By Stephen Ubanna
After several years of behind the scene maneuvering , President Muhammadu Buhari, who was initially opposed to state police Force as obtained in the United States of America, USA, appears to have bowed to pressure to allow the establishment of state and Local government Police.
This is an indication that the country is heading towards practice of real fiscal Federal Federalism as being canvassed by Yemi Osibanjo, a Professor of Law and the Vice president as well the south-south and
The Katsina state born Nigerian President may have opposed state and local government because of the financial implication. He believes that the states may not be able to shoulder such additional financial burden because of their financial insolvency. According to him the Federal government had on several occasions released money to the states in the name of bailout to pay salaries and wondered how they could cope with the state police which requires proper funding. He believes that it would be wrong to train someone on the use of arms and eventually arm and at the end of the month, he is not paid as that may cause security in the state s they decide to turn the weapon against the innocent citizens to eke a living.
People may not have seen it in that light as they inst on state policing. The Vice President may not have helped matters as he had lent his voice to the call for state and local government policing attributing it to the increasing security Challenges in the country . He had cited the increasing activities of the Islamic Fundamentalists , popular BokoHaram, in the north east , armed banditry and Kidnapping in different indifferent parts of the country, particular the north western states of Zamfara and Katsina, the President home state.
Osinbajo , who may have spoken his mind on Thursday at the 9th National Assembly organised Security meeting, insists that it would help tighten security across the country. ”The state policing system is the way to go because a centralised system, as is currently practiced, cannot effectively secure the nation”, he had said.
Recall that the governors under the auspices of the Nigerian Governors Forum, NGF, had informed the President in 2018, that the country could not be policed effectively from Abuja, because of the poor maintenance of law and order across the country by the regular police. This includes patrolling the Highways, Land Borders, enforcing state laws and maintaining peace. They were optimistic that the state and local government police officers would be and assisting Principal law enforcement agencies when necessary including maintenance f peace and order in their respective states.
Abdullaziz Yari, then governor of Zamfara state and Chairman of the NGF, at the instance of the governors , had piled up pressure on the President including meetings with him on the need for him see reason on state policing and give approval to it. The NGF, had the backing of Bukola Saraki, then Senate President and Yakubu Dogara, former Speaker of House of Representatives.
The President remained hesitant as he insists that” there will be no state police”. In an interview with the VOA, he repeated his stand on state policing . The Statement may have strengthened the resolve of those championing the establishment of state and local government police including the state governors to continue the Campaign. The President has no option but to cave in.
As a prelude to the establishment of state and local government policing , he had set up a Committee, headed by Antony Ojukwu, a retired Inspector General of Police, AIG, and now, Executive Secretary, National Human Rights Commission. The eight-man Committee members , were said to toured round the country where they had interactions with the people to know their feeling about state and local government policing. They were surprised at the general response of the people in favor of state policing. The Committee were said to have received 113 Complaints on alleged Human Rights violations across the country and suggestions on how to restructure the Force in general to be more responsive.
Armed with their findings and the overwhelming support for state policing, the Committee has no option but to adopt it in its report which was submitted to the government last August. Recall that the President gave his words to implement the report.
Barely nine months after receiving the Ojukwu led Committee report on state and local government policing , the matter came up again on Monday June 3, 2019, when he had a closed door meeting with the Committee at the Presidential villa to receive the report on the reform of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS . The Committee which had exposed much abuse of Human Rights across the country by members of SARS, had made far reaching recommendations .
Note that the Committee had recommended that it should called Anti-Robbery section ,ARS, which was the original operational name across the country . They suggested that it should be operate under the Intelligence arm of the police of the police from the Divisional, Area, to the Headquarters level.
This is evident going by the recommendation that 37 police officers be dismissed from the Force while 24 others were recommended for prosecution. They were said to have directed the Mohammed Abubakar Adamu, the Inspector General of Police, IGP, to unravel the identity of 22 other police officers allegedly involved in Human Rights violation in the recent time.
The President may have been touched by the remarks of Ojukwu, the Committee Chairman, while presenting the report to him as he has promised that it would be studied by another Committee and a white Paper issued to give it legal backing. He may have gladdened the heart of many Nigerians when he finally gave his words there would be state and local government policing.
Despite throwing his weight behind state policing after several years of foot-dragging, there are fears on both official and unofficial circles that the states and the local governments may not cope with the funding of their own Force.
But Saraki , a former Senate President, had said that there was no basis for such fears. The former Senate President had said that proper funding of the Nigerian police and the state police are the solutions to the BokoHaram activities in the north east, armed Banditry and napping in the north west and other parts of the country. The 8th National Assembly may have taken advantage of the Police Reform Bill, to look at the level of insecurity in the country and proffer a long -term solutions which bothers on state and local government policing and proper funding of the nation’s police Force.
The Lawmakers may have made it clear to the President who was undecided on the matter , that unless the country ”go back to state and Community policing, as was the case in the past, the nation will continue to grapple with these insecurity problems which had wasted millions lives over the last decade.
Appealing to him to act fast on the matter to save the security situation of the country from degenerating, they maintained that state and Community policing remained the solutions in tackling the alarming security situation in the country, which the President agreed had reached ”grave dimension”.
Political watchers believe that there is nothing to celebrate yet about the planned state and local government policing as the Ojukwu’s Committee’s report may still have to be studied where it may be watered down to suit the interest of those opposed to state policing.
The Statement by Garba Shehu, a senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity speaks volume. ”Until a White Paper on the is produced, it will be premature and pre-emptive to suggest that the recommendations in the Ojukwu Committee’s report on state and local government policing have been approved by the President in part or whole”, he had said.
Shehu, may have cleared the air when he said that the President requested that the report be studied and a White Paper produced within three months. He disclosed that the President had given a directive that a three-man panel be set up to produce the White Paper.
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