Abdulsalami, Jonathan, Others Endorse State Police, IG Kicks

Two of Nigeria’s former leaders – Dr  Goodluck Jonathan and Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar — have thrown their weight behind the concept of state police as a means of combating insecurity in the country. 

They, however, pointed out that issues such as its integration into the National security architecture and operationalization must be adequately addressed.

Senate President Godswill Akpabio and House of Representatives Speaker Tajudeen Abbas, who also supported the proposed policing model, gave reasons why it should start now.

However, Inspector-General of Police Kayode Egbetokun differed with them. He said Nigeria was not ripe for state police.

Jonathan, Abubakar, Akpabio, Abbas and Egbetokun spoke at a one-day dialogue on state policing in Abuja yesterday.

Africa Today News, New York reports that the Executive Bill was rejected by the Ninth National Assembly on the ground that governors could misuse state police if empowered to have control over its personnel.

However, the rising spate of insecurity made many of those opposed to the idea change their position and support it.

For instance, many states in the North are now fully in support of state police.

Last month, 16 states indicated their support of state police at the National Economic Council (NEC) meeting.

Read Also: Peter Obi: Invest Big In North To Quell Insecurity, Poverty

The President said: “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.

“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.

He expressed delight that the 10th House of Representatives has keyed into the idea of state policing, noting that “the involvement of the Legislature in reform proposals ensures continuity and synergy.’’

Former President Jonathan said state police should no longer be seen as an idea but a done deal.

Stating that there was no way any state could have adequate security without state police, he wondered why some people were wary of it even after some states had successfully experimented with it.

Jonathan said what should be of concern at the moment is the operational model the system would take.

He said: “The issue today is very critical. One thing is that we don’t need to debate whether we should have state police or not. I think that matter has been concluded. The issue is the operations of the police.

“The need for states to have their own police is not negotiable. There is no way we can continue this kidnapping that is going on in this country.

“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 is for states to have their police.

“Insecurity is a national challenge and if you don’t help crush the problem of other states, those criminal elements will one day come to your state.

“I was a governor. I operated at the state level for eight years, as deputy governor and governor and getting to the centre, Vice President and President for another eight years.

“I know that in Bayelsa and other states that attempted to have some element of security, state Police worked very well.

“In Bayelsa, when we took over, the state was almost ungovernable. Gen. Abubakar would remember that when elections were to be conducted in December 1998, the security situation was so bad that our elections were pushed to January 1999.

“When we took over, the state was in crisis. Niger Delta agitation was there. The criminal elements were also operating in the creeks and were causing issues for market women and others until (Diepreye) Alamieseigha who was then the governor, set up the Bayelsa Volunteers Force that worked with the police.

“We built stations around parts of the creeks and the boys volunteered to work with the police and that brought the situation down.

“So, there is no way we can manage internal security if states would not have their police.

“But how would the state police function vis-a-vis the national security architecture?

“When I set up the 2014 national dialogue, we had lots of challenges in the country. People were agitating in so many areas.

“But one thing that the almost 500 delegates agreed upon without much ado was the issue of state police.

“When that issue came up, everyone supported the issue of state police. So we cannot move away from state police.

“State police was accepted; national border force was accepted and coast guard was also accepted.

“So, the National Assembly, while debating or conducting public hearings on state police, these issues of national borders force must be considered.

“Yes the immigration and customs carry out border controls, but they cannot play the role of national borders force. When we have a national border force, we will be able to contain these enemies.

“Also the customs and Immigration personnel carry weapons but they may not have been sufficiently trained to confront these criminals.

“I was in the customs for two years before I entered the university and the training given to us was not enough to confront the criminals. So, these issues must be integrated with the issue of state police.

“We are not going to waste our time debating whether we should have state police or not because we operated it before.

“The military scrapped it because of the abuse and that is the area we should concentrate on.

“How do we manage the state police so that it would not be abused by state political actors?

“If state political actors are abusing the state police and using the state police to harass and make life miserable for people who do not belong to their political parties, would the commander-in-chief sit down and watch or would he order the military to go and overrun the state police? Of course that would bring crisis.’’

Jonathan said the key areas that have to be debated is how to run the state police vis-a-vis the national security architecture of the country.

Former Head of state, Gen. Abubakar said as the possibility for state police brightens, efforts should also be geared towards giving traditional rulers constitutional roles in addressing security challenges.

He added: “Nigeria has been having a rough ride for the last 10 years or so because of insecurity. I want to thank President Jonathan for what he has said. Why I have not brought up any paper is because he has taken the wind out of my sail.

“All I will add is that, to have peace and security in any nation, the government must be transparent, honest and accountable.

“Our royal fathers have a lot of responsibilities in ensuring the maintenance of peace and order. As a young child growing up in a rural community, we used to see the role of these royal fathers.

‘’When a stranger enters a village, within hours, the village head knows about that stranger through their means of communication.

“It is necessary for politicians to as much as possible avoid exerting influence on how the police are going to operate if at all we agree to have the state police.

“President Jonathan has concluded that it’s the operational standards that we must discuss. We must give a thought to its operationalisation.’’

But IGP Egbetokun, who was represented at the event by AIG Ben Okolo, said the country was not mature for state police.

He added that apart from leading to multiple command structures, state police could become a political tool in the hands of governors.

The Police boss also said that state policing would exacerbate ethnic tension and lead to divided loyalty in the states.

Africa Today News, New York

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