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IGP Gives Reasons For Not Backing State Police Says Governors Will Use It Against Political Opponent

The Inspector-General of Police, Kayode Egbetokun, has rejected the state police proposal, warning that the governors can abuse the outfit for political or personal gains and compromise human rights and national security.
The IG stated this at the national dialogue on state policing organised by the House of Representatives in Abuja, on Monday, with the theme, ‘Pathways to Peace: Reimagining Policing in Nigeria.’
However, the Federal Government insisted there was no going back on the initiative.

At the event, Vice President Kashim Shetimma reiterated the Bola Tinubu administration’s commitment to creating an enabling environment for the establishment of state police across the country.

The nation has been grappling with multifaceted security challenges for the past years with the police authorities unable to roll back the crisis despite the deployment of various strategies, including the military forces across the country.

To address the anomaly, Tinubu and the state governors agreed to come up with modalities that would culminate in the creation of state police to tackle the security crisis.

This was part of the agreements reached at an emergency meeting between the President and 36 state governors at the Aso Rock Villa, Abuja in February.

So far, about 20 governors have submitted reports expressing their support for state police to the National Economic Council.

In furtherance of the move, the House of Representatives on February 20, 2024, passed the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (Alteration) Bill 2023 (Establishment of State Police ) HB 617 for a second reading.

IG opposes initiative

The IG, represented by Assistant Inspector-General of Police, Ben Okolo, at the security summit, called for solutions to the challenges confronting the Nigeria Police Force to enable it to serve the people better.

He said, “On the issue of state police, it is the submission of the leadership of the Nigeria Police Force that the country has yet to mature and ready for the establishment of state-controlled police.

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“There is the potential for abuse of power by the state political leadership. State governors could use the police forces under their control for political or personal gain and compromise human rights and security.”

Okolo stated that instead of establishing state police, “The Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps and Federal Road Safety Commission should form a department under the Nigerian police.’’

Responding to the IG’s arguments, the Vice President, who represented President Tinubu, affirmed that the state police initiative was not timely.

“This government under the leadership of President Bola Tinubu is acutely aware of the complex security issues that abound in places. As such, we are continually developing methods to address these challenges effectively.

“The President believes that the path to effective security is through adaptive reforms catering to our diverse situations and circumstances. This can only be achieved by carefully reviewing various options,” the VP stated.

The Senior Special Assistant on Media and Communications to the VP, Stanley Nkwocha, noted that the Tinubu administration knew Nigeria’s complex security issues and would continually develop and refine its strategies and methods to address the challenges effectively.

Shetimma stated, “In our deliberations, let us consider the implications of state policing from multiple perspectives. We must evaluate its potential to improve response times to emergencies, adapt to specific local challenges and increase accountability.

“At the same time, we must address concerns related to the standardization of training, oversight, and the safeguarding of civil liberties.

“We view the outcomes of today’s deliberations as crucial inputs that will guide the government’s actions towards reforming the institution of the police and achieving a safer and more secure Nigeria.”

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He believed that Monday’s dialogue would present an opportunity to listen, understand, and propose solutions that bridge gaps.

The VP expressed delight that the 10th House of Representatives under Speaker Tajudeen Abbas keyed into state policing, noting that “the involvement of the legislature in executive reform proposals ensures continuity and synergy.

“Let us use this opportunity to engage and explore every option with the seriousness and diligence they demand. The President is committed to listening to your recommendations and insights, which are invaluable to shaping the policies that will lead us toward a more secure and just society,” he added.

Lending his support for state policing, ex-President Goodluck Jonathan said what is debatable is the manner it would operate alongside the federal police.

Jonathan backs reforms

“There is no way we can manage our internal security if states will not have their police. The issue is not states having their police but how they will function vis-a-vis the national security architecture.”

According to him, there should be sufficient deliberations on the constitutional matter particularly on how political actors at the sub-national level would hijack state police and use it against their opponents.

“We should not waste our time debating whether we should have state police or not. We had it before in this country but the military scrapped it because of abuse. That is the area we should concentrate on.

“How do we manage state police so that it will not be abused by state political actors? If state political actors are abusing state police and using them to harass and make life miserable for people who don’t belong to their political parties, will the commander-in-chief sit down and watch? Or will order the military to overrun the state police?,” he asked.

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Jonathan in a veiled reference to alleged state governors’ desperation for power, also called for a review of the operations of the Independent National Electoral Commission.

“Even in cosmopolitan states, If the governor is in Party A, you will see party B and Party C winning elections as Senators and House of Representatives members but come Local Government elections, no other party wins the chairmanship and councillorship elections. It is only the party that produces the governor that clears all the council seats. This is not possible,” he declared.

He also called for the establishment of a national border force and coast guards.

“While we are debating on conducting a public hearing on state police, the issue of national border force must be considered. We can say the customs and immigration carry weapons and they are in charge of border control but they cannot play the role of national border guards because customs and immigration stay in controlled routes.

“Criminal elements don’t pass through those controlled routes. It is when we have national border guards that we will be able to control these elements. Yes, customs and immigration carry weapons, but they are not sufficiently trained to confront these criminal gangs,” he added.
Jonathan voiced his delight that the collective discourse is now focused on how state police should be operated.

“There is no need to debate about state police. The issues of state police and the Coast Guard were accepted at the 2014 National Conference.

“The Nigeria Customs Service and other agencies at the border are not trained to deal with criminal gangs,” said Jonathan.

He recommended rejigging the Act that established the Independent National Electoral Commission so that the police are not used for election malpractices in states.

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