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State Police: Nigeria’s Security Ripe For Total Overhauling, Caution Says OneVoice

By Ajibola Abayomi,

July 30, 2018.

Right: Pastor Adedeji Adeleye, Chairman OneVoice Media Committee, Mrs Juliana Iregbu and Barrister Collins Okeke, the Human Rights Law Service, Senior Lawyer during the OneVoice even in Lagos 26 July, 2018.

The Nigeria Security apparatus needs total overhauling and necessary caution as the argument for the establishment of state police ranges on.

This was the submission of a civil society group committed to advancement of democracy and good governance in Nigeria, tagged OneVoice.

At the July edition of its interaction with the media, the body rose with a recommendation that it was high time to decentralise the structure of the Nigeria police to address security challenges.

The organisation frowned at the number of police officers being attached to important personalities at the expense of the security of the ordinary Nigerians.

Pastor Adedeji Adeleye, the Chairman of OneVoice Media Committee posited that in as much as the nation was not ripe for state police owing to possibilities of abuse by politicians, he argued that the present structure of the security outfit was defective.

He said the Police needed financial intervention and reorganisation saying that government was not sincere to equip key security functions of the force.

Adeleye who weighed both the argument in favour and against state police creation recommended that: “Nonetheless, the issue of State Police should be considered in the context of Nigeria’s federal structure and should be introduced taking into cognisance the abuses of the past by making them autonomous of political control by state governors

“Sections 214-216 of the Constitution should be amended, and Item 45 (Police and other government security services established by law) on the Exclusive Legislative List moved to the Concurrent List to allow for the creation of State Police.

“State Police should only be established on the basis of strict adherence to the principles of operational autonomy, and be based on sound professional practice in appointment, operations and control.”

The OneVoice Media chairman further advised that: “The State Police should have defined parameters of cooperation and where a state does not fully cooperate with its counterpart or the Federal Police on any matter the Federal Police should take over and deal with the matter.

He said the civil society organisations should work with the legislature and conduct informed debates in partnership with the media towards amending the Constitution to allow for the establishment of State Police and also produce a bill that will guarantee the establishment of an independent and professional State Police.

Also speaking, Barrister Collins Okeke, the Human Right Law Service (HURILAWS), Senior Legal Officer, said there was need to strengthen the police service commission for effective monitoring of police officers.

According to him, several lapses noticed in the nation security were fall outs of under pollicising.

“The number of police officers deployed to Economic and Financial Crime Commissions (EFCC) and other duties is serious affecting the strength of the security agency so also the unnecessary duplication of para-military agencies pretending to carry out security tasks.

While calling for restructuring of the police force to accommodate the reality of the present challenges, he however stated that only the police was empowered by the constitution to carry of security duties.

Both Adeleye and Collin submitted that proliferation of security agencies by National Assembly was a waste of resources and called for direct recruitment to beef up the number of police.

Below is the full text of paper presented at the event .

The Renewed, Raging Debate on State Police in Nigeria: Which Way to Go?

Presented at the OneVOICE Media Parley at the Centre for Constitutional Governance (CCG), Lagos State, on Thursday, 26 July, 2018; by Okechukwu Nwanguma, National Coordinator, NOPRIN Foundation

Introduction

Debate on State Police in Nigeria is not new. The debate comes and fizzles and is usually linked to, or sparked off by, certain situations, developments and seasons.

While most proponents ground and justify their call for state police on the incapability of the Nigeria Police Force to effectively respond to increasing crime wave and insecurity in Nigeria, some others, like some state governors who desire greater control of the police in their states also call for state police.

Debate around state police also re-emerges with the approach of general elections in Nigeria. And some have argued that the current raging debate seems to be linked more to politics than other motivations. A bill in the Senate for the establishment of state police has already passed second reading. And the Senate leadership, particularly, the Deputy Senate President has expressed unhidden interest and determination to see to the quick passage of the bill into law. The Senate also suddenly began to show interest in the quick passage of a ‘Police Reform Bill’ – a bill to repeal and re-enact the Police Act of 1943.

There are as many proponents as there are opponents of state police. Traditionally, States in the South, with Lagos State leading, are among the vociferous proponents of state police while governors in the North vehemently oppose it. Former Nigerian Vice President Atiku Abubakar, a recent time frontline advocate of ‘true federalism’, is probably the loudest and perhaps, lone voice in favour of state police from the North.

State, Local Government or Regional Police

Regional and federal police existed side by side in Nigeria during the first republic before the military centralised them into one unitary Nigeria police force under the command of the Inspector General of Police. The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria establishes the Nigeria police and prohibits the establishment of any other police force. Under the 1999 Constitution and the 1943 Police Act, both operational and policy control of the Nigeria police are centralised in the president who gives directives to the Inspector General of Police who shall comply or cause them to be complied with.

The centralised structure of the Nigeria police has been implicated as a major obstacle to police effectiveness and efficiency. State governors, although putatively referred to as ‘Chief Security Officers’ of their various states, have no legally based control over the Commissioners of Police in their states. In fact, under the Constitution, a State Commissioner of police is not under obligation to comply with any directive given to him/her by the State governor as the Commissioner may decide to first refer such matter to the Inspector General of Police. The only means by which most state governors have secured and retained the loyalties of their state commissioners of police is through donation of funds and equipments as the federal government fails to fulfil its primary responsibility to fund the police.

