Thursday, 11 October 2012

The Controversy On Introduction Of State Police: An Analysis

The controversy on the desirability of states having their individual police forces or departments has continued to generate controversy and heated debate with regard to the practice of federalism in Nigeria

The tempo of the debate has increased in the last few months with Governors of the 36 states of the Federation divided in their stand on the issue 

The 1999 Constitution places the task of policing the entire country on the shoulders of the federal government.

Section 214 and  215 of that Constitution provides that the Nigerian Police Force shall be under the full and exclusive control of the federal government  and that the authority and powers of the force extends to the whole country.

This is also contained under Item 45 of the Exclusive Legislative List in Part 1 of the second schedule of the 1999 Constitution.

These provisions mentioned above runs contrary to the thinking of those clamoring for state police forces who argue that policing citizens of the country should be the responsibility of the respective states and not that of the federal government.

Even former military president Ibrahim Babangida  is now a strong advocate of the devolution of powers.

One could also argue that with the wide and uncontrolled spate of violence, kidnappings and other crimes across the country, states having and controlling their own police forces might help abate this ugly trend.

But the crucial question could  these and other reasons put forth justify the creation of state police forces in Nigeria?

President Jonathan thinks not and  one can understand his thinking: Nigeria is a volatile country, fractured along many fault-lines,  terrorized by religious shenanigans and, cursed with a deficient constitution. 

One may be quick to argue that the role of the police under the present dispensation is being abused by the federal government, that it is used against the opposition.

However, Edo State Governor, Adams Oshiomhole’s take, is that power –in any form- should not be entrusted to governors, implying albeit circuitously, that the police institution is better abused by the Federal Government than by the states.

The idea may be that creation of state police will encourage state governors to muzzle any opposition within their state and  Nigeria has walked this road before under the 1953 Constitution where the police under regional governments, were grossly abused by politicians.

Another problem of a state police is the likelihood of conflict of jurisdiction between states, especially where the conflicting states are run by different political parties.

The lack of uniformity in financing is also a great challenge to the establishment of state police in Nigeria as there are states which can effectively finance a police force because of their financial strength, and there are states which do not have the financial wherewithal to do that.

There are those that have stood on the side of a “balanced view”; that there should be a co-existence of both the federal police force and that of the state.

But even that comes with a problem of conflict of interest between the two tiers which may eventually create more problems than it seeks to solve. 

Now these problems are a legitimate fear but it is pertinent to note  there is no public institution anywhere in the world that is not vulnerable to abuses

And while waiting for the ripe time for State Police, it is impossible to achieve a perfect conditioning for its introduction

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