My Common Man's Common Sense With Olalekan Anifowoshe: Introduction Of Vigilante; State Police In Disguise?


Last weekend, I had weddings of children of old school mates to attend in Ikenne and Ogbomoso. I had convinced another old school mate; Mr Momodu, to make the trip together in his state of the art; Toyota SUV. It was a memorable journey as I enjoyed the luxury of the auto-mobile with its comfortable leather seats, computerized stereo that automatically increased its volume when the auto-mobile increases speed, marred only by the horrible state of the Lagos – Ibadan express-way, the Sagamu – Ore express-way and worst of all; the Oyo – Ogbomoso road which remains a dual carriage way that winds through sharp bends and up several hills and down the valleys, but that is talk for another day.

The Oyo – Ogbomoso road drive was interrupted by check points. I was shocked to meet men in dark brown uniforms with Patrol trucks embossed with the sign; VIGILANTE, at the check points. We also encountered them in Ikenne.  This discovery elicited extensive discuss with my mate and it kept our trip quite lively.  Needless to say that this was the issue I tabled at the ‘zone’ on Monday morning. I was happy as I had taken 3 days off work, so we were able to discuss the issue extensively as it affects the common man.

 This VIGILANTE service are equipped, sponsored, rank and file employed and controlled by the corresponding state governments which means; the state governors. The service is supposed to fight crime within their respective states. My common sense conclusion is that this is a back door introduction of State Police as their functions mirror the constitutional functions of the Nigerian Police force. Furthermore, unlike the NPF, the wages of the officers are determined and paid by the state. Those who oppose the introduction of State police should be informed of this development.

The majority position of the ‘zone’ is against the establishment of state police based on common sense analysis of the structure and operation of the Nigerian Police Force as it currently is, and the reasons adduced to support the need for the establishment of the state police by its supporters. The major reasons listed by the supporters of state police are;

· The governor of each state, being the constitutionally assigned Chief security officer, will be in control of the police and therefore will make the police more effective.

· Since the governor will be in charge, the state will be more disposed to committing funds to equipping and training of their police.

Without a doubt, the reasons listed above are absolutely essential to having a viable and effective police force, but are they enough reasons to establish state police? Our common sense answer is; NO, for the simple reason that these provisos can be introduced into the Nigerian police force as is, and it will have the same, if not better, effect.

Our position is predicated on the common sense that; without careful analysis of the problems bedevilling the Nigeria Police Force, NPF as is currently constituted and managed, identifying said problems, proffering and effecting solutions to these problems and then observing to see whether or not the solution engender an increase in efficiency or not, then the calls for state police are premature as they will run into the same problems and therefore be as ineffective as the current force, or there lies a political reason for these calls.  Our conclusion is that both are the reasons for the call.

We believe that the calls for state police are politically motivated and the arguments below, justify our assertion;

With the current point of development of our democracy, Governors are quick to over reach their constitutional powers, they take control of party machinery within their states, they turn the state houses into rubber stamp offices, they administer state funds like personal accounts, withholding local government funds as they desire. Local government elections under governors have turned into a farce, with the governors parties practically winning all LG seats, irrespective of the people’s wishes. Governors are also accused of hounding opposition politicians within their states and there are numerous cases to draw from. All these atrocities added to their unbridled and unchecked looting of their state treasuries. Surely, handing over or allowing these governors to establish, finance and be in total control of state police forces is a certain way to grant them full dictatorial status and then the current campaign to revoke their immunity would be useless as all they would ensure is that; upon the conclusion of the constitutionally allowed 2 terms, the governors will, by using the same state police to intimidate opponents, install their chosen successor who will do their bidding and then they just sit back in their country homes, protected by the same police that ought to investigate and arrest them.

Furthermore, with governors crying daily; that the revenue allocation to their states are insufficient to cover both infrastructural development which is desperately needed and recurring overheads, such that they are constantly calling for the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN to share funds from the excess crude accounts, several of them have resorted to multiple taxation of citizens and businesses within their states – companies complain about this daily, how are these same governors to adequately fund the state police? Equipment and recurring expenditure of the police, with emphasis on modernization, will be way past what is affordable for the states, at this point in time, again, except of course if the call for state police is not really based on consideration to provide a more secured environment for the common man.

As we stated earlier; the common sense approach is to identify the major factors that conspire to make the Nigerian Police Force be ineffective and inefficient, as it is currently structured, and then to consider and proffer solutions and modifications to these major factors and then allow for a period of observation to assess the effect of the solutions. Then, and only then, should we, with common sense logic, begin to consider a totally different approach to government’s provision of security, which may or may not include the option of state police.