The subject of State police has always featured in the reports of committees on Police Reform set up by successive governments. The same subject also kept recurring during the Civil Society Panel’s sittings and in memoranda received in 2012 when key non-governmental organisations working on police reform issues in Nigeria, operating under the auspices of the Network on Police Reform in Nigeria (NOPRIN), decided to engage the process of reforming the Nigeria Police in a creative and proactive way through the establishment of a parallel but complementary Civil Society Panel on Police Reform in Nigeria. The CSO Panel used the same terms of reference drawn by the Jonathan government for the committee headed by Parry Osayande, then Chairman of the Police Service Commission.

The CSO Panel noted that the recurrence of the subject of state police then was a natural outcome of the security challenges confronting different parts of Nigeria. CSOs were among the first to call for State Police in Nigeria, but these calls were not taken seriously. Calls for State Police were also associated with politicians in the South West, particularly in Lagos State where the government has led the way. The panel noted in its report: ‘In recent times State governors have joined the discussion about State Police. While their national body, the Governors’ Forum, has come out in favour, the Northern Governors’ Forum has declared itself to be against State Police. Despite the evident disunity amongst governors on the issue, the raised tempo of discussion is a direct response to the worsened security situation in the country. From militancy in the Niger Delta, through kidnapping in the South East and conflict in Plateau State, to the Boko Haram insurgency spreading from the North East which has resulted in terrorist attacks even at the Nigeria Police Force Headquarters in Abuja; the growth and spread of these problems and the evident failure of the NPF to nip in the bud, or arrest and reverse any of them have been attributed to absence of State Police’.

Governors complain that the present Constitutional arrangements do not give States any significant control over the police, and that their only input to policing in the country is as members of the Nigeria Police Council, whose functions under the Constitution are defined to include:

  • the organisation and administration of the Nigeria Police Force and all other matters relating thereto (not being matters relating to the use and operational control of the Force or the appointment, disciplinary control and dismissal of members of the Force);
  • the general supervision of the Nigeria Police Force; and
  • Advising the President on the appointment of the Inspector-General of Police.

The CSO Panel was confronted with the whole range of views on the issue in memoranda submitted and contributions during its public hearings.

Arguments in favour

Arguments in favour were that it is a contradiction in terms for Nigeria to claim to be operating a federal system of government without State Police. The population is too large for a single centralised police system to handle effectively. The Federal government is unwilling or unable to fund the police, but while State – and even local – governments are obliged to contribute funds to assist various police commands, they have no say over local police operations. It was so bad in some states that despite receiving such funds from different states, police officers still picked and chose when it came to enforcing State laws. For example, in Lagos State, the police refuse to enforce provisions of the State’s Domestic Violence Law, while in Kano State, they refused to enforce provisions of the Shari’a Law which created criminal offences based on Islamic Law. Such attitudes led to the creation of bodies such as the Hisbah in Kano State, who enforced Shari’a law but handed transgressors over to the NPF, where as often as not, they ran into problems caused by the refusal of officers of the NPF to take necessary action or detain those handed over to them. Indeed, it was this kind of value judgment that made it imperative to create a State police that would be willing to enforce all the State’s laws, not just those which took its fancy, as was the case with the NPF.

It was also argued that the twin menaces of terrorism and kidnapping had been allowed to spiral out of control due to poor local or ‘on-the-ground’ intelligence that would have allowed the police to share in local knowledge about strangers, or strange activities in the areas under their control, and put a stop to such activities. It was agreed that the Regional police of the First Republic were abused by the then Regional governments to oppress political opponents, but it was argued that the unwanted effects experienced in those days can be addressed now through appropriate legislative safeguards to prevent politicians and state governors from negative influence over the police.

Above all, proponents of State police argued that it was a mistake to see the issue as one of battles and struggles for control among different political gladiators. Rather, State police were needed because at present, policing does not address the needs and concerns of ordinary Nigerians; is careless of ordinary people’s security or need for protection from the depredations of criminals and ne’er-do-wells and has turned itself into oppressors of the people who have much more to fear from the police than they have to be reassured by. A service-oriented State police starting with a clean slate, it was argued, would be better placed to meet these needs. While it was agreed that the motives of State governors in seeking to establish State police might be less than pure, proponents emphasized that in calling for State and Local police, they were rejecting the precedent set by the NPF and its subservient relationship to the presidency. Thus, if State governors hoped to exercise the same powers at state level that the president exercises at national level, they should be swiftly disabused of this illusion.  Although it should be recognised that the vast majority of crimes such as murder, assault, rape, theft etc. are state offences since they are created under the Criminal Code and the Penal Code which are state laws.

There are also strong arguments against State police.

Starting from an assumption that State police would merely replicate the situation at the national level, where the NPF is seen as primarily a political tool in the hands of the President and the Federal Government, opponents cited the example set by State governors’ handling of outfits as diverse as State Independent Electoral Commissions (SIECs), Hisbah in Kano State, Bakassi Boys in the South East, and Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI) and the Lagos State Transport Management Authority (LASTMA) were cited to show on the one hand that governors were just as – if not more – capable of political oppression and intolerance for dissenting views as the Federal government, and on the other, that ordinary people were at a great – or greater – risk of oppression and extortion as they went about their business or tried to make an honest living as they were under the Federal police. Particular bitterness was expressed at the way State-run outfits would seize the goods of traders and lock them up, experiences difficulty to distinguish from robbery and kidnapping!

