By Shola Omoregie
There is a hidden reason for the clamor by some Nigerian politicians for the establishment of state police. Some argue that the establishment of state police would advance true federalism derived from the constitution. Others argue that state police would help in combating the prevailing insecurity in the country, as well as promoting deeper practice of democracy. On the contrary, terrorist groups could hijack state police for their nefarious activities and politicians too could use state police to set up parallel forces to intimidate and oppress their opponents to the detriment of Nigeria. The federal government is better placed to fight insecurity and together with the people advance democracy in the country. What is important is the establishment of viable institutions.
The clamor for state police in Nigeria is an excuse by some politicians to establish their own fiefdoms. Allowing the establishment of state police will be the beginning of the breakup of Nigeria. If you start with state police, the next agitation will be for confederation.
Just imagine having state police in place in one state where assembly members have had a free-for-all fight. The governor, who will hand pick the commissioner of police and packs the police force with his thugs and cronies, will simply arrest his opponents in the state assembly, some of whom may simply disappear. The establishment of state police will be the end of credible elections and political freedom and will be the institution of state-sponsored gangsterism.
If the establishment of state police is allowed, it will be impossible to regulate the types of arms with which they will be equipped. State police will give unscrupulous governors limitless opportunity to import arms and to equip their private militias, allowing them to hold the power of life and death over their poor subjects. Extra judicial killings and executions will become the order of the day. This will be a trigger for violence, as aggrieved subjects will seek ways and means to survive the tyrannical rule of their governors. Simply put, our politicians are not mature enough to be given the power of controlling police forces at the state level. Then, there is the question of setting and adhering to some minimum standards of conduct and performance. As things stand today, Nigeria is having so many problems managing a centralized, federal police force. These problems will be greatly magnified if the system of police command, control and communications is decentralized.
A federal police force, if properly funded, equipped and trained, even with all its faults, remains the best option for Nigeria. From my personal experience, members of the Nigerian police seconded to international peacekeeping have performed exceptionally well in the missions where they operated under strict international rules. Unfortunately, when they return home after their assignments, it is a different story. There could be reasons why their performance at home has been wanting. An ill-equipped and underpaid force that is not well led is nothing more than a force that is ready for hire by the highest bidder. Throwing money at the police force is not the only option. Instead, the federal government should ensure that funds earmarked for the police are properly utilized and that there is effective oversight.