New Telegraph

Time to decentralise the NPF

With a population of over 200 million people, Nigeria must do away with the archaic system of policing 774 local government areas in 36 states from the centre in Abuja. The level of insecurity countrywide demands a more pragmatic approach. In the First Republic, Local Authority Police worked effectively to maintain law and order. It was not simply because of the lower population of less than 70 million citizens, the police performed because officers were acquainted with the communities where they operated.

The fall of the First Republic also affected the police. The military became more visible and did everything possible to diminish their paramilitary counterparts. Years of dictatorship pushed the army closer to encroaching into police duties. The 1999 Constitution did internal security no good. Section 214 is about one Nigeria Police Force (NPF) which will be managed from the centre by the Inspector General of Police. The import is that states do not have the legal right to establish their own police. Whoever drafted the 1999 Constitution did a very poor job. It does not represent the collective will of the people as there are many grey areas. The politicians of the Fourth Republic have made so much noise about amending the constitution without achieving much. Presently, the NPF is overwhelmed. There are about 400, 000 officers and men burdened with the task of securing the nation. This is meaningless, going by the United Nations recommendation of one police officer for every 400 citizens. The shortage is worsened by attachment of police officers to government officials, their families and of recent, to any noise maker who has free money to throw about. This development means that about one percent of the 200 million population control about half of the entire force. With terrorists and bandits gaining an upper hand in the insecurity index, there are calls for states to establish and fund police in their respective areas. The idea is as old as the Fourth Republic but past administrations before President Bola Tinubu were quick to shy away from it. In 2022, the Conference of the 36 States Houses of Assembly met in Asaba and voted for State Police.

The Muhammadu Buhari administration should have taken the lead from there to do the needful through a constitutional amendment Unfortunately, nothing was done. The fear has been that creation of State Police will whittle down the power of the Federal Government. The President appoints the IGP and can use the Police Force at will including keeping it away from troubled spots depending on his personal interest. The same fear has been expressed that some state governors could use State Police to hound political opponents. Instances have been cited where governors established state financed quasi-military groups and used them to terrorise their area of authority. This fear of the unknown is noted but must not stop the government from thinking out of the box. Perhaps, a committee should be appointed to work out the modalities for policing the states more efficiently. The President should retain the power to appoint the IGP but the IGP will not have the power to appoint State Commissioners of Police. That job should go to the Police Service Commission (PSC) which has general control of the NPF. The PSC should consist of a Chairman who must be a retired top police officer, not below the rank of a Deputy Inspector General ( DIG ) and six other members, each representing a Geo Political Zone and must have left service wearing a rank not below Assistant Inspector General (AIG) of Police.

Funding for the State Police should be channelled through the PSC. However, to keep the IGP active, the Mobile Police Force should work directly under him. To stem abuse, the power to approve their deployment must come from the Commission. We believe that to achieve internal law and order, the NPF, as presently constituted, needs to be restructured. It is not enough to have a few people wearing uniforms chasing bandits, politicians, armed robbers, cultists, ritualists and even prostitutes, all at once, when the country is on fire. More money should be spent on policing; more able hands should be recruited and sent to the various states. To cap it all, Abuja should have little to do with the State Police. Their job revolves around the thousands of communities that make up the country.

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