of Various Nigerian Communities, Says Tinubu 

Echoing President Tinubu, Former President Jonathan says the establishment of state police in Nigeria is non-negotiable.

President Bola Tinubu, on Monday, said the idea of state policing was not just a policy proposal, but an evolution that would create the opportunity for law enforcement in a manner that would address the various demands of communities across the country.

Tinubu made the assertion in Abuja, when he declared open a one-day National Dialogue on State Policing, themed, “Pathways to Peace: Reimagining Policing in Nigeria.”

He asked participants to scrutinise the idea of state policing from different perspectives.

Other leaders, who spoke at the event, including former President Goodluck Jonathan and ex-military Head of State, Abdulsalam Abubakar; President of the Senate, Godswill Akpabio; and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abbas, among others, also rallied support for the initiative. They said it was in the overall interest of the country.

Security top security chiefs, like Chief of Defence Staff, Christopher Musa, and Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Kayode Egbetokun, spoke from different standpoints, however, in defence of the country’s security architecture.

Tinubu, who was represented by Vice-President Kashim Shettima, noted his administration’s resolve to change the country’s security narrative.

He stressed that his administration was aware of the complex security issues confronting Nigeria, and was continually developing and refining its strategies and methods to address the challenges effectively.

According to Shettima, “The commitment of the administration of President Tinubu to reform the police force and enhance security at both the national and state levels is unwavering.

“We view the outcomes of today’s deliberations as crucial inputs that will guide the government’s actions towards reforming the institution of the police and achieving a safer and more secure Nigeria.”

He implored participants to look at the idea of state policing from multiple angles, saying the president deserves commendation for being open and proactive towards the idea of reforming and decentralising the police force.

He said, “In our deliberations, let us consider the implications of state policing from multiple perspectives. We must evaluate its potential to improve response times to emergencies, adapt to specific local challenges, and increase accountability.

“At the same time, we must address concerns related to the standardisation of training, oversight, and the safeguarding of civil liberties.

“Our dialogue today should also be seen as an opportunity to listen, understand, and propose solutions that bridge gaps. It is essential that this forum is not the end but the beginning of an ongoing conversation on the issue of police and security sector reform in our country.”

The president expressed delight that the 10th House of Representatives, under Abbas, keyed into the idea of state policing, noting, “The involvement of the legislature in executive reform proposals ensures continuity and synergy.

“Let us use this opportunity to engage and explore every option with the seriousness and diligence they demand.

“The president is committed to listening to your recommendations and insights, invaluable to shaping the policies that will lead us toward a more secure and just society.”

In his remarks at the occasion, Jonathan declared that the establishment of state police was not negotiable. He stressed, “There is no way we can manage our internal security if states will not have their police.

“The issue today is very critical. We don’t need to debate whether we should have state police or not. I think that is concluded. The issue is the operations of the police.

“In Bayelsa State, when we took over, the state was almost ungovernable. Gen. Abdulsalami will remember that when elections were to be conducted in December 1999, the security situation in Bayelsa State was so bad.

“Our elections were pushed to January 1999. The state was in crisis, the Niger Delta agitation was there and criminal elements were also operating in the creeks, posing all manner of havoc to market women and others.

“My boss then, Alamieyeseigha, had to set up Bayelsa Volunteers that worked with the police. We had to build stations around significant parts of the creeks and the boys volunteered to work with the police since they could not carry weapons. 

“There is no way we can manage our internal security if states will not have their police. The issue is not states having their police, but how they will function vis-a-vis the national security architecture.”

Jonathan recalled that when he set up the 2014 national dialogue, people were agitating in many areas and in one state, the whole local government delegates advocated for state police.

He said, “When the matter came up, everybody supported. We cannot move away from the issue of state police; the issue of national border force was also accepted. The issue of the national coast guard was also accepted.

“And the National Assembly, while you are conducting public hearing on the issue of state police, this issue of national border guards must be considered.

“We can say the customs immigration carry weapons and they are in charge of border control, but they cannot play the role of national border guards because customs and immigration stay in controlled routes. Criminal elements don’t pass through those controlled routes.

“It is when we have national border guards that we will be able to control these elements. Yes, customs and immigration carry weapons, but they are not sufficiently trained to confront these criminal gangs.

