State And Local Government Police: Restructuring/Devolution Of Police Powers

August 8th, 2018

In terms of maintenance of peace, security, law and order, the Nigerian total environment is under enormous stress-insecurity. State Police and Local Government Police would be unique features for State and Local Government Area respectively for Nigeria. Canada, US, UK etc. have them also in towns and institutional levels of authorities. “The State Police has statewide authority to conduct law enforcement activities and criminal investigations. In general they perform functions such as enforcing traffic laws on State roads and inter-State expressways, overseeing the security of the State administrative complex, protecting the Governor, training new officers for local police forces. They support local police and help to coordinate multi-jurisdictional task force activities in serious or complicated cases in those states that grant full police powers statewide” (Google search: Wikipedia). The present socioeconomic-cum-political situation in Nigeria is at very crucial and unstable crossroads; rabid insecurity is widespread countrywide and seems to have gone out of control. There is great need for creation of State and Local Government Police. The ruling APC and opposition parties such as PDP are at a loss on how to make progress upon the national economy; provision of law and order, peace and security; and tackling endemic corruption etc. Fears of deaths and dying are commonplace.

Human life has become common and valueless. Roads for distant travels are unsafe. People are afraid to live in their homes or travel out safely; afraid of being killed, robbed or kidnapped by Boko haram, insurgents, bandits, kidnappers, headsmen, human traffickers, cattle-rustlers etc. Life has become nasty, brutish and short. Meanwhile there are security agencies who ought to contain these criminals: the Nigeria Police, DSS, EFCC, the Armed Forces (Army, Navy and Air Force), Civil Defense, Customs and Immigration etc. But weaknesses of national security system are many and varied. Using the Nigeria Police as a case example, the population of the Police for protection of over 180 million Nigerians is adversely-too-small as the rank-and-file are regrettably-low. Many of them are poorly-paid and accommodated. Their crowded barracks have poor hygiene and sanitation; and are not conducive to decent living particularly for those with large families. Their humiliating office-spaces are appalling and have nothing to write home about. This affects their corporate image and job performance. Some policemen/women live in rented houses where they mix up with civilians whom they are supposed to monitor and manage from a distance. They lack adequate logistic support in terms of vehicles, office equipments, ICT and enough weaponry. It is scandalous to watch police men/women by roadside waving down all brands of car-owners for lift to/fro their offices or homes. They may get lifts from marauding criminals without knowing. They have problems with promotions of staff that are delayed for long periods to happen if they ever come at all. Other ranks who upgrade themselves to become graduates through in-service training stay in their junior ranks for years without conversion or promotion. The police like other public servants are poorly-paid such that their salaries cannot carry them and their families far enough before end of the month. These ill-loaded baggage result in poor performance, bad national and international image/ratings. Worst still the entire Nigeria Police is fully-controlled under one top IGP command-structure of the Federal government of Nigeria from/at Abuja.

The Inspector General of Police (IGP) controls the entire Police Force. Even though State Governors are Chief Security Officers with Executive Powers but the powers do not include use of Nigeria Police. The State Commissioner of Police for most serious security matters, must obtain clearance from IGP at/from Abuja before taking action. This cultivates insecurity. At some instances the IGP must consult the President before taking orders or instructions. The country needs more manpower and effective police men and women. The Nigeria Police is poorly-funded and not well-remunerated. Many of them hardly-go for retraining.

The social and economic problems of Nigeria Police will be greatly-reduced and drastically-controlled by a three-tier system of: the Federal Police, State Police and Local Government Area Police. The Constitution should be amended urgently to reflect these three-tier arms of national Police Force. A three-tier security unit for Nigeria Police should be created for the Federal, State and LGA-controlled authorities with specific schedules of duties assigned to each control-component of the three-tiers. Town unions and Igwes-in-Council should also set up Vigilante Services that work closely with State and LGA Police authorities. Nigeria is geographically-large, politically-complex and demographically-extensive with diverse interest groups, needs and demands.

The country has enormous financial and material resources to shoulder such a three-tier Police Force if the Economy is well-managed. The State and LGA Police Force, supported by vibrant local Vigilante Services run by town unions, will be more focused in their operational territories. They will be familiar with terrain of operations. They will know their people closely and the people will know them. Crimes/criminality will drastically be reduced as the police will be nearby all the time. Erring police men and women would watch their acts. The country is supposed to be practicing Democracy as in the US, UK, Canada etc. Nigeria copies what these countries are doing to move their nations forward in peace, unity, security, law and order.

In Canada, the US etc. they have Federal, State, Community and even Institution Police such as Universities. The duties and empowerment of each component of the Force are dutifully-well-spelt out to the knowledge of all stakeholders. Funding may not be a major problem since the Budget for the Police would be reorganized in consideration of the three-tier approach instead of the earlier behemoth of concentrated one-tier national Police Force practice. Even today States like Lagos, Anambra, Rivers etc. provide funds and logistics-support to Federal Police in their States. All the same, State and LGA Police system can be made optional for those that want to establish their Police should be allowed to do so.

In Restructuring of Nigerian Governance and polity that is today very popular nationwide, there must be serious Devolution of powers from the Centre at Abuja to the composite units of States or Regions as may be agreed upon by constituent stakeholders. Restructuring has become sine qua non for national stability and existence. Restructuring and proper Devolution of powers from the Centre to States/Regions will engineer major progressive changes in vision, mission and scope of administrative processes for Nigeria. The resulting document as a Constitution will replace the unacceptable 1999 Constitution. This will be of paramount importance to stabilizing the nation State, a sine qua non for national survival. There is great need to establish mobilized and empowered States and Local Government Areas Police to complement security activities of overburdened Federal Government Police. It is feared that Governors may misuse State and LGA Police for political misadventure thereby making the Force lose focus. They argue over the way and manner Local Government Council elections are conducted by State Electoral Commissions usually adjudged of not being free and fair.

There should be watertight Laws in setting up State and LGA Police. Proper schedule of duties and precise functions of State/LGA Police should be well-spelt out and approved accordingly. Such should include powers of President, State Governor, State Commissioner of Police, State Police Service Commission, State House of Assembly, IGP and duties of the State and Federal High Courts. The Laws should contain oversight clauses to check/prevent possible interventions/interferences of objectionable type by anybody within/outside the State. Nigerian governance is overdue for establishment of State and LGA Police. It will reduce crime, eliminate insecurity, enthrone law and order; and create employment opportunities.

By Boniface Egboka, UNIZIK, Awka, Anambra State; E-mail: boniegboka@gmail.com

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