The raging debate on the necessity of State Police in Nigeria is interesting and compelling. Without a shadow of doubt, the Nigerian Police as presently constituted is an overstretched outfit that has completely transmogrified from the template of its original designers and founders. Information available on the web site of the Nigerian Police Force states:

“In April 1861, the British Consul in Lagos obtained permission from his principal in London to establish a Consular Guard comprising of 30 men. Two years later in 1863, this small body of men became known as the "Hausa Guard". It was further regularized in 1879 by an Ordinance creating a Constabulary for the Colony of Lagos. An Inspector-General of Police commanded this Force recruited mainly from Hausas and known as the "Hausa Constabulary". On 1st January 1896, the Lagos Police Force was created and armed like the "Hausa Constabulary". While the developments were taking place in Lagos and part of the Yoruba heartland, the areas now known as Edo, Delta, Akwa Ibom, River and Cross River States were declared the Oil Rivers protectorate in 1891 with Headquarters at Calabar where an armed constabulary was formed. In 1893 the area was proclaimed the Niger Coast. Constabulary, modeled on the Hausa Constabulary, was formed. It existed for six years and featured prominently in the British expedition to Benin in 1896. In the Northern parts of the Country the Royal Niger Company, which was granted a Royal Charter in 1886 by the British Government, set up the Royal Niger Constabulary in 1888 with Headquarters at Lokoja to protect its installations along the banks of the River Niger. It had a mounted company known as Carrol’s Hoses. The Royal Niger Constabulary played an important role in British campaigns against Bida and Ilorin. When the British Government in 1900 following the transfer of administration from the Royal Niger Company proclaimed protectorates of Northern and Southern Nigeria, the Royal Niger Constabulary was split into the Northern Nigeria Police Force and the Northern Nigeria Regiment. In the South, the Lagos Police Force and part of the Niger Coast Constabulary became the southern Nigeria Police Force in 1906 while the bulk of the Niger Coast Constabulary formed the southern Nigeria Regiments.”

It is very obvious from the above reproduced post originally posted on the official web site of the Nigerian Police Force that the Force was founded and designed to help the British Colonial overlords subjugate indigenous Nigerian Kingdoms and to help facilitate the establishment of British colonial rule and domination in the areas now collectively known as Nigeria. The mission of the Nigerian Police Force as originally designed by the British founders was very narrow. Subjugate, conquer and rule.

Since the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Protectorates of Nigeria and the Colony of Lagos; the new geo socio-economic and political entity known as Nigeria has been galloping upwardly, development wise, in every sector. In recent time and with the unprecedented advancements in science and technology, the world has become an information village. The Pulitzer Prize winning writer for the New York Times, Thomas L. Friedman, described the modern world as flat. The flatness referred to by Thomas Friedman is about the world becoming very global in the way communities all across the globe now operate inter dependably. This new found inter dependency is a superstructure that is predicated on a newly evolved sophistication in every sphere of human engagement. Invariably the Nigerian Police force that was founded to help entrench colonialism has now become so much overstretched in an attempt to reposition the force and make it potent and vibrant enough to fight crime and engage in other Police functions germane to an information age society.

Modern Nigeria is a behemoth. The responsibilities of a modern Police institution are now as sophisticated as they are varied. i.e Urban crime control, fighting terrorism, fighting narcotics trafficking, fighting cyber- crimes, fighting money laundering et al. It would therefore be ridiculous to leave the duty of keeping Nigeria safe in the hands of the Nigerian Police Force as a single unitary institution. The problems of very low pay and lack of proper functional equipments to enable the Police carry out their functions is also very well known. All past Nigerian federal administrations have all tried to deal with these problems; to no avail. Truth is: Nigeria is too huge and complex for a single Police authority like the Nigeria Police Force.

At this juncture one would naturally begin to consider the option of State Police. As attractive as that option is; one must thread that path very cautiously. In more advanced societies, there are Federal Police i.e the American Federal Bureau of Investigation, State Police establishments, and City or County Police. Even very big institutions like Universities and Parks have their own Police outfits. The problem with Nigeria is that Nigerian State Governors would without doubt convert State Police outfits under their control to instruments for pursuing and executing their political whims, nuances and caprices.

Local government Authorities should be autonomous and they are universally allowed to operate in an autonomous capacity even in communist China. Nigerian State Governors have turned the Local Governments that should normally constitute the third tier of government, into extensions of State Government institutions. The finances of Nigerian Local Governments are usually subjected to redistribution by State Governors. These same State Governors jealousy protect their autonomous status when dealing with the Federal Government. Nigerian State Governors have the intestinal fortitude to dissolve duly elected local government councils at will and impose their cronies on the people who elected such dismissed elected council officials.

Local government Chairmen in Nigeria are mere glorified “houseboys” of the Governors. The Chairmen serve at the pleasure and will of the “almighty” Governors. The Governors care less about Local Government autonomy and care even less about the people’s right to elect their own Local Government representatives. Nigerian Governors have completely the Local Government institution in Nigeria. It is against the background of the above reality that I harbor my reservation vis a vis the wisdom in allowing the states to keep their own Police institutions.

There is no question that homegrown terrorism, kidnapping, armed robbery, cyber-crimes et al have all eaten very deep into the very fabric of the Nigerian society. However, we must very deeply apply caution as we consider the option of State Police and ensure that if and when implemented State Governors are checked and not allowed to turn such police institutions into their private armies for the persecution of political enemies.

As Nigeria considers the State Police option, the issue of Local Government autonomy must also be re-visited. Local Governments must also be allowed to maintain law and regulation enforcement para military institutions. Local governments must be delivered from the oppression and shackles of Nigerian State Governors before the States are allowed to maintain their own Police institutions.



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