State Police and Imports from President Buhari’s Recent Interview

January 12, 2022
State Police

By Jerome-Mario Chijioke Utomi

It is common knowledge that President Muhammadu Buhari during an exclusive interview with Channels Television said state police is not an option for the nation.

“Find out the relationship between local government and the Governors. Are the third tiers of government getting what they are supposed to get constitutionally? Are they getting it? Let the people in the local government tell you the truth, the fight between local governments and the Governor,” he said.

“The role of traditional rulers must not be undermined because in their areas they know who is who, even by families, not to even talk of individuals,” he added, stating further that, “So, we have to revert to that system for us to have effective security in the localities.

Undeniably, some local government administrators in Nigeria are going through excruciating pains in the hands of their various state governors. With that concern expressed, Mr President demonstrated that he understands that the most important part of a leader’s job is preparing others for what lies ahead whether in the concrete terms of an actual scenario or the more conceptual terms of a vision.

However, one point that Mr President failed to remember particularly as it relates to state police is the global belief that norms can have exceptions. And by challenging a particular norm, one can play a role in changing it.

Again, Mr President’s remarks, coming at a time the nation is laced with heightened insecurity which includes but is not limited to banditry, armed robbery, kidnapping among other ugly political and socio-economic events, showed that there exists some ingrained lessons/takeaways for all to ponder on.

First and very important, it is obvious that the defective nature of Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution has discouraged development in the country. It is also responsible for the myriad of problems confronting the nation. Its weak provisions have more than anything else conspired with other challenges to make it possible for us as a nation to keep doing the same thing over and over again and expect a different result.

Secondly, Mr President’s declaration reinforces the belief in some quarters that once a direction is chosen by an average Nigerian leader, instead of examining the process meticulously and setting the right course; one that will allow us to overcome storm and reach safety before we can progress and achieve our goals, many obstinately persist with the execution of such plans regardless of a minor or major shift in circumstance.

This habit of tackling challenges with the same thinking used when it was created and doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result has as a consequence made Nigerians suffer greatly for long.

Thirdly, insecurity did not start under the current regime. Remember the kidnap of Chibok schoolgirls on April 14, 2014. But it assumed a large-scale shape under the current federal government.

Remember also the kidnap of the University of Maiduguri lecturers in July 2017; kidnap of six aid workers on July 18, 2019; the Kankara schoolboys kidnap on December 11, 2020, among others. But the Buhari regime is still in the habit of tackling the challenge which has morphed to the ‘next level’ with the same thinking used when it was created.

This failure is most visible in their inability to understand why banditry is on the increase, and why the existing police system no longer supports the original road map for crime control. Such failure is exacerbated by an utter lack of political will to challenge the basic assumptions in the nation’s constitution in order to see why the creation of state police has become the only way to fight criminality not just in Nigeria but also across the globe.

Aside from the new awareness that globally, leadership/governance can no longer be viewed in a unitary way as such thinking is out-fashioned if an objective analysis can replace emotional discussion regarding state police, it is glaring that there are no federal police or state police models, but there are fundamental differences between the two.

While cultural and geographical homogeneity which are strong factors and advantages of state policing are lost in federal policing, state police depend on these factors and more such as historical and friendship to keep society orderly and without anarchy. This value no doubt makes productive policing without the disorder. And state governments have the capacity to fulfil this obligation.

To further arrive at the answer, one will again recognize that the President is aware of this claim. The facts are there.

In August 2019, while he played host to the traditional rulers from the Northern part of the country led by the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III, the President stated that the ongoing reforms of the police would include recruitment of more hands, cultivation of stronger local intelligence and networking with communities, traditional rulers and adequate training.

This in specific terms will include recruiting more police officers from their local government areas, where they would then be stationed in the best traditions of policing worldwide. Working with the state governments, we intend to improve the equipping of the police force with advanced technology and equipment that can facilitate their work.

In all fairness, Buhari never used the word, ‘state police” but it was implied.

From the attributes of his speech, he did not only underline the importance of but underscores the virtues and advantages of recruiting more police officers from their local government areas, where they would then be stationed in the best traditions of policing worldwide.

Precisely, this form of security architecture and community policing was amazingly the part of what the pro-state police and nations’ restructuring advocates demanded –particularly as it was obvious that the vast majority of states can afford to equip their officers with the sophisticated security gadgets Mr President listed above.

Even as Nigerians continue to ponder over Mr President’s position on state police, what bothers this piece in addition to the above is that  President Muhammadu Buhari had earlier, during a nationwide broadcast on Monday, January 1, 2018, among other things, noted that ‘no human law or edifice is perfect. Whatever structure we develop must periodically be perfected according to the changing circumstances and the country’s socio-economic developments’.

Going by this insight, this piece would have loved the President to view the current police arrangement in the country as one of those imperfect structures that we must develop periodically according to the changing needs of time/circumstances and the country’s socio-economic developments.

Surely and finally, if providing adequate security for the masses is our national goal/priority, what the masses are saying, and wanting in my understanding, is that state police will proffer the best solution.

Utomi Jerome-Mario is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), a Lagos-based Non-Governmental Organization (NGO). He can be reached via [email protected]/08032725374.

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