State police: Further delay is risky

THE deterioration of security has continued to stimulate support for the swift establishment of state police as a panacea for the bloody violence. The state and federal governments and the federal and state assemblies must fast-track the process to save the country from implosion.

Already, 20 out of 36 state governors have aligned with the proposal to have state police, while 16 state governors have remained undecided. At the rate at which criminals are operating, their indecision is risky.

Although it is gratifying to witness the numbers grow from the initial 16 to 20 in March, the others should not delay the process any longer.

Nigeria is under a siege of violence and insecurity. On Wednesday, bandits abducted dozens of villagers in a community in the Birnin-Gwari Local Government Area of Kaduna State. Terrorists set buildings ablaze after kidnapping at least 20 villagers in a Malufashi LGA of Katsina State community on Tuesday. Killings occur in Benue and Plateau states regularly.

According to SBM Intelligence tracking, 2,371 Nigerians were killed in the first quarter of 2024, with 123 out of them being security agents.

With a score of 98, The Fund for Peace ranks Nigeria as the 15th most vulnerable in the 2023 Fragile States Index. Finland topped with 179 points. The Global Terrorism Index says it is the eighth most terrorised country in the world owing to Islamic terrorism, banditry, and genocidal killings by Fulani herdsmen.

A separatist group, the Indigenous People of Biafra, is busy tormenting the South-East; oil thieves rule the roost in the Niger Delta.

Farmers are afraid to go to their farms for fear of kidnapping and killing. The night economy has become comatose, as travelling has been constricted by armed robbery. Schools that are meant to be safe havens for children have become deserted for fear of abduction and killing.

The situation is grim. In the first seven months of President Bola Tinubu’s tenure, 5,135 persons were killed, per the National Security Tracker, a Project of the Foreign Relations Council.

Amid this, the Nigerian state continues to operate a single police structure. This is unwise. Although the introduction of mining police, and the Safe School Initiative by the Federal Government are steps in the right direction, it is the states that should drive it.

Nigerians remain underserved by the current policing system. There are 371,000 police officers to 223 million citizens, and about two-thirds of them are deployed to protect VIPs. In the First Republic, policing was devolved to the regions. Unfortunately, the military dismantled that structure in place of the unworkable single federal police system.

Instead of devolving policing as it is done in other federal countries, the political leaders deployed military troops in joint task force operations in the 36 states. This has not improved security. Apart from gross human rights violations, the soldiers are stretched, unable to achieve success due to a lack of trust, and angst within the communities.

Some hide under the concern that governors may deploy state police to oppress their political opponents and civil society activists to disapprove of state police. This is not enough to stop it; the federal police are being abused too. On Wednesday, two sets of federal police teams clashed as the EFCC tried to arrest ex-Kogi State governor, Yahaya Bello, in Abuja, over alleged corruption in office.

To prevent abuse, there should be modality and guardrails to limit the undue influence of the ruling parties, elite, and governors on the state police system.

Therefore, Nigeria must stop foot-dragging on the establishment of state police.

By The Punch Newspaper Editorial Board

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