IGP kicks as ex-presidents, others back state police

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ABUJA — The polity was divided, yesterday, over the clamour for state police in Nigeria as leaders brainstormed at a one-day national dialogue on state policing organised by the House of Representatives.

While some leaders backed state police, the Inspector General of Police, Kayode Egbetokun, disagreed, countering that Nigeria was not ready or mature for it because it was open to abuse by governors.

President Bola Tinubu, who flagged the dialogue open, urged participants to consider the implications of state police.
Some called on the government to address the nagging and welfare challenges of the central police before adopting state police.

Those who endorsed state police include former President Goodluck Jonathan; Senate President, Godswill Akpabio; Minister of Police Affairs, Senator Ibrahim Gaidam; Emeritus Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, John Cardinal Onaiyekan; and the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi among others.

They spoke as President Tinubu described as unwavering his administration’s resolve to reform the Nigeria Police Force and enhance security across the country, noting that the idea of state policing is not just a mere policy proposal but also a potential milestone in the evolution of the nation’s law enforcement framework.

Emeritus Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, suggested that the complaints made by the IGP on the challenges of policing, such as welfare, funding, and equipment of the personnel should be addressed before considering state police.

Senate President, Godswill Akpabio said for state police to work, it must be free from religious extremism, and ethnic and tribal sentiments.

Why Nigeria isn’t ripe for state police – Egbetokun

The IGP, who was represented by Ben Okolo, an Assistant Inspector-General of police, said Nigeria is not ready for a decentralised police force.

“It is the submission of the leadership of the Nigeria Police Force that Nigeria is yet to mature for the establishment of state-controlled police,” he said, noting that “there have been renewed calls for the establishment of state police, following an uptick in kidnappings, banditry and violent attacks across the country.”

Recall that on February 15, the Federal Government set up a committee to explore the creation of state police, amid the spate of insecurity in the country.

Consequently, on February 20, a bill to establish state police passed a second reading in the House of Representatives.
The IGP said rather than create state police, the challenges mitigating against effective policing in Nigeria should be addressed.

He listed some of the challenges as inadequate manpower, inadequate operational equipment, such as vehicles, arms and ammunition, communication equipment, drones, aerial surveillance cameras, security surveillance helicopters, armoured vehicles, and inadequate training of personnel.

“These challenges have impacted negatively on the performance of police personnel,” he lamented.

He warned that state police will be open to abuse by powerful state governors, saying “there is the potential for abuse of power by the state political leadership. State governors could use the police forces under their control for political or personal gain and compromise human rights and security.

“There would be a conflict of jurisdiction” and therefore proposed that the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, and the Federal Road Safety Corps, FRSC, should be merged to become a department in the police.
He said the recruitment of police personnel into the force should be increased by at least 30,000 annually to meet the minimum policing standard of the United Nations.

Police Affairs Minister back state police

Egbetokun’s stance is in contrast to that of Senator Ibrahim Gaidam, Minister of Police Affairs, who backed the establishment of state police.

Senator Gaidam said a more decentralised police force will help tackle rising insecurity in the country.

“It is clearly imperative to come together to discuss these critical issues and work towards finding sustainable solutions that will ensure the safety and security of all Nigerians.

“As we gather here today, our objective is clear, to explore ways and means of addressing these issues, including the possibility of establishing the state police force, to combat the seeming unending crises.

‘’I am here to highlight the merits and challenges of implementing state police in Nigeria. I will emphasize that state police can enhance local exclusiveness,” he said.

My resolve to enhance Nigeria’s security unwavering – Tinubu

Declaring the event open, President Tinubu observed that the idea of state policing is not just a mere policy proposal but also a potential milestone in the evolution of the nation’s law enforcement framework that will create the opportunity to fashion law enforcement in a manner that will closely address the various demands of communities across the country.

Urging participants to consider the implications of state police, President Tinubu, represented by Vice President Kashim Shettima, noted that his administration is aware of the complex security issues confronting Nigeria, and as such is continually developing and refining its strategies and methods to address the challenges effectively.

“The commitment of the administration of President Tinubu to reform the police force and enhance security at both the national and state levels is unwavering.

“We view the outcomes of today’s deliberations as crucial inputs that will guide the government’s actions towards reforming the institution of the police and achieving a safer and more secure Nigeria,” he said.

Senator Shettima implored participants at the event to look at the idea of state policing from multiple angles, saying: “In our deliberations, let us consider the implications of state policing from multiple perspectives. We must evaluate its potential to improve response times to emergencies, adapt to specific local challenges, and increase accountability. At the same time, we must address concerns related to the standardisation of training, oversight, and the safeguarding of civil liberties.

“Our dialogue today should also be seen as an opportunity to listen, understand, and propose solutions that bridge gaps. It is essential that this forum is not the end but the beginning of an ongoing conversation on the issue of police and security sector reform in our country.”

