The rise of insecurity and the cry for state police in Nigeria
The rise of insecurity in Nigeria has led to a public outcry for the need for state police as a means to curb insecurity. Some notable voices that have thrown their weight in support of state police are former President Olusegun Obasanjo1, Bola Ahmed Tinubu2, APC 2023 presidential candidate and Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, Ondo state governor,3 among others.
The purpose of this article is to explore the reasons for the creation of state police as well as highlight dissenting views.
What is state police?
State police is a police structure in a federal system where the state government is in charge of the operations of the police in a particular state.4 This means that the power of the police is controlled by the state government (governor) who constitutionally (in Nigeria) is the Chief executive officer of the state.5 State police is used in other countries like Canada, United States of America and India.6
Current structure of the Nigerian Police
There is single federal police in Nigeria known as Nigeria Police Force.7 This means the power and responsibilities are not shared between the federal police and state police as no state has its own police force.
It is noteworthy at this point to mention that the structure of Nigerian police has not always been centralised. At a time in history, Nigeria’s constitution accommodated regional police alongside the Nigeria Police Force.8 However, the complaint of abuse of local police force by political leaders against their opponents brought an end to it.9
Arguments against state police in Nigeria
1. State police structure is not suitable due to diverse ethnic groups within a state as it can harm corporate existence in the face of intra-state disputes within different ethnic groups.10
2. There is a tendency for political leaders in the state to use state police to intimidate their political opponents.11 This factor was the major reason that brought an end to regional police.12
3. Also, the likelihood of conflict between the federal and state police.
Arguments for state police in Nigeria
1. Every state has security challenges that are peculiar to it. Therefore state police who would be familiar with the terrain and the local language will have better intelligence to ascertain the prevalent security issues and manpower needed.13
2. Having a state police structure aligns with the principle of federalism in which Nigeria operates14. Nigerian federalism is reflected in:
- The sharing of power between the federal government and the 36 states.15
- The existence of the federal courts as well as the state courts.16
- The power to make law for the federation is vested in the national assembly, while the state house of assembly makes law for the state17.
- The executive power of the federation is vested in the president while the executive power of the state is vested in the governor.18
The creation of state police will therefore cure the imbalance and bring about true federalism in Nigeria.
3. Also, Nigeria is too large to have security power centralised in the federal government alone. The federal government is already burdened with a lot of administrative responsibilities which can make a decision taking on security matters slow.19 This reason is supported by vice president Yemi Osinbajo who said it was unrealistic to effectively police Nigeria from Abuja.20
4. Most states already fund the police due to under-funding from the government. An example is The Lagos State Security Trust Fund set up by the state government to support the police alongside other security agencies.21
5. Nigeria is under-policed and does not meet the United Nations benchmark which is one policeman to 400 persons.22
6. Also, almost every state in Nigeria has a form of informal state police created/allowed by the government to assist law enforcement agencies. An example is The Lagos Neighborhood Safety Corps (LNSC) operational in all local governments in Lagos. The officers are locals from the various local government where they operate.23
In conclusion, governors who are constitutionally the chief executive officer should have control over the police force in a state as they are likely to be blamed first by the citizens of the state for any insecurity issues.
You might also be interested in ‘Do We Need State Supreme Courts in Nigeria?‘.
4 Agawanwo D. E (2014), ‘State Policing and Police Efficiency in Nigeria’, Research on Humanities and Social Sciences, Vol. 4 No. 25
5 S 176 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999) as amended
6 Tangban, O.J and Audu B. M (2020), ‘The Controversy Over the Creation of State Police in Nigeria’, Sarjana, Vol. 35, No. 2
7 S 214 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999) as amended
8 S 105 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1963
9 Eme, O.I and Ogbochie, A.N (2014), ‘Limitations of State Police in Nigeria’, Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences, Vol 5 No. 15
10 An example is Ife and Modakeke dispute. See https://www.blueprint.ng/hybrid-insurgency-in-nigeria-why-state-police-is-not-the-solution-2/
11 Tamuno ,T. N (1970), ‘The Police in Modern Nigeria’. Ibadan: University Press, pp. 28.
12 Ibid (9)
13 Ibid (9)
14 Ibid (4)
15 S 2 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999) as amended
16 S 6 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999) as amended
17 S 4 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999) as amended
18 S 5 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999) as amended
19 Ibid (4)
22 Nigeria has a population of about 180 million. At the moment, the staff strength of the Nigeria Police is about 371,800 implying a deficit of 78,200 police personnel. See ibid (9)