The Arewa Consultative Forum has rejected the proposal for the creation of state police, saying the privilege will be abused.
The ACF’s position has, however, drawn heated reactions from organisations, including Middle Belt groups, pan-Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere; and Civil Liberties Organisation.
The All Progressives Congress’ restructuring committee, led by the Kaduna State Governor, Nasir el-Rufai, had recommended state police, among other suggestions.
Also the Nigeria Governors’ Forum last week supported Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, who called for the creation of state police at a security summit organised by the Senate.
But the ACF, faulting the call for state police, noted that the creation of state police would lead to chaos.
The ACF’s Secretary General, Mr. Anthony Sani, in an interview with one of our correspondents in Kaduna, said if created, the various state governors would abuse state police the way the state electoral commissions were being abused.
According to the ACF, governors will use state police to torment the opposition.
“Given the experiences where state governments use the state electoral commissions to kill democracy at the local government level – where no opposition party wins a seat in the local government council – there is the high possibility of state governments abusing state police with dire consequences, especially in states with many ethnic groups and religions,” the ACF’s secretary said.
The ACF, he added, was opposed to state police because it believed that the problems of the police were lack of training and lack of equipment, as well as insufficient personnel.
He also said given the paucity of resources, it would not be a good judgment to saddle states with additional responsibilities of state police. He said the northern body believed that the problems that led to the calls for state police could not be solved by the multiplication of security agencies.
Sani said that the northern group was of the view that the Nigeria Police Force would perform better if given adequate training, equipment and manpower.
The ACF secretary said, “We prefer that police personnel be properly trained and adequately equipped, while their number should be increased rather that the introduction of state police.”
However, the Middle Belt Youth Council President, Emma Zopmal, faulted the ACF position, saying the position of the northern group was borne out of fear.
He said, “They are not experts in security and defence. State policing is the only way of guaranteeing safety of lives and property of citizens. Regional police effectively worked in the First Republic; there’s no doubt that it will work at the state level today.
“With the incessant infiltration of Nigeria’s territorial space by Fulani herdsmen, the federal police can no longer protect some states and citizens from the marauding killer herdsmen. We are aware that Nigerian government says that the Fulani herdsmen are foreigners.
“I do not believe that state governors will abuse state police. Even if they do so, they would have copied it from the present Federal Government, which also abuses police power.”
According to him, with laws governing state police system, there will be no abuse.
“Strong institutions will also ensure that the state police system is not abused.
“Our restructuring demands in the Middle Belt are state creation, creation of Middle Belt Region with its autonomy, state or regional police and solid mineral resource control.
“Functional laws in the state will prevent any abuse of state police.’’
Also, The President of the National Council of Tiv Youths, Chief John Akperashi, rejected ACF’s position and supported the creation of state police.
He said, “The truth basically is that state police remain the best to ensure an effective check of external aggression.”
According to him, the recent attacks by herdsmen had made the call for state police necessary.
He said, “Governors, although proclaimed chief security officers of their states, still appear helpless in the deployment of the security agencies, especially the police.”
He said the problem had strengthened the need for state police.
Akperashi said, “Certainly if the police are in the control of the governors at the affected states, this destruction and unfortunate killings wouldn’t have gone up to alarming proportions.”
“The governor of Zamfara just came out to decry the inefficiency of the security formations in his state which he alleged failed him as he did everything humanly possible in mitigating that carnage.
“The governor of Benue State also stated the complicity roles of the security in his state and particularly the ineffectiveness of the police. If Ortom had had the police under his direct command, he would have achieved much more and saved more lives against what was witnessed in Benue.”
On its part, Afenifere dismissed as baseless the fear by the ACF that governors would abuse state police.
The group argued that the ACF’s anxiety was not strong enough to stop the establishment of state police, noting that necessary institutions to check abuse by the governors would simply be put in place.
Afenifere National Publicity Secretary, Yinka Odumakin, in an interview with The PUNCH, said, “The handling of the killings by herdsmen across the country has shown that the Federal Government is misusing the Nigeria Police Force.”
Executive Director, Civil Liberties Organization, Steve Aluko, said efficient mechanism for checks and balances to guide against abuses could be put in place instead of the ACF’s rejection.
He stated, “There is the need for supervisory channels to curb the excesses of the governors.”
According to him, the state police will enhance intelligence gathering needed for preventive actions rather than over centralised structures that delay, leading to wastage of lives and property.
“The justification for the state police is the success story of the joint civilian and military operations in countering insurgency and extreme radicalism in the North-East. State police system is an idea whose time has come to tame the increasing criminality of the new age,” he added
The President, Conference of Ethnic Nationalities of Niger Delta, Prof. Kimse Okoko, dismissed the position of the ACF, adding that a new constitution would not allow state governors to go beyond their powers in controlling state police.
He said, “State police is part of the total restructuring that Nigerians demand; it (state police) has to be part of the production of a new constitution. This is because state police is related to the security issues being talked about in the country today.’’