Opponents of State police argued that in a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural country in which primordial ties are strong, the country is simply not mature enough for State police. Fears were expressed that State police could result in the dismemberment of the country because it is prone to abuse, while strong doubts were expressed that any legal safeguards would insulate the police from abuse. It was pointed out that the wide dissatisfaction with the Federal police is partly due to governors and politicians meddling into their affairs and participants asked: If governors have so much influence over the NPF which is not formally under their control, how much more a police totally beholden to them for everything? The use of political party thugs such as ‘Yan Kalare’ in Gombe State, ‘Sara Suka’ in Bauchi State and ‘ECOMOG’ in Borno State to mention just a few, certainly have not inspired confidence that State police would not be misused or abused.

Concerns are also raised about the kind of oversight that could be exerted over State police. While at the Federal level, the National Police Council and the National Assembly might be expected to step in to play a genuine oversight role, the iron control exercised by State governors over all processes within their domain, with State legislatures reflecting little or no variation from the state ruling party and local governments none at all, meant that this option would be meaningless at state level. Fears were also expressed that any safeguards put in place to guarantee a professional performance by State police could easily be abused by state governors who would be shielded by their constitutional immunity from any legal action that might be taken against them.

Another concern expressed is that if State police were instituted, there would be challenges in relation to inter-state crimes, cooperation between the police of different states, or with the Federal Police. With the country already witnessing the balkanisation of the NPF – the establishment of NDLEA, ICPC, EFCC, NAPTIP – participants also voiced concern that there would be duplication of effort, turf wars and a further reduction in funds available for genuine policing, with more going into setting up unproductive bureaucracies or administrative set up.

The Centralized Nature of the Police Force

The present highly centralized and hierarchical structure of the NPF is a major impediment to building community trust and confidence in the police. Policing is a local affair and successful policing depends on local knowledge, with information and support from local people. Perceiving that Nigeria’s centralized police have not been able to respond effectively to the rising crime and security challenges in the country, some Nigerians have pushed for the establishment of state police; others call for local government police while others propose greater local autonomy within the NPF.

The existing structure of the police, led by an Inspector-General of Police who is answerable to the President, may be incompatible with a ‘people’s police’. Police personnel do not behave as though their primary responsibility is service to the people. The 2005 Justice Olasumbo Goodluck Commission[1] of Inquiry concluded that the NPF is: “… an unfriendly organisation whose officers are generally high-handed and abrasive, always using their position to take unfair advantage of people …”

The 2008 Mohammed Dikko Yusuf Committee[2], also found that: “… the negative image of the police in the eyes and minds of the public arose from the high level of crimes in the force and its failure to carry out genuine police functions successfully”, adding that “… instead of becoming a public asset … the police have become a public burden.”

Neither of these, nor the 2007 Presidential Committee on the Reform of the Nigeria Police Force headed by Alhaji Muhammed Dan Madami made any recommendations on how to deal with these general causes or external factors responsible for public distrust of the police, although they recommended that calls for State Police should be rejected outright.

Observations

  • Previous government panels on police reform have rejected calls for State police. For example, the 2008 M.D. Yusuf Presidential Committee on the Reform of the Nigeria Police Force accepted the analysis of its predecessors that State police could lead to the disintegration of Nigeria. The CSO Panel however, considered this to be a mantra repeated by those who wish to avoid the hard thinking that the issue really requires.
  • Despite its rejection by previous government panels, the issue continues to be discussed, and at the time the CSO Panel was sitting, a bill on the subject was before the House of Representatives, although the same was withdrawn before any public hearing was conducted by the legislature.
  • Little illumination of the subject can be achieved while the debate continues to be posed as an “either/or” matter without any real thought as to what might actually be accepted or rejected. However, it was the view of the CSO Panel that it is essential for Nigeria to commence a much more informed debate on the subject, so that a rational and measured decision can be taken, rather than the country shouting “either/or” while problems continue to mount, and then taking a hasty, panicky decision as the only option left.
  • While the experiences of the past are important, they should be used as guides, rather than all-time barriers to the future establishment, composition, operations or control of State police in Nigeria.
  • The immunity conferred by section 308 of the Constitution attaches only to the holder of the office in their personal capacity. It is not transferable, and does not protect those carrying out illegal or unconstitutional orders, or protect a state against legal action.
  • In view of the high level of distrust about the intentions of State governors, the general lack of political diversity within States, and sense of class oppression expressed by Nigerians, a great deal of work to build trust and strengthen institutions within the States that are independent of political control must be undertaken by State governors before any real moves to establish State police can be undertaken.
  • Nonetheless, the issue of State Police should be considered in the context of Nigeria’s federal structure and should be introduced taking into cognisance the abuses of the past by making them autonomous of political control by state governors
  • Sections 214-216 of the Constitution should be amended, and Item 45 (Police and other government security services established by law) on the Exclusive Legislative List moved to the Concurrent List to allow for the creation of State Police.
  • State Police should only be established on the basis of strict adherence to the principles of operational autonomy, and be based on sound professional practice in appointment, operations and control.
  • The State Police should have defined parameters of cooperation and where a state does not fully cooperate with its counterpart or the Federal Police on any matter the Federal Police should take over and deal with the matter.
  • Civil society organisations should work with the legislature and conduct informed debates in partnership with the media towards amending the Constitution to allow for the establishment of State Police and also produce a bill that will guarantee the establishment of an independent and professional State Police.
  • Safeguards should be put in place to reassure the public and boost confidence. These include:
  • Establishing an independent service commission for the police to guarantee police autonomy at federal and state levels in matters of appointment, discipline, promotions and accountability. It should operate in the same manner as the National Judicial Council and be insulated from interference by political office holders, whether at state or federal level
  • Permitting cross service transfer from the state through the federal levels (condonment/transfer of service); this will enable professional and experienced police officers to serve, or be recruited to serve in the police in any part of the federation
  • Recruiting or appointing on the basis of residential status, rather than indigeneity, particularly having regard to the diverse ethnic and cultural make up of most states of the federation
  • The State Police Service shall draw up an annual policing plan which details policing priorities to be during the coming year. It should be based on surveys and official statistics on crimes and trends in criminal activity. Funds should be allocated on the basis of such plan.
  • Annual reports should be submitted to the State House of Assembly providing information about police activities during the preceding year and showing the extent to which the policing plan referred to above has been implemented.
  • The independent service commission for the police shall carry out periodic audits for all police services to ensure compliance with and maintenance of professional and autonomous service standards and respect for human rights
  • Government should establish a committee to work out the modalities for the establishment of State police in states desirous of maintaining such, with a view to recommending the framework and measures that should be put in place to address the concerns against state police.

