In Search Of A New Police Model (I)


The proposal for the creation of State Police has been a subject of intense debate in the last decade or more. This, in part, can be attributed to the rise of armed attacks orchestrated by diverse interests either pursuing divisive agenda or seeking predatory ends in virtually all geo-political zones. At different times, public intellectuals, especially those who specialise in Security and Strategic Studies, have offered divergent views on the pros and cons of the State Police, a truly decentralised police structure that focuses on ensuring public order at sub-national level. While some argue for the fundamentality of a decentralised police structure that reflects the true characters of our federation, others oppose the proposal on diverse grounds. The latter, for instance, emphasises its possibility of deepening the culture of impunity at the sub-national level. They also fear that the Governors may arbitrarily deploy the police under their control against the opposition political parties, perceived social critics and other highly critical actors, hence endangering our nascent democracy.

Indisputably, this fear is truly ominous given the arbitrary use of power by some Governors. However, it is not sufficient a ground for the outright disapproval of this proposal, especially at a time when the cost of insecurity is no longer bearable for our fatherland. It is therefore paramount to critically dissect state police purely from the perspective of political economy. As an approach, political economy literally measures how politics defines the economy and how the economy in turn redefines politics. The interplay of politics and economics, either formally or informally, plays out daily in the conduct of our nation’s affairs.

But we rarely emphasise the application of this approach to dissecting the functionality of our federation. This interplay, if methodically applied, can deepen our understanding of the timeless demand for an alternative police system now that the National Assembly has initiated another process to review the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.

Nigeria, a federation of 36 states, six geo-political zones and Federal Capital Territory (FCT), is on the cusp of history. Its inherent structural imbalance influenced the decision of the National Assembly to review the 1999 Constitution. The  process, initiated in December 2023 to produce a new grundnorm that truly reflects the federal character of Nigeria, is steadily ongoing and simultaneously progressing at the Senate and House of Representatives.

Unlike the previous political dispensations, this process has not merely spurred renewed debates about our national security architecture and governance structure at large. It has equally elicited public confidence in the resolve of the National Assembly to deliver a fairly recalibrated political order that will bolster the aspirations of all Nigerians, whether poor or rich, old or young.

At the end of the review, we all hope the outcome of this process will transform to a new constitutional order that will birth a more functional federal system. But is the process really necessary? For me, I strongly believe, the process is highly imperative given the dysfunctional nature of our federal system. This system is dysfunctional due to its failure to decisively address the deficit inherent in our political and economic spaces. It is also dysfunctional due to the prevailing security conditions that plague nearly all constituents of our federation.

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No Nigerian, at home and in the diaspora, can dispute the unacceptable conditions of our federation or the stark realities of our fatherland. These realities manifest from time to time in diverse reports of extremist violence in the North-east, banditry and kidnapping in North-west, farmer-herder clashes in the Middle Belt, separatist aggression in the South-east, age-long resource conflict that plagues the South-south and territorial inversion in the South-west.

Obviously, these security trends have become a part of our national life. Almost all federating units, in one way or the other, have their bitter share of these conditions, though the prevalence may differ from state to state. And as a result, lives have been

cut short; indigenous people uprooted from their ancestral roots; domestic economy profusely haemorrhaging; and our collective assets unduly attacked for reasons that cannot be justified. Yet, as a federation, we have not come up with constructively contrived strategies to nip these horrible conditions in the bud.

Since the birth of the Fourth Republic, these grievous conditions have spawned diverse national conversations. In 2005, for instance, the conversation led to the convocation of the National Political Reforms Conference, which died a natural death due to the democratically perverse recommendation of a third term. In 2014, the National Constitutional Conference was convened to address all these heinous conditions that eclipse our collective peace, progress and prosperity. But its outcome ended up in our national archive as the then president predicted. Also, in 2017, the All Progressives Congress constituted a Committee on True Federalism with a view to addressing our heinous structural imbalance. The committee completed its mandate with a far- reaching report that recommended state police, resource control and fiscal federalism, among others.

However, the conversation has gained more traction with the resolve of the National Assembly to review the grundnorm that governs our federation. Unlike the previous exercises, we are not just undertaking another review as the Parliament of the Federal Government. Rather, we are undertaking this national assignment as the Parliament of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, a legislative power derived from Section 4(1-4) of the 1999 Constitution.

Under this clause, the National Assembly is vested

 

with the power to specifically “make laws for the peace, order

and good government of the Federation or any part thereof…”

 

This power, as enshrined under the provision, distinctly includes

the power to amend, review or even produce an entirely new

federal constitution that will decisively address our current socio-

economic and political realities. Now, as the Parliament of the

Federation, this is exactly the power we are now exercising to

resolve highly critical questions that gravely threaten life and

property; de-incentivise strategic investments and undermine our

collective resolve to build one resilient, vibrant and invincible

federation, mainly in the last two decades, even more.

 

These questions often include: What are the triggers of perilous

security conditions that plague our federation? Who are the

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masterminds aiding these conditions? Why did they resort to

armed violence? What are the costs of their actions? And how

best can we transform this unpleasant security context to a more

stable environment that guarantees collective prosperity? Each

of these questions has substantially been answered one way or

the other.

