President Muhammadu Buhari, on Monday, received the report of the Presidential Panel on the Reform of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) which he constituted and among the several recommendations made by the panel led its Chairman, Barrister Tony Ojukwu, public attention mostly focused on the formation of police at the 36 states of the federation particularly in view of the upsurge in crimes in those distant places in recent times.
There were agitations in the past which oscillated between the rise and fall of crime rates depending on social and economic circumstances but never have the debates so heightened than now given the exponential rise in banditry, kidnappings, herders/farmers conflict and insurgency across the country.
In their communiqué after a meeting lately, governors including Aminu Masari from the president’s home state of Katsina, fervently called for establishment of state police. The anxiety and anger behind the agitation comes from a substantially high unresolved killings, robberies and mass murder at various locations in the country.
Though President Buhari had expressed his dislike for state police citing inadequacies in the states, he has still, out of democratic concern, directed the Inspector-General of Police, the Ministry of Justice and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to work out modalities for the implementation of the report of the Presidential Panel within three months.
We hasten to state here that while the committee begins work, it must look at the various concerns in form of memoranda from the public which would certainly itemize the advantages and disadvantages of policemen in the hands of state governors.
The essence of our caution is to help in determining the final outcome of the report. Agreed that the federal police is highly understaffed (UN ratio 1:450 people or 225: 100,000 people), uncommitted and under-equipped to secure the country from the maladies stated above, it begs the need for state governments to urgently feel the vacuum.
As Buhari put it recently, “those perpetrating this evil come from somewhere in Nigeria. Their neighbourhoods know them. The community leaders and also the police are in the front line. They (the police) were not giving the position and uniforms to impress anybody but to secure the people. In this, I feel the community leadership and police to some extent have failed this country.”
The president’s damning remark in our view, points to the socio-economic condition under which the current security services operate. In other words, corruption and indiscipline have eaten up their commitment to save lives and property.
Howbeit, no matter the plausibility of the argument to augment the numbers by the states, the current reality nullifies the desirability and rather portends danger to peace.
For instance, where some governors are still highly indebted to their workers in many months of unpaid salaries, their capacity to successfully manage unpaid and armed policemen is unimaginable.
It will also be unwise for instance, to permit policemen in the hands of a governor who once used thugs to stop EFCC operatives from arresting officials of the state government suspected of fraud. Or how could the federal government have managed the secession-inclined IPOB if governors of the area decide to rebel against the centre?
Furthermore, emperors among the governors are capable of using the police to maltreat perceived opponents. We have seen how the state chief executives have never lost local government elections with the state electoral commissions (SIECs) under their control.
Therefore, as the committee looks at these concerns, it should also beam its lights on socio-economic solutions as economic security in our view, is a better guarantee than physical security.