Shettima expressed delight that the 10th House of Representatives under Speaker Tajudeen Abbas keyed into the idea of state policing, noting that “the involvement of the legislature in executive reform proposals ensures continuity and synergy.

“Let us use this opportunity to engage and explore every option with the seriousness and diligence they demand. The President is committed to listening to your recommendations and insights, invaluable to shaping the policies that will lead us toward a more secure and just society,” he added.

We can’t manage internal security without state police – Jonathan

In his remarks, former President Jonathan, who chaired the occasion, said: “The issue today is not whether to establish state police but how it should be operated. There is no need to debate about state police. The issues of state police and Coast Guards were accepted at the 2014 National Conference.”

The former President said the Nigeria Customs Service and other agencies at the border are not trained to deal with criminal gangs and advised the government to concentrate on how to manage state police in a way that it would not be hijacked by the political class.

He recommended that the Act establishing the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, should be rejigged so that the police are not used for election malpractices and stuffing of the ballot box in states.

“So the National Assembly needs to look into all these. These are the areas that we have to concentrate on. The issue of the need for states to have their police is not negotiable. There is no way we can continue this kidnapping that is going on in this country.

Speaking further on the issue of kidnapping, Jonathan said “Commercial kidnapping started around 2006, I don’t want to go into that history, when I was governor. But it started in the Niger Delta. Now it is all over the country.
“The only thing that can help us if we cannot stop it completely, at least we reduce it to the barest minimum, is for states to have their police.”

Governors must be transparent — General Abdulsalami

Also speaking, former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, retd, said to make peace and ensure a safe society, governors must be transparent, responsible, honest, and make the citizens go about their normal businesses.

He said the government should make laws to provide an orderly environment, urging citizens to stop destroying or vandalizing public properties.

He also advised that the traditional institution and royal fathers should be given roles to play and be engaged in maintaining peace and order in their respective domains.

What we must do before starting state police – Onaiyekan

On his part, Emeritus Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, said the IGP’s complaints on the challenges of policing such as welfare, funding, and equipment of the personnel be addressed before considering state police.

“If we look at the issues like funding and welfare before we establish state police, it will be great. We want to ensure that the state police should be Nigerian police. But no matter what we do now, even if we have the best, if there is still corruption, there won’t be a solution.

Ooni asks NASS to accelerate process

On his part, the Ooni of Ife, Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi urged the National Assembly to swing into action toward the implementation of state police.

His words: “Please swing into action, it is about time. Do something that will be impactful to people. It is very important. We have the entire National Assembly here. Please, we are the ones feeling the heat from our people. We, traditional rulers, our palaces are not locked. No traditional ruler in this country would dare lock his palace. It’s not possible.

“Enough of talking. Let’s stop talking and implement this. Everybody is heading in the same direction. So, besides talking, let’s walk the talk. You have done well as the House of the People. When are we going to implement state police? Give us that commitment and let us have peace in Nigeria.”

Akpabio warns it must not be used as tool of oppression

Senate President, Godswill Akpabio has warned that as a country, we must build a security architecture that is robust, transparent, and accountable.

If created, he suggested that state police departments must be free from the shackles of politics, religious extremism, tribalism, and ethnicism.

Akpabio has said that as there are calls for state police, Nigeria should draw inspiration from the United States of America, USA that has successfully implemented a system of state and federal policing.

Akpabio said: “Today, we stand at a crossroads of history, where the decisions we make will shape the destiny of our nation. Today, we are conferred with the power to transform our security architecture and create a Nigeria where every citizen feels safe and protected, regardless of his or her status, religion, tribe, location or background.

“In working out modalities for the state police and the security of our nation, we must not forget that security is not a privilege, but a fundamental right of every Nigerian. It is our duty to ensure that this right is upheld, that justice is served, and that the rule of law prevails. We must build a security architecture that is robust, transparent, and accountable. If we are to set up state police departments, we must ensure that they are free from the shackles of politics, religious extremism, tribalism, and ethnicism. We must empower them to serve and protect, without fear or favour.

“As we consider this proposition, let us draw inspiration from the United States of America, a nation that has successfully implemented a system of state and federal policing. Let us learn from their experiences and adapt their models to suit our unique socio-political context. Let us ensure that our state police forces work in harmony with their federal counterparts, collaborating to fight crime, preserve peace, and safeguard our democracy. In the USA, the FBI, the federal police body enforces federal laws and the state police departments enforce state laws. The FBI also investigates inter-state crimes. We must draw the lines because to have functional state police we must have a strong federal police.”

Speaker Abass speaks

Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abbas, thanked participants at the Dialogue, especially President Tinubu, Vice President Shettima, Gen Abdulsalami, and former President Jonathan for lending their voices to the issue of establishing state police in the country.

He stated that as former President and Head of State, their contributions will provide direction to the discourse on the issue of state police given the dimension of insecurity in the country.

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