 

Let me dwell a little bit on the Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS)

The SARS is a section of the Nigeria police under the Force Criminal Investigation Department and specifically charged ‘to combat armed robbery and other heinous crimes nationwide.’ But SARS in all parts of Nigeria have gained embarrassing notoriety tainting the image of the Nigerian Police locally and internationally, and should either be scrapped or comprehensively reformed to conform to modern standards of policing or human rights-compliant policing. SARS operatives are known for arresting people for all manner of alleged offences, torturing, extorting and executing suspects and detainees in their custody and secretly disposing of their dead bodies. They also dabble into civil disputes.   The police in SARS across the states are being used by politicians and other influential persons to victimize their opponents or to settle disputes that are purely civil or communal. The police hierarchy is not unaware of the menace that SARS constitutes. Shortly after his appointment as Acting IGP, M. D, Abubakar in 2012 was quoted in several news reports as lamenting that ‘Our Special Anti-Robbery Squads (SARS) have become killer teams engaging in deals for land speculators and debts collection…’

The increasing spate of extortion, harassment, torture and other human rights abuses perpetrated by personnel of SARS has continued to elicit concern among local and international human rights groups[3], media and general public. The lack of effective internal and external mechanisms to hold SARS operatives accountable to the communities they serve has been identified as one of the main contributory factors for the abuses and impunity.

But the problem with SARS is not different from the problem with the Nigeria Police as an institution. When you have a Police Force headed by a visionless directionless, drab and incompetent IGP with a Force PRO who constantly brings odium and shame to the police and doing more damage to its image rather than burnish it, what more do you expect from SARS. Both the IGP and his Force PRO have said at different times that those who are calling for the disbandment of SARS are criminals. The fact that the police hierarchy is defending SARS in spite of the atrocities of its operatives against Nigerians, and despite the public outcry over their criminal activities; the fact that the IGP could appoint as the current Commissioner of Police for the Federal SARS, the immediate former CP of Edo Command, a man under whose leadership, the Edo State police turned into a criminal force- that tells you that the police as an institution, not just SARS, is in urgent need for radical reform.   SARS operatives operate more like armed robbers and predators than crime fighters and protectors.

The public clamour against the detestable activities of SARS operatives led to the national call to disband the unit through the ‘ENDSARS’ campaign which has gained public support nationwide through the social media. In a bid to address the problem the Inspector General of Police responded by announcing plans to reorganize and reform–but not to disband–SARS units. Although the form of reorganization to be made remains unclear, however the Nigeria Police Force have provided a list of emergency contact numbers to aid public reporting on the activities of SAR operatives.  Yet, public complaints are left unaddressed and the impunity continues. Other agencies such as the National Human Rights Commission and local human rights groups have initiated various efforts to join the advocacy for reform of the activities of the unit to see how to find solutions to the problems

To address the general causes of public distrust of, and loss of confidence in the NPF, the following recommendations are made:

  • Re-orientation/sensitization programmes should be designed for both the police and the public, to build trust. While the police need to be re-oriented as to the primary functions of the police, namely protection of life and property, and service to the people; the public must understand clearly the duties of the police, and the challenges that they sometimes encounter in carrying out their duties.
  • Monthly meetings of police-public fora should be held at divisional level to promote trust and confidence in the police.
  • Misuse and abuse of the police by politicians, government officials and the rich, must be curbed, and there should be effective implementation of the laws prohibiting the use of regular police by this category of people. The Panel recommends that only the VIP protection unit should be used, in a strictly limited manner, for that purpose.

Finally, rather than outright rejection of the idea of state police, the government should consider it objectively, weighing the merits against the demerits as well as against other options.

Thank you.

 

[1] The Judicial Commission of Inquiry on the Apo Six Killings by the Police between 7th and 8th June 2005 in Abuja led by Justice Olasumbo Goodluck investigated the extrajudicial execution of six persons by police officers in Abuja in June 2005

[2] Federal Republic of Nigeria, Presidential Committee on the Reform of the Nigeria Police Force, Main Report, Vol. 1, p. 196 (April 2008), hereafter referred to as Yusuf Committee Report

[3] In September 2016 AI reported police officers in the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) regularly tortured detainees in custody as a means of extracting confessions and bribes

By Ajibola Abayomi,

July 30, 2018.

