On May 29 this year, President Bola Tinubu said during his inauguration that security was going to be a top prior­ity for his government. He said “we shall invest more in our security per­sonnel and this means more than an increase in number. We shall provide better training, equipment, pay and fire power.” All of the listed items are good but not enough for the level of insecurity in the country today. Ac­cording to the data from the Nigeria Security Tracker (NST), a project of the Council on Foreign Relations Af­rica Programme about 63, 111 Nigeri­ans were killed during President Mu­hammadu Buhari’s administration. The deaths arose from terrorism, banditry, herdsmen/farmer’s clashes, communal crisis, cult clashes, extra judicial killings among other factors. The North East got the dubious hon­our of recording the highest number of persons killed: 23, 106. Some of the crime targets include schools, hospi­tals, worship centres, trains, buses and other soft targets. Some of the abducted students for instance the Chibok secondary school girls are still in captivity since they were ab­ducted nine years ago.

The situation is dire. Some peo­ple have refrained from road travel. Some companies have shut down completely while others have relo­cated elsewhere. The crime level has also affected the level of foreign direct investment which has reportedly de­clined.

Nigeria is a vast territory with a vast population that is estimated to be about 215 million. We have one police force, the Nigeria Police Force whose strength is about 400, 000. Out of this about 150, 000 are assigned to take care of big men and big wom­en with only 250, 000 left to police the huge population. So obviously the police is overstretched for the enormous job that has to be done. By the United Nations prescription of one policeman to 400 persons we are grossly underpoliced. Ours is a feder­ation that is culturally, linguistically and traditionally heterogeneous but unlike other federations such as Unit­ed States, Canada, Australia and Ger­many, Nigeria is being policed as if it is a homogenous entity with a single police force. That single police force with a central command headquar­ters in Abuja is grossly overstretched.

The anomaly is that a State Gov­ernor is designated as the Chief Se­curity Officer of a State but he is not fully in charge of the security of his State. He is the de jure Chief Securi­ty Officer while the Commissioner of Police is the defacto Chief Secu­rity Officer. There have been several clashes between State Governors and Commissioners of Police posted to their States. The Commissioners of Police report to the Inspector Gen­eral of Police in Abuja who reports to the President of Nigeria. In cases where there is no harmony between the President and the Governor of a State such as happened between the Benue State Governor and President Buhari the security of the State is put in peril.

During Buhari’s first term the rul­ing party had decided to find out what Nigerians wanted. The government set up a committee headed by the then Governor of Kaduna State, Mr Nasir El-Rufai. The committee mem­bers travelled to all the six geo-polit­ical zones, talked to the people and received their feedback. They came back and wrote a report suggesting that the people wanted State Police as part of our security architecture. Bu­hari refused to implement the recom­mendation. That report is gathering dust in someone’s office. But with the level of insecurity in Nigeria today State Police is a desideration. The states have customary, magistrate and high courts. Now, they also are in a position to establish correctional centres by the revised constitution. They need State Police to complete the law enforcement triangle. Amaz­ingly, about 23 States of the Federa­tion have one form of local policing or the other. They are called different names but all of them are involved in police duties even though they are not called State Police. Here are the states where such local police out­fits operate: Kaduna, Sokoto, Kano, Zamfara, Borno, Yobe, Rivers, Osun, Benue, Katsina, Cross River, Enugu, Taraba, Adamawa, Ondo, Anambra, Ebonyi, Edo, Nasarawa, Plateau, Ni­ger, Bauchi and Abia. The major dif­ference between these security outfits and a State Police is that they are not permitted to use the full ammunition and equipment that a fully approved State Police would use. But the fact that these outfits exist in the states at all means that there is a felt need for them and that they are filling a void that exists in the management of our security.

Besides, we now have regional security outfits in two of the geo-po­litical zones, South West and South East. While Amotekun operates in the South West, Ebube-agu takes charge in the South East. Again, if there was no need for them they would not have been established. So who is afraid of State Police when there is “State Police” in some states and “regional police” in some regions already? In any case, it is estimated that about 1/3 of the funding for equipment and services of the Nige­ria Police Force in the states is borne by the state governments. The excuse that Buhari gave for not supporting State Police was that the states would not have the money with which to fund state police. But the states are funding the federal police to a large extent. Besides, the security vote of each state is used in an opaque fash­ion. If the states have their own police force they can channel their security vote more appropriately to their po­lice force. The states should also be able to organise fund raising events to support the police in their states once they can see that they are filling a gap in the security of their states.

At present armed forces person­nel are being used in some states for the maintenance of law and order which is the normal function of the police. And that is because there are not enough policemen to do such du­ties. Meanwhile the main functions of the military men and women are not fully covered because there are not enough personnel for such func­tions. Recently, President Buhari said that he had made possible during his time as President the recruitment of 60, 000 additional armed forces per­sonnel. Many of these armed forces personnel have had to be assigned to assist in police duties. And the armed forces personnel fully aware of their limitations in that line of duty often hand over civilians that they arrest to police personnel for appropriate ac­tion. When armed forces personnel are assigned to perform police func­tions, there is a gap in the duties that the soldiers are supposed to perform. So the serious crimes of abduction of people for ransom, banditry and attacks by terrorists on the country’s assets are left to the remaining armed forces personnel who may not be enough to cope with the enormity of these crimes in various states.

There are obvious advantages of having State Police in Nigeria. During Buhari’s era all the State Gov­ernors had agreed that state police was a desideration considering the depth and breadth of serious crimes in the country. State Police would in­crease the number of policemen and women available to tackle crime. If all the states recruit 20, 000 policemen each at least one million personnel would be added to the pool of avail­able policemen to man the country.

The greater advantage of state po­lice is actually in the fact that since those recruited are from the locality they know the lay of the land, the culture and the language and the idiosyncratic characteristics of the environment. This knowledge helps because most crimes are local. It is difficult for a stranger to commit a crime in a strange place.

The other advantage of state po­lice is that the command and con­trol are locally located. This makes for quick decision taking and quick implementation of decisions taken. The present arrangement within the Nigeria Police Force is cumber­some and untidy. Even though there are zonal offices, the Commssioners of Police in the States still report directly to the Inspector General of Police (IGP) in Abuja. The IGP also calls the Commissioners of Police in the States without bothering to check with the AIGs who man the zones. It will perhaps be a better arrangement to appoint DIGs to man the zonal of­fices and these DIGs can report what happens in their zones to the IGP. The IGP will then have to deal with 17 zon­al DIGs than with 37 Commissioners of Police.

Those who are opposed to the es­tablishment of State Police say that the Governors would most probably misuse the police by using it to fight their political opponents. In every system there is always the possibil­ity of an abuse. Even the NPF has been subject to abuse by past govern­ments. But there are always checks and balances in a democracy. There are opportunities for people to chal­lenge abuses in courts. There are also opportunities for public protests by civil society personnel, labour, stu­dents and other personnel who are interested in watering the tree of our democracy.

If President Tinubu wants to deal a mortal blow on insecurity he has to work with the National Assembly to make the establishment of State Po­lice possible. No Nigerian President can cure Nigeria of its massive inse­curity problem with only the Nigeria Police Force. None.