That there is serious and unprecedented state of insecurity in Nigeria today is like stating the obvious. The situation has led to calls for the overhaul of security architecture in the country, with some people calling for massive deployment of the military to the affected regions of the country, while others call for constitutional amendment that would allow federating states to establish police services or forces of their own.
Under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) the item “Police” is treated in Section 214, 215 and 216 of the said constitution. Section 214 (1) provides as follows: – “There shall be a police force for Nigeria which shall be known as the Nigeria Police Force, and subject to the provisions of this Section no other Police Force shall be established for the Federation or any part thereof.”
From the above provision of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, it is crystal clear that no state, group of states, or local government in the country can on its own establish any police force by whatever name called.
But some people have argued that Nigeria being a federation states, ex debito justicia (as a matter of right) can/should be permitted to establish their own police forces. These proponents are fortified in their position by the very fact of the definition of the word “federation”.
The Oxford Advanced Dictionary of current English defines a federation as:- “a political system in which a union of states leaves foreign affairs, defence, etc., to the central (federal) government but retain powers of government over some internal affairs”.
Therefore, from the point of view of the universal definition of a “federation”, internal security of which police is the most prominent is usually an item that is normally reserved for the state government, thereby allowing every state or federating unit to organize its own police force or service.
We had this type of situation under the Independence Constitution of 1960. Under that constitution, Local Governments or Native Authorities were permitted, as of choice, to establish Local Government Police Force or Native Authority Police Force by virtue of Chapter VII (7) Section 98 (7) and (8). The Sections provide as follows: –
“Section 98 (7) Nothing in this Section shall prevent the legislature of a Region from making provision for the maintenance by any Native Authority or Local Government Authority established for a province of a police force for employment within that province. “(8) In this section “Province” means any area that was a province on the 3oth day of September, 1954”.
Also during the Second Republic by virtue of the 1963 Republican Constitution, the regions could establish Local Government or Native Authority Police Force on the authority of Section 105 (7). The Section provides as follows:-
“Section 105 (7).. Nothing in this Section shall prevent the legislature of a region from making provision for the maintenance by any Native Authority or Local Government Authority established for a province or any part of a province of a police force for employment within that province.
“In this subsection “Province” means any area that was a province on the 3oth day of September, 1954”.
During the Second Republic, the old Western Region and the Northern Region utilized above provision of the Republican Constitution. Only the Eastern Region did not cash in on the said constitutional provision.
By reason aforesaid having a Police Force other than the Nigeria Police Force had been experienced in this country before and the heavens did not fall. I state without fear of contradiction that the security challenges of that time were not as humongous as we have all over Nigeria today.
If the truth be told Nigeria Police of today are overwhelmed by security problems in the country; that one officer (the IGP) cannot effectively and efficiently coordinate the operations of the Nigeria Police Force from Abuja.
The situation of having both the Nigeria Police Force and the Local Government Police Forces in the old Western Region and Native Authority Police Force in some northern parts of the country continued to exist pari passu even during the Nigerian civil war of 1967-70.
This writer recalls with nostalgia the Native Authority Police Force of Jos town that comprised the Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo elements during his formative years in that part of the country in the 50’s.
It was on the 19th August, 1971 that the military government of General Yakubu Gowon by the Constitution (suspension and modification) Decree No.36, 1971 repealed Sections 105 (which allowed the Regions by choice to have local government and native authority police forces) to 110 of the Republican Constitution of 1963.
The government then promulgated a new Section 105 (4) which stated in very clear terms that no other police force shall be established for Nigeria or any part thereof. The Section provided as follows:- “Section 105 (4).. No police force other than the Nigeria Police Force shall be established for Nigeria or any part thereof”
After the above repeal of Section 105 of the Republican Constitution of 1963, the members of the Local Government and the Native Authority Police Forces were integrated into the Nigeria Police Force. But I cannot now lay my hand on the legal instrument under which the merger was done.
