Policing: Is It State Police Or Police State?

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By Ikeddy Isiguzo

Without stretching one’s memory, it is always easier to remember an ill that the police did. This tends to erase whatever good the police did, and still do. Even in the worst of times, we have been beneficiaries of the goodness of the few policeman and women who remind us that policing is for the society’s good.

Nobody any longer talks of the police being our friends. When the campaign was launched by pasting posters at different formations, the joke was over before the signs peeled off the walls.

What can we do without the police? What can we do with the police?

The buzz on state police as the elixir to Nigeria’s security challenges, is coming at a time of the lowest levels of belief in Nigeria. Many would see state police as abdication of responsibility by those who should protect Nigeria or better still an acceptance that the police have failed.

How would the police succeed when the best equipment for their roles go to other services or are assigned to protect the few who sap most of our society’s resources?

Nigeria is obsessed with law. Not for a moment is there a realisation that the entire purpose of law is an orderly society. Law then is useless without it being purposed for order. Law without order serves no purpose than the pretence at running a democratic system.

We have made the pretence official. When the police cut the freedoms that our Constitution grant, there are no consequences. Would state police cure these frequent breaches of our rights? Who would state police serve? What problems would state police solve? What new challenges would state police create? Can every state afford a police force?

There is more to policing if it is to manage insecurity better. Which processes will produce the new policemen and women?

Our politicians interrogate the effectiveness of the police while they ignore the unchanging character of the police which is rooted in the circumstances of their beginnings in 1861 in Lagos as a 30-man consular guard to serve the colonial administration. Niger Coast Constabulary, 1894, and Lagos Police Force, 1896, were formed to push the colonial agenda of conquest.

They participated in the military expeditions on Arochukwu, and Benin. Those wars ingrained a hatred for the police. Generations learn about them from folklores. There are no counter-narratives on the police not being for the people.

Amalgamation of the various police formations as the Nigeria Police Force in 1930, regional police with the native authority police at independence, and national police through the years, have built police that have a mutually distrustful relationship with the public, poorly managed, and boldly treated as if they are of no importance.

The essential character of the police is an organisation for the conquest of people for the benefit of the government. The police believe they are kept solely for this purpose. We have a police that work for governments, the powerful, and whoever else can fund policing.

A complainant is treated as a suspect. The suspect can decide the direction of an investigation by funding it. For a police perpetually out of funds to maintain their facilities, it is not a surprise that complainants pay for everything, including visit to crime scenes, crime-fighting equipment, arrest of suspects, though sometimes the police could maximise opportunities by harvesting from all sides in the matter.

Section 4 of the Police Act lists the duties of the police as:
The prevention and detection of crime.
The apprehension of offenders.
The preservation of law and order.
The protection of life and property.
The due enforcement of laws and regulations with which they are directly charged.
The performance of such military duties within and outside Nigeria as may be required of them by or under the authority of the police Act or any other Act.

In our enthusiasm to see the central police go, we must think profoundly about what would replace them. Are we handing brutality from the centre to the corners in our local settings where they would not easily be noticed?

A lot of re-training is needed to create a new police that would serve Nigeria and make it a nation where no man, woman, or child is oppressed. Justice, law and order, technology-led operations, and the welfare of the rank and file should be priorities of the police. The character of the police should count, and be counted.

If we do not think through the purpose of state police, we would have created official thugs for Governors, most of whose idea of justice is at most warped.

We should avoid voting for state police and end up with police state.

Finally…
Uncommon Senate President, His Excellency, Distinguished Senator Dr. Godswill Akpabio, is so unoccupied that he dabbles into the prosecution of former Central Bank governor, Godwin Emefiele. According to Akpabio, who spoke in a church, “The former Governor of the Central Bank, we don’t even know what to charge him with. Whether to charge him for illegal possession of firearms, or to charge him for printing notes without income. I don’t know what we’re going to charge him with”. One had thought that the same EFCC, before which a N100 billion petition against Akpabio lies, was prosecuting the matter. We are better informed.

Not exhausted from acting the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Dr. Akpabio becomes Minister of Finance during the Senate’s plenary. “I must say that unverified report has it that each of the state governments in the last few months has received additional N30 billion from Federal Inland Revenue Service outside their normal allocations from the Federation Account to assist them in ameliorating the food situation,” he said. Does FIRS allocate funds to States? Who approved the N1.08 trillion that Akpabio’s low quality rumour entails? Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State has said there was no such payment. Perhaps, Akpabio who depends on “unverified report” misquoted himself.

Homourable Victor Ogene, Labour Party Member, House of Representatives, on the arrest of the party’s national chairman, Julius Abure, “Indeed, what was the rationale for arresting a man of Abure’s standing in society in such a Gestapo manner, drag him on the streets like a common felon, only to release him in the dead of the night?” Police spokesman for Zone 5, Edo State, Mr. Tijani Momoh, said Abure was arrested in a case of alleged “attempted murder and conspiracy to commit dangerous harm”. He was not clear on if the treatment meted Abure was standard rule for a suspect.

Muhammadu Buhari, “I’m glad Tinubu increased the price of fuel, because it reduced the number of people who visit me at home.” It is always about him for himself.
Congratulation to Geometric Power on the commissioning of its $800m, 188MW power plant at Osisioma, Abia State on Monday. It is a bigger project than we can imagine and the exciting possibilities it holds are available to leverage for development.

Isiguzo is a major commentator on minor issues.

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