HEIGHTENED INSECURITY: A CASE FOR STATE POLICE

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Kidnapping for ransom is taking a more scary hue. The felons behind the macabre ‘trade’ are becoming ubiquitous. They are stalking the streets and invading homes in the city centres. They are despoiling the sacred comfort and relative safety of the home.
Before now, banditry and insurgency were largely restricted to the North. Bandits and killer-herdsmen, who came down South, were holed up mainly in dense forests, from where they occasionally ventured into the highways in the early hours or cool evenings, waylaid hapless travellers and escaped with their victims into their forest refuge.
The new phase of the gristly activities of these malefactors is rather infernal and bothersome. More scary is the discovery that locals are now working hand in glove with them. This is complicating the insecurity maelstrom. Locals not only know the terrain better, spying out potential targets for their gangs is a doddle for them.
The gang of marauders who killed two Ekiti monarchs, the Elesun of Esun-Ekiti, Oba David Babatunde Ogunsakin, and the Olumojo of Imojo-Ekiti, Oba Samuel Olusola, along Oke Ako-Irele Road two weeks ago were said to have been led by an 80- year- old ‘son of the soil’! Most of the recent kidnap victims down South were either hunted down on the streets or seized from their homes.
A monarch in Kwara State, the Onikoro of Koro, Oba Peter Aremu, a retired General, was mown down in his palace upper week for resisting kidnap. His queen was taken away; although  she has since been released. Six persons were kidnapped in two different operations in Ago Palace Way and in Greenland Estate on LASU-Isheri-Iba Road, both in Lagos at the close of 2023.
An unidentified LASU professor, according to reports, only narrowly escaped being abducted at Lanre Bus Stop about the same period on the same LASU-Isheri-Iba Road when kidnappers prowled that axis like ravenous wolves hunting for prey.
Only  last Wednesday, gunmen, believed to be kidnappers, invaded Alagemo community of Igbelaara, off Ijede Road, Ikorodu, Lagos. Two persons were shot dead as vigilantes in the area confronted them. They, however, succeeded in abducting an unidentified lady.
The successes these felons are recording is a signpost of failure of intelligence. Criminals are no ghosts. They reside among the people. Most times, people actually know them or at least suspect them. But the people choose to keep sealed lips because they no longer trust the police. 
That is the crux of the matter. Efficient crime fighting is no magic. It runs on the fulcrum of intelligence. And intelligence is no abracadabra. It stems from an effective synergy between the people and the security system they trust. The people, in other words, are the ‘eyes’ and ‘ears’ of a policing system that works. People will never volunteer any information that they reasonably fear will boomerang on them.
This is one of the strongest points in favour of state and local police. It is time we opted for this policing system at the state and local government levels, a system run by each state and council and manned by operatives the people know, interact with in the neighbourhoods and trust enough to confide in them. It cannot be more expeditious.
It will revivify policing system and bridge the yearning gaps in the gamut of intelligence network. For one, Nigeria is far too large to be successfully policed at the centre. Besides, the central police is heavily weighed down by an inextricable image baggage that has constituted a stricture against its strides.
Ordinarily, as an institution, the Nigeria police today parades a generation of highly refined, cerebral and well educated personnel, but paradoxically, there is also a preponderance of malicious minions in the Force whose predilection for extortion, heist and other egregious activities are a terrible drawback on the Force. They, like the little, little spices that spoil the broth,  have tarred the Force with a putrid mess.
The Force is equally bedevilled with other challenges, which include dearth of adequate manpower, lack of funding for adequate training and acquisition of modern crime fighting equipment, among others. These are some of the reasons why advocacy for state police has been strindent among the political class, civil society organisations and traditional institution.
Nigeria’s current police strength is about 370,000. This is grossly insufficient to police a country as large as Nigeria. The manpower ratio is one police officer to about 600 citizens, about 150 short of the United Nations’ recommended standard of one police officer to 450 citizens. The current Inspector General of Police, Kayode Egbetokun, recently bemoaned the dearth of manpower in the police, saying about 190,000 additional personnel would be required to effectively police the country.
Embracing state and local police would bridge the manpower gap as it would free the central police to concentrate more on policing  federal highways and tackle other security concerns of federal nature. It will simultaneously free funds to cater for other crucial areas like training and acquisition of modern security equipment for the central police force.
Again, the current constitutional role of state  governors in security maintenance is utterly incongruous with modern realities. Section 214(4) of the 1999 Constitution provides that the governor could give the Commissioner of Police in his state lawful directives towards maintaining adequate security but added a ludicrous caveat, to the effect that the President or any minister he so delegates should first be intimated before the directives could be carried out!
In these unpredictable modern times when security breaches occur with the speed of lightning, that provision is loathsome because the governor needs a security system at his beck and call. State police aptly fits the bill.
 The Governor, as his state’s Chief Security Officer, it is recommended, will control the lever of the state police appurtenances in collaboration with a state security council, made of security experts and credible, honest and dispassionate private citizens who are also stakeholders. 
State police will harmonise some of the quasi-security bodies operating in many of the states and zones, some of which are not well coordinated. The operatives should be top-notch, credible, well remunerated and solid professionals who  will not easily compromise ethical standards. They should also be equipped with sophisticated arms and modern security equipment. 
Opponents of state and local police advance two major reasons, which include the fear that the states’ lean purses would not be able to sustain it and that it may be a tool of political oppression or persecution  in the governor’s hands.
Funding should ordinarily no longer pose any challenge because the revenue streaming into the states’ coffers now is simply humongous due to the savings raked in from fuel subsidy withdrawal. The three  tiers of government– federal, state and local– now consistently share an average  of between  a little over N1trillion and N1.5trillion monthly since June, last year. And there are hints that they  may soon start sharing up to N14 trillion monthly. So, the governors only need to curb their proclivity for profligacy to free resources for the state police project.
On the possibility of abuse, the enabling law that will establish the novel police system will ideally be tempered with adequate safeguards that will check and balance the governor’s power of control. The same is expected at the council level. 
In the final analysis, we believe that the pros of state and local police outweigh their cons. They are desirable now to adequately contain rising security challenges before they spiral out of control.

 

 

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