To arrive at whether there should or should not be a state police, it would be necessary to x-ray some of the challenges of the Nigeria Police Force as presently constituted to be able to decide which side of the divide one should key in.
The United Nations ratio of police to population is 400 population to 1 policeman. But in Nigeria we are told that the strength of the Nigeria Police Force is 300,000. At our population of almost 200 million this gives a ratio of 1 Policeman to 660 population.
A major step in enhancing national security or guarding against national insecurity is to focus massively on the Nigeria Police Force which is on the frontline in national security in the country.
To guarantee national security in Nigeria we must ensure that the Nigeria Police Force are given the desired establishment and strength by complying or surpassing the United Nations ratio of police to population. South Africa with a population of 51 million (2011 figures) has 150,513 police officers (2010) with a civilian staff of 39,033.
By the United Nations ratio of one policeman to 400 people, South Africa should have 128,750 police officers but it has as stated above 150,513 officers thereby surpassing the United Nations ratio. Nigerians should emulate South Africa in this regard.
A step towards avoiding insecurity in the nation is to adequately fund the police for them to be able to procure appropriate technological equipment like APC, arms and ammunitions, and proper training and retraining for its officers and men.
Criminality and insurgency the world over (including Nigeria) are assuming a dangerous dimension. The government should therefore respond appropriately.
As far back as 2006 the South African police had in its arsenal over 5000 Armored Personnel Carriers (APC’s) out of which 25 were bought that year. The Nigeria Police Force, according to the then IGP (Sunday Ehindero), had less than 20 APC’s all of which were bought during the regime of Alhaji Shehu Shagari between 1979-1983.
No doubt the Federal Government may have acquired some APC’s for the NPF, but I doubt if the NPF have up to 2,000 APC’s. Closely tied to the number of APC’s police should have for optimal performance is the quality thereof.
This writer recalls that during the Commission of Enquiry that looked into the Police/Army conflict in Ojuelegba Lagos in 2005 there was the uncontradicted evidence by the police officer that manned the Police APC on the day of the incident to the effect that some soldiers during the conflict fired more than 500 rounds of rifle ammunition on the tyres of the police APC that was sent to the scene by police authorities. The APC escaped unscathed and returned to Mopol 2 Barracks Obalande Lagos.
The APC which was one of those bought by the Shagari regime was 100% bullet proof. This writer was the police counsel at that enquiry. This leads this discussion to the quality of equipment purchased for the police.
Modern day APC’s are fire proof, bullet proof and bomb proof. I have heard people say that the current police APC’s are not 100% bullet proof not to talk of being fire proof or bomb proof. Is Nigeria not rich enough to purchase for the NPF appropriate and superior APC’s, or is it a question of corruption?
The importance of appropriate APC’s can hardly be over emphasized as it is most suited for operation against deadly armed robbers and insurgents.
It is rumored that most police APC’s are not of the desired quality as most of them now use inappropriate tyres with the result that if the tyres are immobilized the strength of the APC is gone. The summary on this point being that proper funding of the police is very critical to the achievement of national security.
If South Africa with a population of 51 million (2011 figures) could own over 5000 APC’s as far back as 2006, Nigeria with a population of almost 200 million and an oil producing nation should have more APC’s than South Africa. This is food for thought!
Equally pertinent in this security analysis is the United Nations standard which is that for every 10 policemen, 8 must be armed. But in Nigeria out of 10 policemen out on operation, only two are armed. This led to a former IGP lamenting at one time as follows:- “there is a shortage of arms now because when you send out six policemen, only two are armed. Whenever robbers come, they target those who are armed and the rest are helpless”. (See Punch Editorial of Friday, October, 12 200, page 14).
Another area of concern that works against national security is the improper deployment of police officers and men. In Nigeria, police officers and men are engaged on duties not necessarily linked with providing global security for the country but solely providing security for a few in the society like Ministers, National Assembly members, state houses of assembly members and even the rich who can afford to pay for such services. In civilized societies worldwide, global security is provided for the people and not personal security.
