By Oginyi Nkechinyere
After the proposal/ recommendation from Mr. Tony Ojukwu led Presidential Panel on reform of the State Anti Robbery Squad (SARS), for introduction of state police by the federal government of Nigeria, some Abakaliki residents have kicked against the idea of state police, noting that it would not be in the best interest of the lower class in the country.
The residents spoke in an opinion poll conducted by Citizens’ Advocate newspaper in Abakaliki on Tuesday.
The respondents who rejected outrightly the recommendation of the creation of state police maintained that Nigeria was yet not ripe to have state police formations.
In his view, a legal practitioner in the state, Barr. Ibrahim Obiahu noted that Nigeria is not ripe or matured for the state police. He added that some state can’t even pay their workers, let alone establishing state police.
Obiahu called for life insurance and enhanced welfare scheme for Nigeria Police from the government and not to establish state police.
Obiahu said, “Majority states of the federation can’t pay their civil service workforce, let alone armed personnel. Governors would surely exploit and maximize the state police against real and perceived enemies and get away with crimes that they would commit.”
“A hungry but armed state police officer would be more dangerous than the current bunch of terrorists. Rather than a state police, the current security challenges facing Nigeria deserves a headlong, practical and pragmatic approach to tackle it.”
“He calls for equipping, training and retraining, logistics, morale support of our current federal police officers. Giving life insurance to all police officers, particularly the rank and file. Increasing the pay and welfare packages of police officers, particularly those in battle lines. Massively recruiting more police officers to adequately police the nation will help to curb insecurity in Nigeria.”
Another respondent, Dr Paul Okorie, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress and former Commissioner of Works, Housing and Transportation in Ebonyi on his part, said state police would become anti opposition agents in the hands of the ruling state Governors.
He called for more strengthening and repositioning of the existing federal police, which would go a long way in tackling current security challenges in Nigeria.
He noted that formation of state police rather than address security problems would be used to hunt and persecute real or imaginary political opponents by state officials.
Dr. Okorie said, “State police will be prone to abuse by governors and other officials of state government; they will be used to intimidate and harass political opponents and again Nigeria is yet not ripe or developed to have state police.”
“Look at the abuse happening in the State Independent Electoral Commissions (SIECs), where only the ruling political party’s candidates are the ones that win chairmanship and councillorship positions in local government elections.”
“Democracy at the local government has been completely destroyed because those who emerge as elected public officials are only those anointed by the governors and as such are not responsible and accountable to the people.”
“I do not think that having state police will be different from what we are presently experiencing in the SIEs because the governors will still be in charge”, Okorie added.
He said that state police security would also be divided along party lines, noting that such would pose grave danger to the nation’s collective security architecture.
He said, “If a particular party is in charge of a particular state, the police force in such a state will become more or less an arm of that ruling party or government. There will be conflict and superiority struggle between the officers of the federal and state police formations. In short, we are not yet politically, morally and psychologically developed for state police.”
Okorie who is also a commissioner for Environment called for robust synergy between the governors and state commissioners of police to enhance proactive response to security situations at state levels.
He said, “I know that State Commissioners of Police are at the disposal of the state governors, even though they receive instructions from their central command at Abuja.”
“There is no way there will be security problem in any part of the state and the governor tells the commissioner of police that this is what is going on in the state that the police will not move in.”
“It is all about having a ‘sane’ system in which everybody will be alive to his or her responsibilities; where the police will be ready to do their work, the governor is ready to do his work and put public interest above personal interest”, he said.
He added that the demerits inherent in state police far outweigh the merits and insisted that state police if created would backfire with severe consequences.
An activist, Mr. Oliver Aja, Executive Director of the Development Integrity Intervention Goal Foundation (DIIG-F), a Civil Society Organization (CSO) noted that state police would do the country more harm than good.
He called on President Muhammadu Buhari not to endorse or approve any recommendation that would allow for the formation of state police in Nigeria.
He said, “State police will do us more harm than good, though it will create job opportunity for unemployed youths, they will definitely be under the whims and caprices of state governors. Imagine how the governors presently influence security agencies and compare it with when states create their state police.”
“My position is, let there be pool of resources for funding of one central police which will be decentralized with adequate personnel and equipment for them to effectively police every part of the country.”
However, the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), Ebonyi chapter said that creation of state police would tackle security challenges and allow for grassroots participation in security management.
Mr. Jeremiah Onyibe, secretary of the group in Abakaliki said that the CDHR was in support of the establishment of state police and maintained that the upsurge in insecurity was becoming more worrisome.
Mr. Jeremiah said, “The establishment of state and local government police in Nigeria will not only help to reduce the high surge of insecurity in the country but also will make the local people participate in the issues concerning the security of their people.”
“We have observed high rate of dysfunctional institution in Nigeria police which resulted to gross abuse of power and unprofessionalism in the discharge of their constitutional responsibility because of the centralized command and control system.”
“However, the creation of state and local government police will help to strengthen the institution and make personnel more accountable to people”, he said.