“We should not waste our time debating whether we should have state police or not. We had it before in this country, the military scrapped it because of abuse. That is the area we should concentrate on. How do we manage state police so that it will not be abused by state political actors?

“If state political actors are abusing state police and using it to harass and make life miserable for people who don’t belong to their political parties, will the Commander-in-Chief sit down and watch? Or will he order the military to overrun the state police?

“The key areas we have to debate is how do we run the state police viz-a-viz the national security architecture of the country? This needs to be done carefully.” 

The former president added, “Even in cosmopolitan states, if the governor is in party A, you will have party B and party C winning elections — senators and House members, but how come local government chairmen and councillorship, no other party wins? It is only the party that produces the governor that clears all the councillorship seats.

“As we are talking about state police, we almost also rejig INEC. The issue of polling booths of INEC and the use of police during elections need to be reviewed by the National Assembly.”

In his submission, Abubakar said the citizens of any country had the responsibility of ensuring peace and order. He said the citizens should not vandalise any property provided by the government, adding that the traditional rulers also have responsibilities in ensuring maintenance of peace and order

Akpabio said the concept of state police had been a topic of debate for many years, adding that it is a complex issue with no easy answers.

He pointed out that state police must be free from the shackles of politics, religious extremism, tribalism, and ethnicity.

Akpabio added that the institution of state police must be empowered to serve and protect without fear or favour.

He stated, “Today, we stand at a crossroads, where the decisions we make will shape the destiny of our nation. Today, we have the power to transform our security architecture and create a Nigeria where every citizen feels safe and protected, regardless of his or her status, religion, tribe, location or background.

Giving his keynote address, Abbas said the recent attempts, including the Police Repeal and Re-enactment Act of 2020, and the Police Trust Fund Act of 2019, were significant first steps but not nearly as far-reaching as necessary.

He said as legislators, they were tasked with crafting laws to address the people’s immediate needs, while anticipating and mitigating future challenges.

The speaker noted that their role in security law-making was to ensure that any initiative, such as establishment of state policing, adhered to the constitution and aligned with the broader goals of national security and public welfare.

He stressed that the House was aware of the divisive and polarising arguments surrounding the issue under review, but assured that the National Assembly did not have a fixed position.

Abbas lamented that evolving security challenges and other institutional and structural challenges had severely affected the general effectiveness of the police.

He said, “As you are mostly aware, this deficit has resulted in the military engaging in policing functions in all states of the federation, including the FCT.

“In turn, this has also overstretched the armed forces and affected their effectiveness in combating other broader security challenges, including those that threaten the territorial integrity of Nigeria.”

Musa said the establishment of state police was a topic of immense importance.

Represented by Director of Standard and Evaluation, Maj-Gen Adekunle Ariyibi, the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) said the need for comprehensive and responsive security framework that included the establishment of state police was undeniable

Egbetokun, however, kicked against the establishment of state police. The IGP, who was represented by Ben Okolo, rather, called for the merging of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and  Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC)  as a department under the police.

The police boss also said the yearly police recruitment should be increased by at least 30,000 to meet the United Nations (UN) ratio.

He called for increased budgetary allocations to the Nigeria Police for effective training of personnel in modern policing to enhance efficiency.

Egbetokun also sought amendment of the 1999 Constitution for more empowerment and funding of police, which is the lead internal security agency.  He stated that if state police was established, governors would use the structure under their control for political or personal gains while also undermining human rights and security.

The IGP said, “Most police stations and barracks that were built over the years in the colonial period have not undergone any renovations, despite the increase in the strength of the force. These have impacted negatively on the performance of the personnel.

“The police leadership is recommending the following, instead of creating state police, merging the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps and Federal Road Safety Corps as a department under the Nigeria Police.

“Yearly police recruitment should be increased by at least 30,000 to meet the United Nations requirements. Increase in the budgetary allocations to the Nigerian Police Force. Effective training of personnel in modern policing to enhance efficiency.”

Egbetokun said the agitations for state police were informed by the perception that the police were not living up to their responsibility, a development he said was caused by a motley of challenges militating against the force.

He identified some of the challenges as inadequate manpower, inadequate operational equipment – arms and ammunition, as well as surveillance equipment – inadequate training due to poor funding, and inadequate office and barracks accommodation.

Deji Elumoye and Adedayo Akinwale

Follow us on: