What Nigeria must do with state police - Akpabio, Abbas

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By Paul Dada

The Senate President, Godswill Akpabio and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abbas, have stated their views on what Nigeria must do with state policing.

Both lead federal lawmakers gave their positions during a one day dialogue on state policing organised by the House of Representatives, which held in Abuja on Monday.

Akpabio said it was important for Nigeria to learn from countries like the United States of America and who already successfully operate multi-level policing.

Akpabio who was represented by  his deputy, Senator Barau Jibrin; said: “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.

“The concept of state police has been a topic of debate for many years. It is a complex issue with no easy answers. But today, courtesy of the House of Representatives, we have the opportunity to engage in a national dialogue, to listen to the voices of our fellow citizens, and to forge a path towards a more secure Nigeria. Let us seize this opportunity with open hearts and open minds. Let us listen to one another, learn from one another, and work together to find common ground.”

“President Tinubu did not only come to steady the ship of state, he came to adjust the sails and steer the ship of state through rough and fair weather, to the right direction and the right destination. He is known for rearranging the sails, and this is exactly what he did in agreeing that modalities should be worked out for us to have state police.

“In working out modalities for the state police and the security of our nation, we must not forget that security is not a privilege, but a fundamental right of every Nigerian. It is our duty to ensure that this right is upheld, that justice is served, and that the rule of law prevails.

“We must build a security architecture that is robust, transparent, and accountable. If we are to set up state police departments, we must ensure that they are free from the shackles of politics, religious extremism, tribalism, and ethnicism. We must empower them to serve and protect, without fear or favor.”

“Let us ensure that our state police forces work in harmony with their federal counterparts, collaborating to fight crime, preserve peace, and safeguard our democracy. In the USA, the FBI, the federal police body enforces federal laws and the state police departments enforce state laws. The FBI also investigates inter-state crimes.

“We must draw the lines because to have functional state police we must have a strong federal police. But let us never forget that the power of the state police should never be used as a tool of oppression. Let us ensure that political powers cannot manipulate the state police to silence dissent or target their enemies.

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“Let us ensure that the influential do not exert undue influence over the state. police, and that justice is blind to wealth, power, politics, or status. Let us build a system that is fair, just, and equitable for all.

On his own part, Abbas said, said it was important  to create a policing system in  that will give the Nigerian people a sense of security to go about their business.

He said: “The burden of policing the vast geographical expanse of our country and a rapidly expanding population warrants a reform of the current structure.

“The need for a system that maintains law and order and upholds every Nigerian’s dignity and rights cannot be overstated. Reform is essential to heal and to build – rebuilding trust, rebuilding effectiveness, and rebuilding our shared commitment to justice.

“Whereas most Nigerians agree on the need to reform policing, that is usually where the consensus ends. There is no agreement on how best to proceed with the reform or the best policing model for Nigeria. In considering the path forward, we must recognise that no one-size-fits-all solution exists.

“The vast diversity of Nigeria, with over 300 ethnic groups and a range of geographic, economic, and social conditions, requires a policing model that is adaptable and sensitive to local contexts. As we explore the models of State Policing that have been successful in other nations, we must be judicious in adapting these frameworks to fit our unique Nigerian context.”

“As such, you should take cognisance of the fact that decentralised policing is not an entirely new proposition. The historical precedent supports the notion that a decentralised approach can be beneficial and effective if properly managed”.

Adding, he said: “We must proceed with caution. There is a palpable fear among our citizens – a fear of potential tyranny and the misuse of police powers if control is devolved to the State level.

“These concerns are not unfounded and must be addressed frontally, without bias or sentiments. This emphasizes the need for robust frameworks that ensure accountability, transparency, and equitable service delivery across all States. Equally important are setting stringent national standards, establishing oversight bodies, and involving communities in the policing process.”

He also said:  “As we engage, issues to consider may include the desirability or otherwise of State Policing, the timeframe for a transition if deemed desirable, suitable model or models for Nigeria that account for context and diversity, appropriate legal and institutional frameworks, essential safeguards against abuse, continuous review and oversight mechanisms, financial arrangements between the different levels of governments, modality for recruitment, management, operation and relationship between State Police and the Federal Police, among others.”

 

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