The Nigeria Security apparatus needs total overhauling and necessary caution as the argument for the establishment of state police ranges on.

This was the submission of a civil society group committed to advancement of democracy and good governance in Nigeria, tagged OneVoice.

At the July edition of its interaction with the media, the body rose with a recommendation that it was high time to decentralise the structure of the Nigeria police to address security challenges.

The organisation frowned at the number of police officers being attached to important personalities at the expense of the security of the ordinary Nigerians.

Pastor Adedeji Adeleye, the Chairman of OneVoice Media Committee posited that in as much as the nation was not ripe for state police owing to possibilities of abuse by politicians, he argued that the present structure of the security outfit was defective.

He said the Police needed financial intervention and reorganisation saying that government was not sincere to equip key security functions of the force.

Adeleye who weighed both the argument in favour and against state police creation recommended that: “Nonetheless, the issue of State Police should be considered in the context of Nigeria’s federal structure and should be introduced taking into cognisance the abuses of the past by making them autonomous of political control by state governors

“Sections 214-216 of the Constitution should be amended, and Item 45 (Police and other government security services established by law) on the Exclusive Legislative List moved to the Concurrent List to allow for the creation of State Police.

“State Police should only be established on the basis of strict adherence to the principles of operational autonomy, and be based on sound professional practice in appointment, operations and control.”

The OneVoice Media chairman further advised that: “The State Police should have defined parameters of cooperation and where a state does not fully cooperate with its counterpart or the Federal Police on any matter the Federal Police should take over and deal with the matter.

He said the civil society organisations should work with the legislature and conduct informed debates in partnership with the media towards amending the Constitution to allow for the establishment of State Police and also produce a bill that will guarantee the establishment of an independent and professional State Police.

Also speaking, Barrister Collins Okeke, the Human Right Law Service (HURILAWS), Senior Legal Officer, said there was need to strengthen the police service commission for effective monitoring of police officers.

According to him, several lapses noticed in the nation security were fall outs of under pollicising.

“The number of police officers deployed to Economic and Financial Crime Commissions (EFCC) and other duties is serious affecting the strength of the security agency so also the unnecessary duplication of para-military agencies pretending to carry out security tasks.

While calling for restructuring of the police force to accommodate the reality of the present challenges, he however stated that only the police was empowered by the constitution to carry of security duties.

Both Adeleye and Collin submitted that proliferation of security agencies by National Assembly was a waste of resources and called for direct recruitment to beef up the number of police.

Below is the full text of paper presented at the event .

   

The Renewed, Raging Debate on State Police in Nigeria: Which Way to Go?

Presented at the OneVOICE Media Parley at the Centre for Constitutional Governance (CCG), Lagos State, on Thursday, 26 July, 2018; by Okechukwu Nwanguma, National Coordinator, NOPRIN Foundation

 

Introduction

Debate on State Police in Nigeria is not new. The debate comes and fizzles and is usually linked to, or sparked off by, certain situations, developments and seasons.

While most proponents ground and justify their call for state police on the incapability of the Nigeria Police Force to effectively respond to increasing crime wave and insecurity in Nigeria, some others, like some state governors who desire greater control of the police in their states also call for state police.

Debate around state police also re-emerges with the approach of general elections in Nigeria. And some have argued that the current raging debate seems to be linked more to politics than other motivations. A bill in the Senate for the establishment of state police has already passed second reading. And the Senate leadership, particularly, the Deputy Senate President has expressed unhidden interest and determination to see to the quick passage of the bill into law. The Senate also suddenly began to show interest in the quick passage of a ‘Police Reform Bill’ – a bill to repeal and re-enact the Police Act of 1943.

There are as many proponents as there are opponents of state police. Traditionally, States in the South, with Lagos State leading, are among the vociferous proponents of state police while governors in the North vehemently oppose it. Former Nigerian Vice President Atiku Abubakar, a recent time frontline advocate of ‘true federalism’, is probably the loudest and perhaps, lone voice in favour of state police from the North.

State, Local Government or Regional Police

Regional and federal police existed side by side in Nigeria during the first republic before the military centralised them into one unitary Nigeria police force under the command of the Inspector General of Police. The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria establishes the Nigeria police and prohibits the establishment of any other police force. Under the 1999 Constitution and the 1943 Police Act, both operational and policy control of the Nigeria police are centralised in the president who gives directives to the Inspector General of Police who shall comply or cause them to be complied with.

The centralised structure of the Nigeria police has been implicated as a major obstacle to police effectiveness and efficiency. State governors, although putatively referred to as ‘Chief Security Officers’ of their various states, have no legally based control over the Commissioners of Police in their states. In fact, under the Constitution, a State Commissioner of police is not under obligation to comply with any directive given to him/her by the State governor as the Commissioner may decide to first refer such matter to the Inspector General of Police. The only means by which most state governors have secured and retained the loyalties of their state commissioners of police is through donation of funds and equipments as the federal government fails to fulfil its primary responsibility to fund the police.

