The argument for the establishment of State Police is gathering momentum in Nigeria. The most recent convert is the Senate President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. His conversion came as an aftermath of the recent gruesome murder of four students of the University of Port Harcourt.
Why State Police?
The State Police proposition stems from the apparent insecurity in the country. The spate of attacks on and killings of hapless citizens has taken a monumental dimension. Gone are the days that you hear the news of bomb blasts and, without thinking, you conclude it must be Afghanistan, Iraq or Pakistan. These days, more often that not, you listen further to know which part of Nigeria has been bombed.
The insecurity in Nigeria takes a new meaning when you imagine that, like our huge underground economy, the killings that are not reported far outweighs those that are. Ritual killers carry on their ‘business’ activities everyday of the week. You only get to hear about it when the Nigeria Police operatives come across some of them by happenstance.
Background to the security challenge
The Nigerian nation hasn’t always been like this. Nigeria was (it’s no longer) a country where people were indeed their brothers’ keeper. Nigerians went out of their way to lend a helping hand to those in need. Something obviously went wrong.
Are we saying that security was never an issue? No, it has always been one of our problems. We’ve always had cases of stealing, armed robbery and ritual killings. While growing up I heard about a notorious armed robber called ‘Oyenusi’. Not long ago, we heard about ‘Anini’, ‘Osunbor and co’ – these were dangerous armed robbers. The point is that our security challenges have both deepened and broadened with the addition of new and more vicious components.
The real challenge is that these destructive coalitions have ceased to be the havens of marginal criminals whose activities could easily be curtailed by our ill-equipped national security agents. The coalitions are becoming increasingly attractive to a lot more people, especially our idle youth. Some of our brilliant citizens are not left out in the scramble for enlistment in these ‘lucrative’ coalitions. The combination of intellect and tools in the hands of the coalitions has proved a formidable opposition to our regular security agents to deal with. Some of the regular security agents have even been involved robbery and other nefarious activities.
Root cause analysis
It’s a known fact that you can only deal with a problem effectively when you’ve identified its root cause. Problem identification is the single most important step in proffering a solution to a problem. The universal wisdom is that a problem identified is half-solved.
In the absence of a thorough problem analysis aimed at finding the root cause, what you end up doing is dealing with the symptoms. This is where the State Police propaganda falls on its face. To imagine that decentralizing the Police force is the cure-all factor for insecurity is a fallacy. What we seem to forget is that insecurity is a symptom of our problem, it’s not our problem.
At the outset of our current democratic dispensation, the Speaker of the House of Representative was accused of certificate forgery. After the initial uproar, he was given a State pardon! Since then, cases of examination malpractices have taken a monumental proportion.
Some groups of people constituted themselves into a menace by obstructing oil production activities, kidnapping and killings oil workers as a way of voicing their anger about years of deprivation of their locality. The next thing was that the highest government in the land entered into negotiation with them, gave them amnesty and several billions have been spent and are being spent on these people.
Expectedly, not long after, another group from a different part of the country started bombing and killing people, this time for no apparent reason. The Federal Government has entered into discussion (or is it negotiation) with them!
A past governor was accused of corruption. However, because of his connections to the powers that be, he was able to frustrate the application of the laws of the land. It took the intervention of a foreign nation to dock the rogue governor.
When a leader needed the people’s vote so that he could be elected into office, he told them all sorts of lies; knelt before a revered man of God. He even identified with the pervasive poverty in the land by claiming he had no shoes as a young child. The people connected and voted him into power. After he was elected into office, he told the people that elected him that he doesn’t give a damn about publicly declaring how much he’s worth.
In Nigeria, we have an inverse relationship between the value of what a person steals and the punishment meted out to him or her. People that are accused of stealing laptops, telephone handsets, or any other small items are lynched, those that steal much bigger items get a jail-term and those that steal much more (running into billions of naira) go about their businesses unhindered! All over the world, thieves and robbers are kept in prisons but here our big thieves (oil thieves) live in their own houses!
In June 2012, there was a plane crash in which some of the best minds in the land lost their lives. The report of the investigations on the crash is yet to be released but the airline has been cleared to start flying again, barely 3 months after the crash! How well such an action underscores our value for life beats me.
It was widely reported that the recent sale of power plants ended with a past leader and some government apologists being preferred bidders! Nobody is asking questions about how they came about the funds they paid or are paying for the power plants.
It’s on record that no murder case has ever been resolved in this part of the world. Even the brutal murder of a serving Attorney General of the Federal didn’t materially change the way things have been. How we are going to deter murderous minded individuals from carrying out their activities is a mystery.
The solution to our numerous problems lies in pooling together the above seemingly disparate events to establish a recognizable and definitive pattern. Without that, we would only be examining the symptoms which will lead to wrong medication as the decentralization of the Police Force (if carried out) will prove to be.
We need an equitable and just reward system – a system that punishes evil deeds and rewards good deeds; encourages productivity and discourages rent-seeking.
The workability of such a system is hinged on the rational quality of human beings: we seek to maximize pleasure and minimize pain. When the pain sufferable from doing wrong is sufficiently heightened, people will cease to do wrong.
However, the desired reward system is not going to come by legislation or executive fiat. The extent to which we have wronged one another will make such an approach suspicious. We need a solid foundation on which the pillar of equitable and just reward system and a few other pillars can be erected. Such a foundation will be provided by an all-embracing Constitution. Therefore, the argument for a Sovereign National Conference in some quarters is not a misplaced priority.