In Nigeria, the clamour for state police is at its highest. I reckon that it would not help us. Decentralized police systems serve beautifully in other parts of the world, but I insist Nigeria is not ready for that system yet.
As I write this in June 2019, 20 years after we reignited civilian governance, Nigeria has taken a few steps forward and many steps backward. It would be a waste of ink and white space to reel out the litany of problems that bedevil the country — all self-inflicted. Yet the promises of May 29, 1999, were very lofty. We have had Vision 2010 and Vision 20: 2020(mark you, it is only six months away). Of course, we missed Vision 2000. It is almost as if Nigeria is a basket case pretending to see one vision after another yet not really committing to any.
Failure to plan, disregard for the common good and crass greed are the common traits of the Nigerian ruling class. Nothing escapes our knack for travesty. Our politicians are immature and petty acting without regard and remorse. Look at Kano from April 2019. The emirate is in trouble. It is the same party that spearheaded the intrigues of the emir’s accession that has now balkanized same. I will not comment on all the mechanics of that saga here but can the reader just fathom what would be if Ganduje had the Kano Police Force (or Kano Police Department etc.) at his beck and call? Look at the joke that was the gubernatorial rerun in the same state. Just imagine what most governors would do with their own police force.
We do not need to imagine how Ekiti, Bayelsa, Osun, and almost all the other states would fare when it comes to paying salaries of their respective police departments. Now imagine a police officer with a gun who has not been paid for 15 months (or half salaries for 20 months). Think of the possibilities at that officer’s disposal.
State police would be a disaster. Most states do not even have the basics when it comes to education and healthcare which are critical components of human development, yet we want to add police to their problems. The administrators do not know what is important, if they do, they don’t care. Their obscene conditions of service give them American and European options so the rest of us can rot in privation. We have enough headaches with the Nigeria Police Force, now we want to split that migraine 36 ways!
Of the 36 states, I wonder if 10 are viable. All have potential but who cares? Not the governors, not the legislators. We would only be handing them the final tool of oppression. If proponents succeed, it would be 100% impossible for opposition parties to win elections within the states. It is common knowledge what goes on with the State ‘Independent’ Electoral Commissions.
Not all countries have decentralized police systems. Some have adopted a middle ground between centralized and decentralized methods. What is most important is that the system is well suited to national dynamics: Japanese police have a 99% conviction rate. The island nation has a very low crime rate yet Japan’s National Police Agency is a central coordinating body for the decentralized police system. This means there is a national unit with supervision over the prefectural departments. Law enforcement in Switzerland is the exclusive preserve of the 26 cantons (states of the confederation). India has a federal police system with specialized functions while the states also have their own police force. It is different strokes for different folks.
Here’s what we should do: local policing is excellent and necessary but we ought to be sincere about it given our peculiar disposition.
First, we need to remove the excess baggage from the Nigerian Police Force: why do we have the NPF Microfinance Bank? Why do we have the Police Officers’ Wives Association? What happens to civilian husbands of female politicians? These are distractions. Do away with them! As a matter of urgency, and with the backing of the law, not IGP pronouncements, all officers must be detached from VIPs. Only principal officers of the three arms of government should have police orderlies, or better still let the DSS give them security cover. Let big men and women patronize private security companies. More jobs.
Policemen should not be seen as dregs of society. Policing is serious business. We need to raise the bar of entry and improve training. More training colleges are needed. The existing ones should be overhauled. Upgrade the curriculum. I suggest a minimum entry of Ordinary National Diploma (OND) and ability to speak fluent English and one local language of your state of residence.
The conditions of service must be improved. A policeman’s job is a risky one. Pay him well. A minimum of N100, 000 for the lowest cadre is my suggestion. Life insurance, pension, 20–30 day leave, health insurance. This is what the national assembly should be debating but will they talk about it? No. They haven’t done so in 20 years. Police reform is critical now than an\t any other time, we cannot continue to domesticate our military sending them on assignments that should be the exclusive preserve of the police.
All police stations must be upgraded. Nigerian police stations are slightly better than slaughterhouses. All cases should be computerised which means all officers should be computer literate and of course, let there be internet.
Make officers serve in their states of residence (not state of origin). This is why they have to be bilingual. English being compulsory, in addition to a local language. Thus we can ensure that a woman from Oturkpo lives in Oturkpo and serves therein or in the environs. They know the terrain, they know the people and they know the language.
Good policing is expensive and requires smart work. The money for funding is available from the security votes collected by governors. Security Vote is a devilish contraption by the governing class to brazenly steal from us. The legislators in Abuja and the states can also cut down on their salaries and allowances. There is enough money to get serious work done. Every adult in this country knows that.
No solution is fool-proof but in my heart of hearts, I am sure this process can significantly solve a lot of policing problems. The apposite committees in the national assembly can bother their heads about the details of some of these suggestions that is why Nigerians pay them. Until such a time when it is clear to all that the governing elite has become altruistic and service-oriented, we do not need and cannot run state police. It is a call for mayhem and calamity.