The subject of State police has always featured in the reports of committees on Police Reform set up by successive governments. The same subject also kept recurring during the Civil Society Panel’s sittings and in memoranda received in 2012 when key non-governmental organisations working on police reform issues in Nigeria, operating under the auspices of the Network on Police Reform in Nigeria (NOPRIN), decided to engage the process of reforming the Nigeria Police in a creative and proactive way through the establishment of a parallel but complementary Civil Society Panel on Police Reform in Nigeria. The CSO Panel used the same terms of reference drawn by the Jonathan government for the committee headed by Parry Osayande, then Chairman of the Police Service Commission.

The CSO Panel noted that the recurrence of the subject of state police then was a natural outcome of the security challenges confronting different parts of Nigeria. CSOs were among the first to call for State Police in Nigeria, but these calls were not taken seriously. Calls for State Police were also associated with politicians in the South West, particularly in Lagos State where the government has led the way. The panel noted in its report: ‘In recent times State governors have joined the discussion about State Police. While their national body, the Governors’ Forum, has come out in favour, the Northern Governors’ Forum has declared itself to be against State Police. Despite the evident disunity amongst governors on the issue, the raised tempo of discussion is a direct response to the worsened security situation in the country. From militancy in the Niger Delta, through kidnapping in the South East and conflict in Plateau State, to the Boko Haram insurgency spreading from the North East which has resulted in terrorist attacks even at the Nigeria Police Force Headquarters in Abuja; the growth and spread of these problems and the evident failure of the NPF to nip in the bud, or arrest and reverse any of them have been attributed to absence of State Police’.

Governors complain that the present Constitutional arrangements do not give States any significant control over the police, and that their only input to policing in the country is as members of the Nigeria Police Council, whose functions under the Constitution are defined to include:

  • the organisation and administration of the Nigeria Police Force and all other matters relating thereto (not being matters relating to the use and operational control of the Force or the appointment, disciplinary control and dismissal of members of the Force);
  • the general supervision of the Nigeria Police Force; and
  • Advising the President on the appointment of the Inspector-General of Police.

The CSO Panel was confronted with the whole range of views on the issue in memoranda submitted and contributions during its public hearings.

Arguments in favour

Arguments in favour were that it is a contradiction in terms for Nigeria to claim to be operating a federal system of government without State Police. The population is too large for a single centralised police system to handle effectively. The Federal government is unwilling or unable to fund the police, but while State – and even local – governments are obliged to contribute funds to assist various police commands, they have no say over local police operations. It was so bad in some states that despite receiving such funds from different states, police officers still picked and chose when it came to enforcing State laws. For example, in Lagos State, the police refuse to enforce provisions of the State’s Domestic Violence Law, while in Kano State, they refused to enforce provisions of the Shari’a Law which created criminal offences based on Islamic Law. Such attitudes led to the creation of bodies such as the Hisbah in Kano State, who enforced Shari’a law but handed transgressors over to the NPF, where as often as not, they ran into problems caused by the refusal of officers of the NPF to take necessary action or detain those handed over to them. Indeed, it was this kind of value judgment that made it imperative to create a State police that would be willing to enforce all the State’s laws, not just those which took its fancy, as was the case with the NPF.

It was also argued that the twin menaces of terrorism and kidnapping had been allowed to spiral out of control due to poor local or ‘on-the-ground’ intelligence that would have allowed the police to share in local knowledge about strangers, or strange activities in the areas under their control, and put a stop to such activities. It was agreed that the Regional police of the First Republic were abused by the then Regional governments to oppress political opponents, but it was argued that the unwanted effects experienced in those days can be addressed now through appropriate legislative safeguards to prevent politicians and state governors from negative influence over the police.

Above all, proponents of State police argued that it was a mistake to see the issue as one of battles and struggles for control among different political gladiators. Rather, State police were needed because at present, policing does not address the needs and concerns of ordinary Nigerians; is careless of ordinary people’s security or need for protection from the depredations of criminals and ne’er-do-wells and has turned itself into oppressors of the people who have much more to fear from the police than they have to be reassured by. A service-oriented State police starting with a clean slate, it was argued, would be better placed to meet these needs. While it was agreed that the motives of State governors in seeking to establish State police might be less than pure, proponents emphasized that in calling for State and Local police, they were rejecting the precedent set by the NPF and its subservient relationship to the presidency. Thus, if State governors hoped to exercise the same powers at state level that the president exercises at national level, they should be swiftly disabused of this illusion.  Although it should be recognised that the vast majority of crimes such as murder, assault, rape, theft etc. are state offences since they are created under the Criminal Code and the Penal Code which are state laws.

There are also strong arguments against State police.

Starting from an assumption that State police would merely replicate the situation at the national level, where the NPF is seen as primarily a political tool in the hands of the President and the Federal Government, opponents cited the example set by State governors’ handling of outfits as diverse as State Independent Electoral Commissions (SIECs), Hisbah in Kano State, Bakassi Boys in the South East, and Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI) and the Lagos State Transport Management Authority (LASTMA) were cited to show on the one hand that governors were just as – if not more – capable of political oppression and intolerance for dissenting views as the Federal government, and on the other, that ordinary people were at a great – or greater – risk of oppression and extortion as they went about their business or tried to make an honest living as they were under the Federal police. Particular bitterness was expressed at the way State-run outfits would seize the goods of traders and lock them up, experiences difficulty to distinguish from robbery and kidnapping!

