20th September, 2012
By Rima Amadi
Nigeria desperately needs to start enjoying the benefits associated with state, municipal and city autonomous and independent police departments. The need for a decentralised police departments in Nigeria cannot be over-emphasized, from helping to institute true federalism to localizing and confining criminal activities where they start, to better understanding between the policed and the police; the benefits of decentralized police departments far outweigh the problems that can arise from having a decentralized police force.
Recently, the committee saddled with the responsibility to reform the Nigeria Police presented a saddening report against the introduction of state police in Nigeria. Among their excuses, were, a very flimsy reasons that the cost of running a state police is enormous and that the individual state will buckle under the financial burden of such exercise. The committee maintained that the states cannot afford the cost of running a state police. How awkward is this claim? Why should cost be an issue when already the federal government bears the cost? All that needs to be done when introducing a state police is to split the money currently spent by the federal government amongst the individual states, and add to the security votes that the governors currently receive. It is two-fold: here, the issue of cost is solved while at the same having a better and well equipped police force to fight crimes and preserve the lives and property of the general population in their respective states.
The Parry Osayande-led police reforms committee has refused to tell Nigerians what they do with the enormous budget for the police force in Nigeria. You and I know very well that this committee has noting whatsoever to show for expending such huge budget yet our police force is one of the worst in the world in terms of equipment, training and crime fighting. When the police force is decentralized at states and local levels, crimes are confronted right at the source. It is often said that all crimes are local and it is only the local communities that can identify the mischievous and criminally minded individuals in their midst. Therefore, the need for a state police force cannot be overemphasized.
Take for instance during the kidnapping saga in Abia state and other communities, the villagers knew who the bad guys were and when push came to shove, they assisted the soldiers and police in providing information that helped to dismantle the menace of these individuals in their respective communities. It is suggestive that the huge amount of budget for the police will be well managed and utilized by the states if and when the states are autonomous in fighting crimes with their own state run police forces. They will know how and where to apportion, or allocate resources to curb criminal activities menacing their local communities. In fact, the federal government will end up spending less money for policing with the introduction of a state police since the state governors will now utilize their respective security votes for state policing and crime fighting.
I personally think the Parry Osayande-led police reforms committee was flawed and ill-equipped to give Nigeria a decent, well trained and equipped police and equally standing in the way of various states creating and having their own police outfit. I have written several times on this subject and the clamour by other well meaning Nigerians in support of the introduction of a state police vindicates my argument so far in support of the subject matter. One would have thought that President Jonathan equally dropped the ball by using same corrupt individuals who are the architects of a failed, corruption ridden Nigeria police to act as reformers of a failed institution called The Nigeria Police. This is like having James Ibori and other corrupt government officials as members of the EFCC.
It is of no surprise that the former IGPs went to Aso Rock to meet with President Jonathan to argue against state police. How could one expect these dishonest and mostly corrupt former IGPs and architects of the problems in the Nigeria police proffer lasting solutions for a reformed and functional entity like centralized police force in Nigeria? Do you think that they will come up with any tangible argument in support of a state police? I wonder!
Deep down in the minds of these former IGPs, they know that state police will provide better policing for Nigeria, but their selfish interests will not let them tell the truth because having autonomous state police departments will destroy the nationwide power they command as former IGPs and chances are that bodies like the Police Service Commission as well as the Police Council will be eliminated. Imagine what it will look like for these former IGPs if state police is adopted and there’s no more retinue of police officers following them about anywhere in the country. To these former IGPs, it is about maintaining the status quo which enables them to continue to wield the power they currently enjoy nationwide.
If President Goodluck Jonathan wants a true reform of the Nigerian police, he should reconstitute a new committee to review policing in Nigeria without any current or former member of the Nigeria police force as members. Members of this committee can even come from outside Nigeria to enable them come up with neutral, unbiased and unadulterated report for reforming the Nigerian police force. Members can even be from the Nigerians in the Diaspora.
Apart from the fact that the current Nigerian police workforce is too small to effectively police the entire population of Nigeria, the problem is further compounded by the fact that many police officers are attached to individual elites as bodyguards and escorts.
Commenting on the security situation in the country last October 2011, the Chairman of the Police Service Commission, Mr. Parry Osayande (DIG, Retd.) complained that of the police staff strength of 330,000, over 100,000 were attached to privileged individuals, “carrying handbags for their wives,” leaving 230,000 men to police 150 million Nigerians. “Are these 150 million Nigerians supposed not to be protected, if only a few fortunate individuals are being protected by over 100,000 policemen?” Mr. Osayande asked.
The Nigerian police force must be decentralized in order to achieve effectiveness, integrity and professionalism. The current practice whereby a police uniform in Zamfara State is the same in Cross River State creates room for criminal and corrupt practices by officers. For example, a police officer from a police station under the jurisdiction of the Lagos State Police Command can travel to Bornu State and commit crime unhindered since he’s wearing a nationwide police uniform.
Although under the current structure of the Nigerian Police Force, police officers are supposed to be under a specific police station or command with their jurisdiction limited to that police station or command, some officers work as if the entire country is their precinct. Somebody with enough money can walk into a police station in Rivers State and pay enough money to the DPO for some police officers as escorts, he can then take these officers to anywhere in the country victimizing and terrorizing innocent people as he and his ‘police officer escorts’ deem necessary, and as long as he continues to pay the DPO, he can keep the officers as long as he wants. Some DPOs even do this for their friends and relatives, while some use police officers to protect their girlfriends or even terrorize boyfriends of girls they are interested in.
With a huge population of over 160 million people with multi ethnic, cultural, lingual, religious and other differences, Nigeria needs more policemen and women operating in a decentralized police departments across the country where the final authority ends at the local department level instead of the current practice whereby the final authority of any police issue in the country lies with the IGP.
In a decentralized police system, criminal activities are local affairs and are easily contained; a suspect arrested in Kafanchan or Mbieri is held and prosecuted within the local jurisdiction instead of being taken to Abuja as is currently done in some cases. Insurgence by a group or an individual from a remote part of Nigeria like Boko Haram is easily contained and not made a national problem.
The current structure of the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) makes it possible for criminals and bad elements within and outside the force to carry out criminal activities with police uniforms or fake police uniforms. This is possible because the Nigerian police uniform is recognized nationwide. A police officer from a police station in Sokoto can go to Abakaliki and use his genuine police uniform to carry out unassigned, illegal or criminal activity under the name of Nigerian police and nobody will question him since he is wearing the NPF uniform.
I respectfully challenge the Police Service Commission and the former IGPs for a televised nationwide debate on the need for state police in Nigeria.
•Amadi wrote from Newark, New Jersey, USA. E-mail: [email protected]