The recent suggestion and support by the Vice President and the 36 state Governors for the creation of State Police are in line with the opinions of Nigerians as captured in a past survey conducted by NOIPolls in 2017. The survey revealed that a larger proportion of Nigerians (61 percent) pledged their support for the creation of state police as shown in the figure below.
The clamor for State Police in Nigeria surprisingly got a boost on Thursday, February 8th, 2018, when Vice President Yemi Osinbajo publicly backed the call for the decentralization of the Nigerian Police during a National Security Summit organized by the Nigerian Senate in Abuja. According to the Vice President, “We cannot realistically police a country the size of Nigeria centrally from Abuja. State police and other community policing methods are clearly the way to go”.
It is worth noting that the North-West (69 percent), the North-East (68 percent) and the North-Central (65 percent) zones accounted for the largest proportion of Nigerians who showed their support for the creation of state police. This is not surprising as these regions have had a fair share of security challenges. For instance, the high occurrence of cattle rustling in the North-West, Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East, and the farmers and herders’ clashes in the North-Central have continued to pose serious security challenges to the inhabitants of these regions; not to mention the loss of lives and properties as well as the displacement of people.
Reflecting on this finding, the CEO of NOIPolls, Dr. Bell Ihua, stated: “This shows that our leaders are now listening to the opinions of Nigerians”. He further noted that “…security has been a major challenge and calls for proactive measures that will take into account the views of Nigerians in tackling these security challenges”. Also supporting the creation of state police, the Chairman, Nigeria Governors’ Forum, Governor Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara on behalf of the 36 state governors, declared support for the creation of state police in the country during a two-day summit organized by the Senate Ad-hoc Committee on Review of Current Security Infrastructure in Nigeria. The continued security challenges that have engulfed Nigeria has proven that securing Nigeria’s land mass and its over 180 million people requires more equipment and personnel who are more familiar with the indigenes and terrain to help detect and uproot any emerging crime.
Furthermore, the creation of state police would foster a close relationship with communities, thereby enhancing greater information sharing with the police. Also, the issue of familiarity which hinders effective information sharing between law enforcement and members of the public would be overcome. For instance, residents of Borno state are more likely to be familiar with a Cameroonian from the Extreme North region than they would be with a Nigerian from the South-South. In other words, sending an Ijaw policeman, who is neither resident nor an indigene, to serve in Borno is not the most effective way of policing a society. On the other hand, in terms of implementation of state police, all the states in Nigeria may not be able to afford an optimum police force mainly based on varying Internally Generated Revenue capacities. For instance, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Nigeria Poverty Profile in 2012, a state like Lagos has a poverty rate of 8.5 percent, compared to Yobe which has a poverty rate of 90 percent. Therefore, these numbers clearly show that the quality of the state police force will differ from state to state based on economic disparities.
In conclusion, it is worth emphasizing an important aspect of the 2017 survey by NOIPolls which revealed that a significant proportion of Nigerians support the clamor for state police. The reasons are not far-fetched as some of the stakeholders in the security sector in Nigeria have decried the suitability of a unitary police system in curbing security issues, especially those matters that are peculiar to some regions. Although, some segments of Nigerians have pointed out some challenges that might militate against setting up state police in Nigeria such as poor funding, misuse or hijack by politicians to hunt down perceived political enemies, operational deficiencies in dealing with crime, and the possible clash with the federal police at some instances. A consensus can be reached where the responsibility of each establishment (Federal and State Police) would be clearly spelled out. Therefore, the essential aspect of state police creation is the formulation of legal frameworks that would guide and moderate the modus operandi of the state policing system so that it would not be abused in the manners that are stated above.