 

As a federation, however, we have not agreed on how these

answers can be methodically applied or what exactly we can do

to create an environment where a regime of effective public

order prevails without let or hindrance. As a result, diverse

proposals aimed at establishing such a regime or engendering

internal stability often sharply polarise nationalities that constitute

this federation.

 

The proposals essentially can be reduced to two separate

strands, which public intellectuals of diverse ideological

orientations have canvassed within their spaces of persuasion.

The conservatives, for instance, have embraced a centrally

controlled police doctrine, which in entirety domiciles the policing

powers exclusively in the Federal Government. Also, the

progressives firmly hold to the principle of devolving policing

 

powers to other constituents of the federation – be it region,

states or local – with a view to providing an eclectic approach to

the supreme mandate of ensuring human lives and protecting

collective assets.

 

The politics of state police creation is as deep as the ethno-

religious fissures that characterise Nigeria itself. And its depth

forms the core of the conservative persuasion that favours the

retention of Sections 214-216 of the 1999 Constitution. This

persuasion simply implies a centrally controlled police order in

which the Federal Government retains the absolute power of

providing security and ensuring internal stability. In the main, its

proponents believe mere investments in training police officers;

prioritising their welfare, recruiting more operatives and

upscaling their operational capacity, among others, will

guarantee public order and internal stability.

 

The proposal to adopt or establish State Police has viciously

come under sustained attacks for different explanations. First,

the conservatives have argued that the Governors will use it as

an instrument of oppression against their perceived political

enemies if the Federal Government shares policing powers with

sub-national governments. This fear is indisputably tenable given

the highhandedness of some Governors. However, does this

really suggest that we should throw away the baby with bath

water?

 

Second, other critics frequently cited the partisanship of the

district, provincial and regional police in the First Republic to

justify their opposition to the adoption of State Police. They

explained how the political elite deployed the police operatives

under their control against their perceived and potent political

foes. For them, the creation of State Police can further deepen

the subsisting regime of vicious impunity at the state level. Even

though it might have failed before now, does it mean the state

police model cannot succeed in this contemporary time,

 

especially with the increasingly cascading response capacity of

the Nigeria Police?

 

These explanations are not obviously convincing enough to

disapprove the proposal for State Police outright. And this can

mainly be understood from different socio-economic and political

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dimensions. In the first instance, whether in principle or practice,

Nigeria is a federation of 36 states, six geo-political zones and

one FCT. Ordinarily, the realities of Nigeria’s governance

structure should define its national security architecture. This

simply suggests that a centrally controlled police system can

hardly be responsive enough in a federal context with unitarist

foundation and pillars. Accordingly, a police system that will

respond decisively to our internal challenges ought to reflect the

intrinsic characters of our federation.

 

Globally, also, demography often determines the size, strategy

and structure of the police system a federation will adopt. This

singular attribute largely defines the way most emerging

democracies protect their citizens; secure their collective assets

and create an environment for a functional economy. Nigeria, as

one of the world’s fastest growing populations, cannot continue

operating a unitarist security architecture despite its strong

federal tendencies. Such a policing model cannot meaningfully

address existential threats to our internal cohesion and stability.

 

Unlike in 1979 when we had a population of 70.75 million,

Nigeria is now a federation of 229 million people, currently the

world’s sixth biggest country, as shown in the demographic data

of the United Nations. Contrarily, as revealed in the recent

presentation of the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Kayode

Egbetokun, Nigeria has a police-citizen ratio of 1-650. This ratio

is a far cry from a ratio of 1-460, which according to the United

Nations, is a minimum requirement for every sovereign state or

territory worldwide. This shortfall further reinforces the

dysfunctionality of the centrally controlled model we are currently

operating.

 

 

Effective policing, therefore, is always a function of

understanding the security environment. This evidently requires

all operatives to understand the peculiarities of the security

context without ambiguity. It also means they understand the

culture, history, language and values of the people they are

engaged to protect. It entails that they have built, even

maintained a network of social capital that can help them

function effectively. This suggests that they are familiar with their

areas of responsibility, mainly the socio-economic dynamics that

often breed internal challenges within the security environment.

 

As currently constituted, the Nigeria Police does not possess any

of these attributes, which I strongly believe, is central to crafting

an alternative national security architecture that will guarantee

the protection of lives and property. In other words, the

dysfunctionality of the current police system directly correlates to

the prevalence of criminal incidents in virtually all states of the

federation. This further justifies the public demand for an

alternative police system that can deepen internal stability and

incentivise diverse investors from within and without.

 

However, the progressives do not in any way share the

conviction of the conservatives. Rather, in absolute terms, they

propose the need to recraft Sections 214-216 of the 1999

Constitution to introduce local, state or regional police into the

country’s security architecture. This also suggests the exigency

of devolving policing powers to other federating units – local and

state governments. It is not entirely new to Nigeria’s political

system.

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About Author
God'swill Ofigo
Nigeria Blogger / Social Media Promoter/ Talent Manager/ Entertainer/ CEO OfyNaija Blog. WhatsApp: 0904709861

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