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OPINION: Equivocal Trajectory Of State Policing In Nigeria

By Egungwu Chukwuka Benjamin 

As we all know, everything that has an advantage also has a disadvantage. State Policing has become one of the most controversial topics still under deliberation by Nigerian lawmakers.

The bill which was proposed by Rep. Benjamin Kalu and other 15 law makers has been passed for a second reading.

When talking about state policing, what comes into everyone’s mind is that system of policing, whereby the police force are under state authority or control, unlike the federal policing whereby the system is centralized. 

Power for final decision making is mostly vested on the Inspector General of Police (IGP), who is the most senior officer in the service. 

The intention of the bill is to aid in combating insecurity in the country, which has brought fear in the mind of the citizens.

The upsurge in cases of kidnap, banditry, armed robbery and other social vices led to different regions in the country introducing regional policing (vigilante groups).

On 9th January, 2020, the Western Nigerian Security Network referred to as, ‘Operation Amotekun’ was founded by six states of South Western Nigeria, with their headquarters located in Ibadan, Oyo State. 

The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), in December, 2020, launched the Eastern Security Network (ESN) to secure the eastern region.

February, 2024,  national dailies reported that a Fulani Socio-Cultural Association, Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, launched a vigilante group to combat insecurity in Nasarawa State.

Though the Nigerian police debunked having any affiliation with the Miyetti Allah’s vigilante group and the Eastern Security Network.

State Policing might aid in curbing crimes but may also bring up other problems that will undermine democracy in the country. 

In this piece, I will highlight some of the major problems that state policing might bring up, due to differences in culture, religion and tribe.

Sentiments In Dispute Resolution:  If the bill is finally approved , definitely we expect recruitment of officers to be hinged on indigenship.

This will bring up issues and Complaints of sentimental judgement in dispute resolution.

Tribalism is already a factor militating against national unity and integration in the country. There is a tendency that people from other states, based in a particular state might be denied justice when they have problems with an indigene of the state or community they live in.

It is believed that state policing will make the inhabitants of the state more comfortable, and closer to the police, because the officers are from the state and they know the nooks and crannies of the state where criminals base.

Bribery will be lowered to a cheaper level of buying drinks for officers or visiting the criminals to eat with them, and when going they will be given their own share of the fund that was obtained through criminality.

Once there is familiarity between the police and the criminals, there will be compromise in the stands. It is always difficult for an officer to expose or arrest a family member or friend due to the relationship. 

Abuse of Power By State Governors: Some governors might become a dictator or bad emperors, they will use the police as an instrument to frustrate or intimidate their opposition, especially during political rallies and elections.

The freedom of the press, right to freedom of speech of the citizens and right to peaceful protest might be trampled upon, despite being attributes of democracy. 

We have many instances of state governors who were accused of using the police as a means to intimidate the press and their rivals from an opposition party. 

Payment Of Salary And Provision Of Ammunition: Some state in Nigeria like; Lagos, Rivers, Delta et-al might be able to manage their State security, in terms of payment of salaries and providing the needed ammunition/machines to combat insecurity, because they can generate high revenue internally, while some depends on federation allocation to run the state. 

If payment, not salaries and provision of ammunition was a problem to the federal government, definitely it will be a problem to states who depend on them.

Security Officers are supposed to be handled like health professionals (doctors) , they are always vital in every society and should be paid well, with good medical care because our lives and properties are protected by them.

The idea of reforming the Nigerian police force through state policing might work, but to me the first thing the Nigerian government should have taken into consideration is to resolve the root causes of insecurity in the country.

  • Poverty:  This is one of the reasons why there is upsurge in insecurity and terrorism in the country
  • High rate of unemployment: This is another factor, even when the citizens or inhabitants of a geopolitical environment are willing to work, they can’t secure a job. 
  • Religious Intolerance: The inability of citizens to tolerate or accommodate another religion. Religion in Nigeria is now very competitive, people get slaughtered just because their religious affiliations are different from the murderers/terrorists.
  • Partisanship in Politics: Let the truth be known, partisanship in politics played a very big role in the occurrence of terrorism/ insecurity in the country. For instance the herdsmen and Boko Haram in the Northern part of the country is a clear case of partisan politics.

I was conversing with a friend. I quizzed him about the job description of Nigeria Security Civil Defense (NSCDC). After proper surfing of the internet, we still find out that their job description and that of the police is still the same. 

The federal government should be ready to utilize already established agencies. It is just like giving the same role to different security agencies and still no result is achieved. 

It is very nice to try out new ways to resolve issues, but we should also study why it worked out in those countries or places before adoption.  

In conclusion, if all the listed issues are looked into, it will aid the government in achieving their main purpose. It is very important to note that building strong trust between the citizens and the police is very vital in combating insecurity, because it strengthens communication and relationship between both parties, without fear of victimization or betrayal. 

 Egungwu Chukwuka Benjamin is a freelance Journalist/blogger, writes in from Lagos. 


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