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State Police: A Project Whose Time Has Come

The Holy Book says in the Book of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 that: To everything there is a there is a season and a time to every purposes under the heaven. There is a time to be born and a time to die and a time to plant and a time to pkuck up that which is planted…. etc.

There is a season for everything under the sun.

For the campaigners for creation of state police in Nigeria and for Nigerians in general, it is now quite obvious, except to the wilfully blind, that that time has come in the life of this country to change our policing system and structures if we must surmount the insecurity that has held the country down.

There has never been any other time ripe for such open and frank discussions on the elusive but necessary project and idea than now.

Now, all parts of Nigeria’s body are aching, aching as a result of the failure to do that which is necessary to have a police formation and strength that will ensure security of lives and property which is the first duty of any government at all levels.

From Zamfara to Enugu, Ekiti to Kebbi, Kaduna to Ondo and Ebonyi, the blood of the innocent and deprived is flowing while the rich and privileged too are not freely enjoying their wealth be they legitimate or stolen.

Everybody feels the pains of insecurity. It rains on both the emotional casualty and the physical casualty. But the latter and their dependants and relatives feel it more.

When a citizen is held hostage by non-state actors who have turned kidnapping, banditry into brick business, both he /she and those at home are not free. They suffer emotional torture and trauma.

Those at home, in the words of John Pepper Clark, the Poet, are emotional casualties who daily grieve for their relative who are captives. When you are a captive, you, your families and relatives beg even your foes to help bail you out.

In Nigeria it is that bad. Life has become short and brutish as a result of men who have turned kidnapping and terrorism to business.

Nigeria is aching not necessarily because of the failure of the people but systemic failure that has made insecurity rain fall on everybody: the rich, the privileged, the poor and the deprived.

For now, banditry knows no boundary just as terrorism has no respect for status or class.

In 1960, when Nigeria got her Independence as a free nation, it had 12,000 policemen of all ranks to protect the citizens.

With a population of 48,856,332, it was able to relatively police the country and protect the citizenry even with the then colonial police bequeathed to the diverse country.

When the military struck on January 15, 1966, the population of the country had increased to 51,020,296.

However, the fact remains that the 12,000 or so policemen are made up of both local, regional and federal police.

But the scrapping of regional and local police by the military government reduced the potency of the Force to adequately protect the citizenry.

Between then and 1999, when the Fourth Republic came on stream, a difference of 33 years, the police strength had increased to only 160,000 to cater for a population of over 150,000,000.

This figure is derived after the military government abrogated regional police as parts of its measures to turn the country to a unitary government in order to conform to the military command structure.

However, between 1999 and 2008, the various civilian governments doubled the strength of the police to 371,800 officers and men.

This ratio falls far short of the United Nations recommended ratio of one police officer to 450 citizens.

The UN however did not recommend the half baked and ill-equipped men of the Police Force we had now to confront the increasing need for police with a restive population the country has grown into.

When he came on board last year, Kayode Egbetokun, the Inspector General of Police said for the country to adequately police its citizens, it would need some additional 190,000 men to adequately police the country.

Today, Egbetokun’s projection has become grossly inadequate given the increasing violence, caused in turn by both the growing restiveness among citizens.

The clamour for government’s attention as a result of the economic deprivation, which has thrown many able-bodied out-of-job coupled with the falling standard of living, grinding poverty that our depreciating currency has inflicted upon its citizens.

Apart from the above, the communal crisis, religious bigotry of blood-letting and violence that Boko Haram and its associated groups have inflicted on the citizenry, have turned the country into a military state.

The militarisation of various parts of the country as a result of ethno-religious conflicts could have better been handled by a well-equipped police given its training.

It will be recalled that except for the outbreak of the Maitatsine violent religious sect in Kano in 1981 or thereabout, outbreak of violent crisis have always been contained by anti-riot policemen, especially the ‘Kill and Go’ created by the late Inspector General of Police, Sunday Adewusi. It later was modified to the Anti-Riot Police Squad.

However, the advent of the military government of Major General Muhammadu Buhari and late Brigadier Tunde Idiagbon, saw the stripping of its powers.

The result is that civil strife that could have been better handled by the police has now become the primary responsibilities of soldiers not trained to engage civilians. The result is what we have today.

Today, in Nigeria, armed bandits prospecting for solid minerals all over the country have turned into terror gangs abducting citizens for hefty ransoms.

Those captives who are lucky if their families pay hefty ransom got released while many got wasted.

Some families not too lucky even got back corpses of their loved ones after paying ransoms.

Today, terrorists occupied the landscape of most of the six geopolitical zones in the country extorting money, killing, maiming while the Federal Government and National Assembly looked away.

They look away because both arms of government have become captive to a unitary law that outlaws the creation of state police that could have drastically reduced local conflicts that have assumed national dimension.

When you have kidnapping and banditry turned into quick means of making money, then you have a monumental problem in your hand.

This is so especially in a country where earning a decent living has become more difficult than committing crimes, which gains more potency daily.

Today in Nigeria, the rich also cry while the state watches helplessly.

A country that has politicised the creation of state police has no alternative to what it is experiencing now.

For seven states in the Northern parts of the country, its preference for creating Hisbah-Sharia police in 1999, has been a hypocritical exercise as her problems have been compounded by mass poverty, whose twin products are religious zealotry in the name of Boko Haram and Banditry now effectively exported to other parts of the country.

Last week, two traditional rulers in Ekiti State fell to the killing machine of bandits and terrorists whose motives have now compounded the nations ethno-religious crisis.

However, now that both the South-East and South-West have now joined the North in the orgy of violence, you ask yourself what the Presidency and National Assembly are waiting for to grant states permission to create police to secure their people.

At least, for a start, the states could be allowed to recruit and maintain the 190,000 extra policemen which Egbetokun said is required to adequately police the country.

States could be asked to create police based on their peculiar needs, to stem the gradual collapse of the nation’s moribund security architecture.

Even then, the community and local police being operated in the First Republic, if it had been allowed to stay in spite of its shortcomings, could have mitigated the disaster of today.

The moment traditional rulers start organising security outfits to protect themselves as the South-West traditional rulers have vowed, then the consequences of unorganized non-state actors will lead to a disintegration of the country which opponents of state police dread.

Now that both the former military leaders like Bode George and leading opposition party, the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, led by Bauchi Governor Bala Mohammed and Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo, has joined serious advocates of state police, President Bola Tinubu must seize the momentum and send the enabling bill to the National Assembly to act.

The tokenism of security meetings of NASS members with serving service chiefs are just mere time-wasting tactics.

Tinubu is by inference facing the biggest challenge to his legitimacy as a result of the growing army of lawless blood-sucking demons now rampaging the country.

The time for him to act and seize the initiative is now. Tomorrow may be too late.

State or even multi-level police is an idea whose time has come.

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