Opponents of State police argued that in a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural country in which primordial ties are strong, the country is simply not mature enough for State police. Fears were expressed that State police could result in the dismemberment of the country because it is prone to abuse, while strong doubts were expressed that any legal safeguards would insulate the police from abuse. It was pointed out that the wide dissatisfaction with the Federal police is partly due to governors and politicians meddling into their affairs and participants asked: If governors have so much influence over the NPF which is not formally under their control, how much more a police totally beholden to them for everything? The use of political party thugs such as ‘Yan Kalare’ in Gombe State, ‘Sara Suka’ in Bauchi State and ‘ECOMOG’ in Borno State to mention just a few, certainly have not inspired confidence that State police would not be misused or abused.

Concerns are also raised about the kind of oversight that could be exerted over State police. While at the Federal level, the National Police Council and the National Assembly might be expected to step in to play a genuine oversight role, the iron control exercised by State governors over all processes within their domain, with State legislatures reflecting little or no variation from the state ruling party and local governments none at all, meant that this option would be meaningless at state level. Fears were also expressed that any safeguards put in place to guarantee a professional performance by State police could easily be abused by state governors who would be shielded by their constitutional immunity from any legal action that might be taken against them.

Another concern expressed is that if State police were instituted, there would be challenges in relation to inter-state crimes, cooperation between the police of different states, or with the Federal Police. With the country already witnessing the balkanisation of the NPF – the establishment of NDLEA, ICPC, EFCC, NAPTIP – participants also voiced concern that there would be duplication of effort, turf wars and a further reduction in funds available for genuine policing, with more going into setting up unproductive bureaucracies or administrative set up.

The Centralized Nature of the Police Force

The present highly centralized and hierarchical structure of the NPF is a major impediment to building community trust and confidence in the police. Policing is a local affair and successful policing depends on local knowledge, with information and support from local people. Perceiving that Nigeria’s centralized police have not been able to respond effectively to the rising crime and security challenges in the country, some Nigerians have pushed for the establishment of state police; others call for local government police while others propose greater local autonomy within the NPF.

The existing structure of the police, led by an Inspector-General of Police who is answerable to the President, may be incompatible with a ‘people’s police’. Police personnel do not behave as though their primary responsibility is service to the people. The 2005 Justice Olasumbo Goodluck Commission[1] of Inquiry concluded that the NPF is: “… an unfriendly organisation whose officers are generally high-handed and abrasive, always using their position to take unfair advantage of people …”

The 2008 Mohammed Dikko Yusuf Committee[2], also found that: “… the negative image of the police in the eyes and minds of the public arose from the high level of crimes in the force and its failure to carry out genuine police functions successfully”, adding that “… instead of becoming a public asset … the police have become a public burden.”

Neither of these, nor the 2007 Presidential Committee on the Reform of the Nigeria Police Force headed by Alhaji Muhammed Dan Madami made any recommendations on how to deal with these general causes or external factors responsible for public distrust of the police, although they recommended that calls for State Police should be rejected outright.

Observations

  • Previous government panels on police reform have rejected calls for State police. For example, the 2008 M.D. Yusuf Presidential Committee on the Reform of the Nigeria Police Force accepted the analysis of its predecessors that State police could lead to the disintegration of Nigeria. The CSO Panel however, considered this to be a mantra repeated by those who wish to avoid the hard thinking that the issue really requires.
  • Despite its rejection by previous government panels, the issue continues to be discussed, and at the time the CSO Panel was sitting, a bill on the subject was before the House of Representatives, although the same was withdrawn before any public hearing was conducted by the legislature.
  • Little illumination of the subject can be achieved while the debate continues to be posed as an “either/or” matter without any real thought as to what might actually be accepted or rejected. However, it was the view of the CSO Panel that it is essential for Nigeria to commence a much more informed debate on the subject, so that a rational and measured decision can be taken, rather than the country shouting “either/or” while problems continue to mount, and then taking a hasty, panicky decision as the only option left.
  • While the experiences of the past are important, they should be used as guides, rather than all-time barriers to the future establishment, composition, operations or control of State police in Nigeria.
  • The immunity conferred by section 308 of the Constitution attaches only to the holder of the office in their personal capacity. It is not transferable, and does not protect those carrying out illegal or unconstitutional orders, or protect a state against legal action.
  • In view of the high level of distrust about the intentions of State governors, the general lack of political diversity within States, and sense of class oppression expressed by Nigerians, a great deal of work to build trust and strengthen institutions within the States that are independent of political control must be undertaken by State governors before any real moves to establish State police can be undertaken.
  • Nonetheless, the issue of State Police should be considered in the context of Nigeria’s federal structure and should be introduced taking into cognisance the abuses of the past by making them autonomous of political control by state governors
  • Sections 214-216 of the Constitution should be amended, and Item 45 (Police and other government security services established by law) on the Exclusive Legislative List moved to the Concurrent List to allow for the creation of State Police.
  • State Police should only be established on the basis of strict adherence to the principles of operational autonomy, and be based on sound professional practice in appointment, operations and control.
  • The State Police should have defined parameters of cooperation and where a state does not fully cooperate with its counterpart or the Federal Police on any matter the Federal Police should take over and deal with the matter.
  • Civil society organisations should work with the legislature and conduct informed debates in partnership with the media towards amending the Constitution to allow for the establishment of State Police and also produce a bill that will guarantee the establishment of an independent and professional State Police.
  • Safeguards should be put in place to reassure the public and boost confidence. These include:
  • Establishing an independent service commission for the police to guarantee police autonomy at federal and state levels in matters of appointment, discipline, promotions and accountability. It should operate in the same manner as the National Judicial Council and be insulated from interference by political office holders, whether at state or federal level
  • Permitting cross service transfer from the state through the federal levels (condonment/transfer of service); this will enable professional and experienced police officers to serve, or be recruited to serve in the police in any part of the federation
  • Recruiting or appointing on the basis of residential status, rather than indigeneity, particularly having regard to the diverse ethnic and cultural make up of most states of the federation
  • The State Police Service shall draw up an annual policing plan which details policing priorities to be during the coming year. It should be based on surveys and official statistics on crimes and trends in criminal activity. Funds should be allocated on the basis of such plan.
  • Annual reports should be submitted to the State House of Assembly providing information about police activities during the preceding year and showing the extent to which the policing plan referred to above has been implemented.
  • The independent service commission for the police shall carry out periodic audits for all police services to ensure compliance with and maintenance of professional and autonomous service standards and respect for human rights
  • Government should establish a committee to work out the modalities for the establishment of State police in states desirous of maintaining such, with a view to recommending the framework and measures that should be put in place to address the concerns against state police.

