By Ademola Orunbon
Nigeria’s past, present and even the future, makes the establishment and operation of a Federal, State and Local Government Policing or Law Enforcement un-debatably mandatory! Nigeria needs and should have Federal Police, State Police and Local Police! It just makes sense! The local people, the local authorities know the neighborhoods, the local people and local circumstances better!
In the past, it was the case that Native Authorities or also called NA and or Local Authorities or called LA, these primary level authorities maintained law and order through the NA or LA police departments, these NA or LA police enforced local ordinances, byelaws, rules and regulations of the localities or municipalities over which the NA or LA presided. It is also a fact of Nigeria’s political history, that some regional governments leaders abused local policing, as the local police was used as instruments of political intimidations and harassments and other manners of illegalities, all these called for reforms, checks and balances, such as Police Service Commissions, with clear oversights over each command.
There also need to be a Civil Complaint Review Boards for each Police Command, to handle police misconduct, corruption, abuse of power, police brutalities and extra-judicial killings by the police, Nigeria Police should be enlarged, reformed and decentralized and fine-tuned for more efficiency and effectiveness. But, the advent of military form of government, it was that turned the three-tier form of government of a federal government system on its head, and instead, Nigeria remained a federal system in name-only, but in actuality, an over-centralized unitary system of government was in place and it was what was practiced.
In the present democratic system, the federal form of government has started to ascend to its pride of place, there is now a clear distinction between the federal, state and local government. Indeed, some instances actually now exist, where the political party in control at the federal level, may not necessarily be the political be, but the political party in control at the state and or local government levels. And, this is quite dissimilar to what Nigeria endured during the military, the military operated as if it was a one political party running, running the political administration of the country, the military very unlike the democrats, had a command structure from the federal levels to state to local government or the smallest unit of government that were compelled to do the bidding of the federal military government centrally controlled, without dissension, this was to be expected, in a true military tradition, orders are orders! Military orders are to be obeyed! All the misgivings about the likelihood or possibilities of regional governments, now state government misusing or abusing their control over the police command must be abandoned or jettisoned for a greater good, but of course with adequate safeguards and safety nets, some of which I have already addressed above.
We must all realize by now, especially with the Edo House of Assembly abracadabra, that even the federal police can be misused by a state governor, deputy governor or by a political godfather who sponsors a governor, the checks and balances and reforms of the police will tackle all these, the police can be misused by individuals, by states or the federal government, the police even as presently constituted and controlled; Reform is and safeguards are therefore what are needed. Will ensure that the police in Nigeria is no longer subject to the whims of individuals, state or federal governments.
In America like Nigeria, a federal system of government is in operation, at the federal level in the US, there is the Federal Bureau of Investigations, The Bureau of Firearms and Tobacco, The Secret Service and the National Security Agency, there are also the Customs, the Drug Enforcement Agency, US Postal Police etc. All these are federal law enforcement that take care of mostly domestic crimes and the Central Intelligence Agency takes care of mostly overseas espionage and enforcement of US policies wishes.
At the state’s levels in all the 50 states of the Union of these United States, there are individual state police and that enforce state laws and rules and regulations, without much interference from the federal law enforcements, exceptions are where the US federal government may want to exercise some supremacy and a recent example is the attacks in New York on September 11, 2003. State Troopers are what the state police in New York State are called. New York State is like Lagos State.
Then New York City is like Lagos Island or Lagos Mainland Local Government, and New York City has its own Police Department of about 40,000 member strong, until recently, it had separate departments and separate chiefs of department as in Housing Police, Transportation Police and Sanitation Police etc, until it was merged to cut cost and avoid the duplication of Departments, this merger was debated for more than twenty years here in New York City before it eventually happened. Also, sanitation Police are like War Against Indiscipline enforcers with the WAI draconian enforcement tactics, sanitation police in New York enforce rules of garbage collection and ensure that compliance is had or compelled with summons and or fines.
Nigeria needs aggressive but fair policing, and community policing, with police officers on the beat, or patrolling the neighborhood with their thorough familiarity, he or she knows the Area Boys and Trouble Makers; the police officers probably attended the same Primary and Secondary Schools. Knowing the neighbors and the neighborhood is of key importance, know the perpetrators and also know good and gentle people who would be willing to give useful information against those who prefer to operate outside the laws. The establishment of local police will happen in Nigeria sooner or later, as our country develops and expands, it simply just makes a great lot of sense to have more police officers, and to have law enforcement that has thorough familiarity of all the nooks and crannies of our republic.
Imagine sending a guy who cannot swim to be a marine police officer in Burutu, Bomadi or Epe or such other ravine areas of Nigeria? Does it not make more sense to send a police woman or man who knows all the tricks of swimming and the rivers and marshlands in Nigeria? Is it not simply easier for someone from Numa to know who the trouble makers in Numa are? Is it not likely that the citizen police woman or man from Damaturi or Gombe knows the trouble makers in these towns? Local policing just makes logistical and law enforcement sense, it is also more cost effective, Nigerian taxpayers monies the federal treasury will then spare the expense of moving federal police officers from state to state in Nigeria, and spared the expense of accommodating moved police officers.
Policing in Nigeria urgently need reforms, including but, not limited to the establishment of state and local police departments, the establishment of Civilian Complaints Review Boards or Commissions in every state and Local Government Areas to oversee and act as safeguard against police misconduct, police abuse or brutalities and Nigeria will save money doing all these and Nigeria police will regain their needed respect.
Lives and properties in Nigeria will then be secure and insecurities will be a thing of the past! Effective Nigeria Police will result from decentralization and the formation of state and local government policing; Nigeria needs more police, not less.
Orunbon, a journalists and public affairs analyst, writes from Abeokuta, Ogun State via: email@example.com