One other crucial point relevant to insecurity in Nigeria is the funding for the NPF. For selfish reasons, the National Assembly has not been making reasonable financial allocation to the NPF. Even the paltry financial allocation it makes to the NPF is never fully released to the NPF.
For instance, records show that the budget of the NPF last year was N17 billion, but only N6 billion was actually released to it. The NPF according to a past IGP is 300,000 strong.
The budget of the Nigerian National Assembly for same last year was N120 billion, and every single kobo budgeted was paid or released to the NASS. The population of the National Assembly is said to be 500.
The above situation is a serious indictment on the law makers and the government for not showing genuine concern with regards to security. The Federal Government has for some time now been mulling over community policing, and what it also calls community policing officers by which 40,000 community policing officers will be recruited country wide. The distribution is expected to be 50 for each of the 774 local government areas in the country.
This takes us to what Community Policing is all about. Wikipedia defines Community Policing as follows:- “Community Policing or community oriented policing is a strategy of policing that focuses on building tie and working closely with members of the communities”.
A further definition by Wikipedia states that:- “Community Policing is a philosophy of full service personalized policy, where the same officers’ patrols and works in the same area on a permanent basis, from a decentralized place, working in a proactive partnership with citizens to identify and solve problems”.
Therefore from the universally accepted definition of community policing, its clear that it suits more into state policing than into a unitary or federal police force, because it deals essentially with local needs and peculiarity.
In jurisdictions that operate state policing it is normally optional for the federating units to adopt or not adopt state policing. A good example is Canada where federating units have the choice to operate or not operate a state police force.
If Section 214 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is amended to allow for state police like was the case under the independence Constitution of 1960 and the Republican Constitution of 1963, by which any regional legislation can make provision for the maintenance by any native authority or local government within that province, there are many states today that can float state police forces that can match any police force or service anywhere in the world today. Such states will be prepared to spend good money on their police for them to excel in both men, material, training and performance.
The proposed employment of 50 community police officers per local government by the federal government is not and cannot be a substitute to having on optional basis, state police force for states wishing to have same under the proposed amended constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria. A situation where state governors hire or enlist hunters to be part of the security apparatus of a state is retrogressive, primitive and laughable.
Punch Newspaper of Friday 27th September, 2019 at page 40 stated as follows:- “The state governor has said his administration has enlisted the support of vigilantes and hunters to assist the conventional security agencies to maintain law and order across the state”.
Neither is it complimentary that state governors negotiate with bandits for release of hostages rather than bringing the full weight of the state against those known to have been involved in criminal acts such as banditry.
When we have state police, it is then the state governor who will show that he is the Chief Security Officer of his state even though there is no constitutional provision which describes him as such. But the governor will probably be acting in accordance with the provisions of Section 14 (2) (b), which stipulates that the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.
The current insecurity in the country arising from the inability of the traditional security outfit – the Nigeria Police Force that should counter the insecurity has led to the drafting of the military to partake in the internal security arrangement to douse the situation. And this has resulted in sometimes the military overstepping their bounds as internal security operations is not principally their major province.
This is because the main function of the military under Section 217 (2) of the 1999 Constitution is to defend Nigeria from external aggression, maintaining the territorial integrity of Nigeria and securing its borders from violation on land, sea and air in addition to suppressing insecurity and acting in aid of civil authorities when asked to do so.
The pulling of the military out of its traditional function is taking its toll on other core areas of the military. Therefore, the earlier states are allowed to establish state police forces the better for the nation.
If the truth be told all the apparatus being set up by many state governments are alternate police forces, short of being permitted to bear firearms as most police forces do. This is also an indirect way of saying that the federal government is overwhelmed by the security situation in the country.
The most practical and honorable thing to do is for the country to open the window for the creation of State Police Forces for any state or group of states that may wish to do. And in this direction, most state governors and the Vice President are ad idem in this regard. Mr. President and others who are against state police establishment should have a rethink in the interest of the country.
Sir Sebastian Barth Ozoana (JP), is a retired Police Officer, Legal Practitioner & Notary Public.