14th February, 2012
If there is any quixotic issue that has generated an unending controversy and debate in Nigeria in her 52 years of existence as a sovereign nation, there is none other than the continued agitation for state police. There is no doubt that proponents and opponents have both come up with brilliant reasons in pitching their tent either for or against this age-long agitation.
Presently, the 1999 Constitution gives room only for the existence of federal police which by extension constitutionally empowers the Federal Government to have the final say with absolute control as far as policing of Nigeria, made up of 36 states and the Abuja Federal Capital Territory, is concerned.
Those opposed to the status quo, that is those clamouring for state police, strongly believe that the life and properties of Nigerian citizens would be better secured and managed by state police. There is no doubt that there is need for cognizance to be taken of the dire effect of familiarity with the people at the grassroots vis-à-vis their historical background, tradition and culture on effective policing of the people in a state coupled with a view to securing the life and properties of the people. This postulation wlll no doubt find favour with those rooting for state police.
On the other hand, those rooting for the retention of federal police will be quick to say that it is suicidal for Nigeria to introduce state police considering the volatility associated with the use of religion as a means of achieving selfish and parochial interests by power-hungry politicians in our country, coupled with the crude and uncivilised winner-takes-all syndrome that has unfortunately remained the hallmark of governance in nearly all the 36 states in the country irrespective of political party in control of governance in the state. They may cite Kogi State as an example, where one senatorial district has been lording it over the other two senatorial districts in state since the creation of the state in 1991. This unfortunate situation has continued to increase the tempo of the cry over glaring marginalisation and open lopsidedness in political appointments and imbalance in distribution of posts in the state’s civil service in favour of the East senatorial district and to the disadvantage of the West and the Central senatorial districts. As a good example, during the tenure of ex-Governor Ibrahim Idris whose administration was brought to an abrupt end by the Supreme Court on 27 January, 2012, “the workforce in the state was 31,000 but out of this figure, the East Senatorial District had a share of 26,000 (84%) while the remaining two senatorial districts of West and Central were left to slug it out on the remaining paltry 5000 (16%).
For now, the predominantly Yoruba-speaking Okun people of the West Senatorial District and the Ebira/Ogori people of the Central Senatorial District will for now keep their fingers crossed to see if the newly-sworn in governor, Capt. Wada Idris will follow the footstep of his predecessor, Gov. Ibrahim Idris or make a U-turn by creating a sense of belonging for the West and the Central senatorial districts in line with his promise during his maiden broadcast to the people of Kogi state when he said that “a virile state where there will be equal opportunities for all and sundry” will be the foundation upon which his administration will be built.
Without mincing words, state police is not a bad idea in states that are predominantly peopled by one ethnic nationality and where there is religious tolerance such as Oyo, Osun, Ondol, Ekiti and Ogun states, all in the SouthWest geo-political zone of Nigeria. The same applies to the Southeast geo-political zone comprising Anambra, Imo, Abia, Enugu and Ebonyi states which are predominantly peopled by the Igbos.
Considering the rampant threat to the unity of Nigeria, as exemplified by the wanton killings of Christians, both young and old, and southerners residing in some states in the northern part of the country by Boko Haram that has no doubt shaken Nigeria to its foundation and threatened the existence of the country as one nation, it will be suicidal allowing the birth of state police for now in Nigeria.
Going down memory lane, Oba Rilwanu Akiolu of Lagos, a retired Deputy Inspector-General of Police, responded when asked whether he would advocate state police because of the agitation of some state governors that they are only called the chief security officers of their states even though they don’t control the police’ in an interview published in Saturday Punch newspaper of 19 March 2011 that Nigeria indeed is not ripe politically for state police. He retorded as follows: “Up till when I was Assistant Inspector-General of Police (AIG) in charge of Lokoja, I still believed and advocated that we should have one united, vibrant police force but the event of modern Nigeria has proved otherwise. Most of the requirements of the police are not provided by the Federal Government. They are now being provided by state government and as the saying goes, the one that pays the piper calls the tune. I’m in full support of state police so that you know where you pump in your resources but at the same time, IT SHOULD NOT BE USED AS A POLITICAL WEAPON” (use of capital letters for sake of emphasis is mine). There is no doubt that the glaring ethnic rivalry in Kogi State with capital in Lokoja, could have informed the retired DIG of his advocacy for the retention of the federal police. On the other hand, the inspiring efforts of Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola of Lagos State at offering immense assistance by equipping the police in the state against insecurity could have as well influenced the Oba to turn around to support state police.
There is no doubt that one important lesson could be drawn from what the Oba said and this has to do with the dire need for paying more attention to adequate equipping of the federal police by the Federal Government and not shift the burden on states most of which cannot follow the footstep of the Lagos state government that is undoubtedly endowed with abundant resources.
The harrowing experience of helpless Nigerians and foreigners who often take refuge in police stations and police barracks during upheavals and religious strife in some states that can aptly be classified as volatile in Nigeria, can be better imagined if the control of police were to be left in the hands of state governors, especially in those states where the President has already declared state of emergency in some of the Local Government Areas.
Cognisance, among other things, must also be taken of the fact that terrorism is no longer new in our country as earlier reiterated in my article titled “Terrorism not alien to our country” published on page 4 in the P.M.NEWS of Thursday, 14 January, 2010.
So long as Nigeria has adopted the entrenchment of the federal system of administration in the 1999 Constitution and considering the fragile unity in our country today, giving birth to state police will no doubt act as the recipe and catalyst for invitation to the disintegration of Nigeria as a nation.
•Odunayo writes from Mopa, Kogi State. Email: [email protected]