Thursday, 16 August 2012

State Police: Former IGPs Advisory Report On Policing Is Misleading

The issue of state police in Nigeria has always been a controversial issue; a faction of the Nigerian Governors forum, mainly from the south is agitating for the creation of State police while their northern counterparts are kicking against the idea. To some Nigerians, the fear that the governors of each state might abuse the power of the police under their jurisdiction in the same manner the Nigerian Federal Government has been using police power for several years is a major challenge.
M.D Abubakar, IGP
The forum of the retired Inspectors General of Police know better; the governments in power have used them against the interest of the citizens in the past. They understand the executive rascality; the use of force to suppress the opposition, election rigging and power of guns. They also know why a sitting IGP must comply with the order (good or bad) of the sitting president to keep the job at all cost. The criteria of appointing the Nigerian IGPs sometimes were not based on competence but based on the political or personal connection. Hence, the absolute loyalty to the sitting dictator or executive president is highly imperative for the survival of office. Therefore, people with this type of background can never see the future and that is why their report has become worrisome and misleading.

Of course, the citizens have never had the real “Nigerian Police Service,” but what we have is the “Government Police Force.” It is well understood, the fears expressed in the report to the President Goodluck Jonathan by the forum of the retired IGPs.  Those fears could be genuine and relevant if only we are still looking at the policing as an instrument of force.  The Federal government wants the status quo to remain; a faction of the Governors forum wants their own weapons of abuse like the federal government whiles the northern faction felt their region will be at a disadvantage.

It is unfortunate that the league of the Nigerian retired IGPs, the people who supposed to be in the best position to encourage and facilitate the creation of state police still view the police as an instrument of suppression. However, the 21st century policing are about services and problem solving oriented of which the creation of state and local government police will go a long way to mitigate the present and future security challenges. The wealth of experiences of these retire IGPs would have been needed to create, develop and nurture the State police for our nascent democracy.

In today’s world, policing is not about the show or use of force; the police uniform is not a license to abuse or violates citizens’ right. It goes beyond the use of guns and baton; the modern policing are about stopping crimes before it happens; taken proactive measures against our adversaries and building a strong networking among all the agencies to stop crimes and enforce the law.

As we struggle to combat the menace of insecurity in Nigeria, the creation of state police is one of the viable strategies, which can stand in the way of terrorism and organized crimes. A national debate among the professionals, the civil society groups and policy makers will be desirable to further galvanize ideas, rub minds and analyze opinions in order to identify the overall benefit of the creation of state police to nurture our nascent democracy.

Policing plays a critical role in maintaining the security and safety of Nigerian society. The public has the right to expect efficient, fair, and impartial law enforcement. The highly politicized Federal government police force has not been able to meet those challenges due to poor organization, poor leadership, indiscipline, lack of qualified personnel, mediocrity, corruption, inadequate funding, and lack of motivation.

As public needs have changed, so are the structure, management, and leadership of police organizations affected.

There is no doubt in the fact that the security is capital intensive of which, some the State governments may not be able to fund the state own police departments but it is possible for them to fund the agencies that can carries out basic police service.
The state police may have a specific mandates like traffic control, local law enforcement, order maintenance, criminal investigation, and intelligence gathering. All this may not require them to carry deadly weapons and the Federal Police with more funding would be allowed to focus on other challenging issues like terrorism, highway patrol and other organized crimes in the society.

In addition, the forum also claims it regret what it terms “the cannibalisation of police functions by other organizations.”  The forum of the retired IGPs should know that police are trained to confront traditional criminals. Nigerian police officers are trained and equipped to deal with more traditional crimes However, the evolution of different crimes has led to the creation of specialized agencies even in the advance world.
Policing is a combination of tasks and responsibilities that are constantly changing. In the beginning, the police are responsible for everything, including immigration and custom services.  In today’s world there are different agencies responding to high tech crimes, tax evasion, narcotics, immigration and custom services.

Nigeria should not be an exception. The current police force has not been able to handle basic police responsibilities let alone of responding to other complicated issues which, requires special knowledge and expertise. The forum of IGPs should dissipate more energy to help the current government to reform the police and win the confidence of the people.

Nigerian policing must open its closed system and recognize that to function successfully in today's environment and culture, it needs information and data inputs from sources other than police. Policing is part of a larger, global society. It must recognize its ever-expanding and important role and constantly seek ways to prepare for and adapt to the changing times.

Furthermore, the communique issued by the forum argues that “even in developed democracies, such as the United Kingdom and the United States of America that are operating state and local police, they are now tilting towards a more centralized national police in dealing with contemporary challenges like terrorism and cybercrime.”
Of course, this assertion from the forum of the IGPs is not the real picture of how it operates in the advance democracies. For instance, security in the United States is a shared responsibility among all tiers of government; they all have specific mandates and have border lines of jurisdictions. All the security agencies have a mandate to tackle terrorism and other crimes through collaboration and sharing of intelligence. That is why there are “intelligence fusion centers” at all levels of government for them to share ideas, collect data, analyze, and process intelligence for the needed consumers.

The policing in the United States have passed through two stages of political to professional and currently the community policing era. The American experience during the professional reform era wanted the police officers to police in areas where they did not live or knew the people so they could police without favoritism in order to promote objective policing.  All this was done to keep State Troopers and police more objective in the manner they policed by not letting them become too close to the community they served.
The question becomes, Can a police officer be familiar with people, even be their friends, and be impartial in doing their police duties?  Fortunately, policing today, community policing era, now encourages police officers to become part of the community itself. Police are encouraged to become involved in community groups as individual citizens, not police officers. Some police officers are provided free housing in difficult neighborhoods so they can live as residents in the tough neighborhoods and better understand and care about the community area they are policing.

Moreover, a great deal of the responsibility for preparing for and responding to terrorist events rest with state police departments. Community policing presents an overarching philosophical orientation that agency can use to better deal with the threat of terrorist events and the fear that they may create. The community policing philosophy can be roughly divided into three interrelated elements: organizational change, problem solving, and external partnerships. Each element applies to the issues of terrorism prevention and response, as well as to fear.

The philosophy of community policing is important for police in preparing for possible terrorist acts and in responding to the fear they may create. Community policing involves broadening the nature and number of police function compared to traditional policing models. It emphasizes organizational change, active problem solving, and external partnerships to address issues that concern both the police and citizens.

In conclusion, Nigeria adopts a Federal system of government like the United States of America but operates it differently. One reason for not granting power to the State to create separate police departments come from the experience of the Nigerian civil war that ended in 1970. The need to keep the unity of Nigeria was the overriding interest of the authors of the constitution.  The people who opposed the idea of the state police have repeatedly cited executive rascality and the fact that those governors will abuse the process to suit their political agenda. These are genuine fears that the Nigerian government should consider.
However, those governors have the maximum tenure of eight years of which most of them would be made to face the penalties after the lost immunity. The EFCC has shown us the way.
Today, the insecurity has become a major obstacle for growth and development in Nigeria; hence, there is a need to adopt every measure that can help to combat the menace of terrorism and organized crimes in the society. The creation of State police is one of these measures.

Oludare Ogunlana is a Security Analyst and Member of International Association for Counterterrorism & Security Professionals

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