GOVERNMENT in Nigeria likes being pretentious. In one such case, the Federal Government has deployed military troops to bolster the security system in Ekiti State following the January kidnapping of five pupils and four staff members of the Apostolic Faith Group of Schools, Emure-Ekiti and the killing of two kings. The deployment is just a temporary measure; the permanent, logical solution is the establishment of state police in Nigeria. President Bola Tinubu should lead from the front to make state police happen, which will exist alongside the federal police.
Although well-advertised, the deployment is not the antidote to the security challenges confronting that state and the rest of the country. The abduction of the pupils and the staff occurred when gunmen waylaid the school bus conveying home 25 pupils after school hours in Emure. Two monarchs were killed in the same state the same day though one narrowly escaped.
In response to the wave of abductions, the security agencies mobilised men and equipment across the country but while they have successfully eliminated and arrested many suspects, the abduction epidemic has not abated. The criminals exploit the gaps in the security architecture because the political leadership has failed to apply the right solutions or implement pragmatic strategies that could stem the tide.
The latest deployment of military resources follows the same knee-jerk pattern that has failed to address the security issues dragging Nigeria to the precipice. Since 1999, military troops have been deployed in joint security operations with the police. Currently, the military is in all 36 states and the FCT but there has been no reprieve for citizens.
Crucially, the primary role of the military is to fight war and terrorism and defend Nigeria’s territorial integrity, not internal security operations. The best global practice is to assign that to the police.
But Nigeria’s current police structure is diabolical. In a federal state, it is single, weak, and shorthanded. In a country of 220 million, it consists of just 371,000 officers, most of whom are assigned to VIP guard duties.
Also, the reliance on a single federal police force has strained resources and limited the capacity to address security concerns adequately across Nigeria. It has failed woefully to protect citizens, 5,135 of whom have died in violence in Tinubu’s first seven months in office, per the International Centre for Investigative Journalism. Under his predecessor, Muhammadu Buhari (2015-2023), Nigeria recorded 63,111 violent deaths, SBM Intelligence said. With this, the argument for the localisation of policing attains crucial impetus.
Security is local and state police would be more familiar with local dynamics, culture, and challenges, potentially leading to more effective law enforcement at the community level. With police forces operating at the state level, response times to incidents may improve as resources are allocated more locally and efficiently.
Critics have argued that state police forces could be susceptible to political influence and abuse by local authorities, leading to human rights violations and biased enforcement of laws. But such violations can easily be dealt with by the state police board over-sighting the operations of the command under it.
India addresses this by granting the centre a role in the appointment of regional police heads. To prevent abuse, the state police bosses should go through an open, stringent process that will be vetted by all stakeholders. Employment and tenure will be dictated by performance, not seniority alone.
In the meantime, the Inspector-General of Police, Kayode Egbetokun, should withdraw all the officers illegally attached to VIPs and redeploy them to patrol duties. Tinubu should enhance the efficiency of the police by equipping them with modern technology tools.