The security situation in Nigeria has now reached a critical stage with the insurgency in the North East spreading rapidly to other parts of Northern Nigeria. There are communal clashes in the Middle belt, kidnappings in the South West, thugs and cultists are having a field day in the South South.
The current security arrangement seems to be inadequate, inappropriate or simply not working. The idea of state police or community policing comes to mind, as one of the ways on the short and long term to curb these criminal activities.
The existence of State Police, other than the National Police is not new in Nigeria. It existed during the first republic as Regional and Native Authority Police Force. The officers were derived from the communities and with the advantage of shared common language and culture, crime prevention and containment at the early stages was relatively easy. Federal Police Officers on the other hand, till date are posted randomly to states where the cooperation of the local people is essential in carrying out effective policing.
The abolition of regional and native authority police to form a unified police force significantly weakened security at grassroot levels, and in some cases badly managed local crises eventually escalated to major insurgencies. Such was the case of Boko Haram. The murder of their leader by the police has now grown to a full blown insurgency which has now spread to several states in the country. At this stage, the restoration of state police as another tier of law enforcement has become imperative.
The process of recruiting officers into the state police force will follow the same rigour, guidelines and criteria used in the recruitment of officers into the Nigeria Police Force and other law enforcement agencies.
The two formations will coexist, the same way state judiciary and ministries relate with their federal counter parts.
The Governor as the Chief Security Officer of the State will control the state police in collaboration with traditional rulers and local government authorities. However, stringent measures will be put in place to prevent the abusive use of the force to oppress political opponents. This should not normally happen, since the overriding interest of a political leader is to rule over a state, where the people go about their daily activities in peace and the government is also at peace. Even at that, bad politicians and leaders still use thugs to harass their people and political rivals.
The state police can become a legal and constitutional body by an act of the National Assembly, which the Honorable members would willingly pass into law in the national interest, especially, if it will promote the cause of peace.
The decision of the Federal government to organize community policing under the leadership of a Police Commissioner is a good decision, but this can only be an interim measure to stop the deteriorating security situation in some parts of the country. Community policing is also confronted with the challenges of ; discipline, training, renumerations, management, organizational structure and legality. The personnel could however be screened and those who qualify and are found suitable may be coopted into the state police force.
The overriding advantages of a state police cannot be overflogged. The threats posed by insurgents, murderers, kidnappers, suicide bombers and other criminals is real and all measures in whatever form taken to confront these threats should be embraced.
Ambassador Akinkuolie Rasheed was Director of Trade and Investment, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, former Nigeria’s Consul to Cameroon. email@example.com