 

Let me dwell a little bit on the Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS)

The SARS is a section of the Nigeria police under the Force Criminal Investigation Department and specifically charged ‘to combat armed robbery and other heinous crimes nationwide.’ But SARS in all parts of Nigeria have gained embarrassing notoriety tainting the image of the Nigerian Police locally and internationally, and should either be scrapped or comprehensively reformed to conform to modern standards of policing or human rights-compliant policing. SARS operatives are known for arresting people for all manner of alleged offences, torturing, extorting and executing suspects and detainees in their custody and secretly disposing of their dead bodies. They also dabble into civil disputes.   The police in SARS across the states are being used by politicians and other influential persons to victimize their opponents or to settle disputes that are purely civil or communal. The police hierarchy is not unaware of the menace that SARS constitutes. Shortly after his appointment as Acting IGP, M. D, Abubakar in 2012 was quoted in several news reports as lamenting that ‘Our Special Anti-Robbery Squads (SARS) have become killer teams engaging in deals for land speculators and debts collection…’

The increasing spate of extortion, harassment, torture and other human rights abuses perpetrated by personnel of SARS has continued to elicit concern among local and international human rights groups[3], media and general public. The lack of effective internal and external mechanisms to hold SARS operatives accountable to the communities they serve has been identified as one of the main contributory factors for the abuses and impunity.

But the problem with SARS is not different from the problem with the Nigeria Police as an institution. When you have a Police Force headed by a visionless directionless, drab and incompetent IGP with a Force PRO who constantly brings odium and shame to the police and doing more damage to its image rather than burnish it, what more do you expect from SARS. Both the IGP and his Force PRO have said at different times that those who are calling for the disbandment of SARS are criminals. The fact that the police hierarchy is defending SARS in spite of the atrocities of its operatives against Nigerians, and despite the public outcry over their criminal activities; the fact that the IGP could appoint as the current Commissioner of Police for the Federal SARS, the immediate former CP of Edo Command, a man under whose leadership, the Edo State police turned into a criminal force- that tells you that the police as an institution, not just SARS, is in urgent need for radical reform.   SARS operatives operate more like armed robbers and predators than crime fighters and protectors.

The public clamour against the detestable activities of SARS operatives led to the national call to disband the unit through the ‘ENDSARS’ campaign which has gained public support nationwide through the social media. In a bid to address the problem the Inspector General of Police responded by announcing plans to reorganize and reform–but not to disband–SARS units. Although the form of reorganization to be made remains unclear, however the Nigeria Police Force have provided a list of emergency contact numbers to aid public reporting on the activities of SAR operatives.  Yet, public complaints are left unaddressed and the impunity continues. Other agencies such as the National Human Rights Commission and local human rights groups have initiated various efforts to join the advocacy for reform of the activities of the unit to see how to find solutions to the problems

To address the general causes of public distrust of, and loss of confidence in the NPF, the following recommendations are made:

  • Re-orientation/sensitization programmes should be designed for both the police and the public, to build trust. While the police need to be re-oriented as to the primary functions of the police, namely protection of life and property, and service to the people; the public must understand clearly the duties of the police, and the challenges that they sometimes encounter in carrying out their duties.
  • Monthly meetings of police-public fora should be held at divisional level to promote trust and confidence in the police.
  • Misuse and abuse of the police by politicians, government officials and the rich, must be curbed, and there should be effective implementation of the laws prohibiting the use of regular police by this category of people. The Panel recommends that only the VIP protection unit should be used, in a strictly limited manner, for that purpose.

Finally, rather than outright rejection of the idea of state police, the government should consider it objectively, weighing the merits against the demerits as well as against other options.

Thank you.

 

[1] The Judicial Commission of Inquiry on the Apo Six Killings by the Police between 7th and 8th June 2005 in Abuja led by Justice Olasumbo Goodluck investigated the extrajudicial execution of six persons by police officers in Abuja in June 2005

[2] Federal Republic of Nigeria, Presidential Committee on the Reform of the Nigeria Police Force, Main Report, Vol. 1, p. 196 (April 2008), hereafter referred to as Yusuf Committee Report

[3] In September 2016 AI reported police officers in the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) regularly tortured detainees in custody as a means of extracting confessions and bribes

One comment

  1. Rattling nice style and fantastic articles, nothing else we want : D.

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