We believe that; asides from the ever present problems of proper motivation in terms of decent and timely pay structure for the rank and file of the force, the recently fully exposed total scam of their pensions and the ever present nepotism, favouritism and quota system practised by the Police Commission which will continue to dampen morale and lower commitment and dedication. These are two main policies practised by the force that will continue to ensure that they perform below requirements, and this will remain so even if all other problems are corrected.

For clarity, Let us first consider someone who was born and raised in Damaturu. This individual went to primary and secondary school in and around the local government that he was born and raised, and then enlisted in the police academy to undergo cadet training. Upon conclusion of cadet training, the police commission posts this fresh recruit back to Damaturu, where, as he proceeds to effectively put a stop to the cattle rustling ‘syndicate’ and the other problems within the area, all these with the full co-operation of other residents who know him well as being one of them.

Being effective in his duties and in line with quota, he is quickly promoted to corporal and then the police commission transfers him from Damaturu to Adekunle police station in Yaba local government area of Lagos state. From catching cattle thieves and settling domestic disputes in Damaturu with a population of 20,000-30,000, to catching armed robbers, kidnappers, smugglers, 419-ers, ritual killers and the list goes on and on, in Adekunle with an immediate population of 250,000 and a state population of 15 million. 

Furthermore, he is not compelled to relocate with his family, as he will be posted somewhere else again. Consequently, he does not establish roots within the community he is required to police, and so he does not develop and sustain relationships within the community and thus he feels no obligations towards the people or the place and this of course affects his motivation to do his job, even as it is obvious that he is ill equipped to do it as everything will be new and highly confusing to him. This is the first seriously defective policy currently practiced within the force.

The second major practice that ensures inefficiency concerns the officers within the force. Not only are they subject to the same idiocy of the posting policy, in their own case, they are required to lead men and/or head agencies that require specialization. Hence, a Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP) who has spent the last 5 years in Borno and has excelled in the fight against Boko Haram, is promoted to Assistant Commissioner of Police (ASP) and transferred to Milverton road- Ikoyi Lagos to the Fraud Dept., and he will be the 2nd highest ranking officer here and required to lead and direct about 300 police officers. The result of this policy is that we do not get officers that specialize in particular fields and then add extensive experience in the same field to their specialization. Taking stock of numerous agencies and police positions, one will notice a yo-yo in the physical look of the places and the performances, which will correspond to periods with different leadership.

 A cancellation of these 2 policies will ensure the following;

1. Rank and file will remain within areas that they know well and thus are aware of the security requirements which will allow them excel in their duties.

2. Remaining within areas that they are known in allows for trust and desperately needed co-operation from residents, since the police are people who are known to them.

3. With roots within the societies they police, with their families part of such societies, rank and file have the motivation that is required and there will be a clearly visible dedication to their jobs, irrespective of other factors plaguing the force.

4. Officers would also be fully embedded within their societies and this encourages dedication and motivation.

5. More recruitment will occur from the more populated areas, abandoning the retrogressive quota system.

6. The experience garnered by years in a particular field of security will ensure that the force will be populated by real and experienced specialist in the different fields.

Finally, if the changes listed above do not give birth to a more efficient and effective police force, then it is important to point out that; the Nigerian Police force, as is currently structured, already provides for state police and federal police. Each state has a state police commissioner which will be the same position in a state police force. Each state is also grouped under a zonal headquarters with an Assistant Inspector General as the head of each zonal headquarters. In the current arrangement, the state commissioners report to the AIG heading their zonal headquarters and the AIGs report to the Inspector General (IG) of Police. A better structure will allow for the state commissioners to report to the state governors. The state governments will equip and fund the police within the states, but the wages of the police officers will be paid by the police commission. The AIGs within each zone will be regarded as the Federal police (which they are now) and they will monitor, but not supervise, the activities of all state commissioners under their zones and report same to the IG. They will also supervise police activities which are federal in nature; kidnapping, smuggling, fraud, etc.

This arrangement will ensure that; (1) governors are in better control of the police within their states. (2) With another police force present within each state, headed by a superior officer to the state commissioner, a check and balance situation is created, such that the governor and state commissioner will be weary of embarking on any of the abuses of the force that we are absolutely convinced is their real reason for desiring the state police.

In conclusion, our fear is as regards the risks presented by these untrained Vigilantes. If we currently cry about our police not being properly trained, one can only imagine the situation with these vigilantes. What are the constitutional provisions that allow the bearing of arms, and the bearing of arms by employees of a uniformed organization? Is the establishment of this vigilante force backed by law? Which institution and/or agency are responsible for the supervising and checking the excesses of members of the vigilante force? The common man deserves answers to these important questions and not this scheming to introduce an even worse state police force disguised as vigilantes.

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