Between Community Policing and Restructuring

 Between Community Policing and Restructuring

By Jerome-Mario Utomi

There are in the words of the sage, important limits to human relations, knowledge, awareness, and technological state, economic and financial resource availability, social and cultural exposures. Political and Socioeconomic problems which are the product of human actions and reactions are not static. They change with time and place. What is a social or political problem in one society may be a norm in another. And what is rejected or frowned at today may be accepted tomorrow.

But, often always, inability to manage such differences and changing times by nations has at different times and places led to obstacle in relationships; misconceptions on politics, security and economic issues. Corruption, insecurity, community policing and restructuring are some of the typical and topical political and socioeconomic problems that have in recent years dominated not just the public space but the nation’s national discourse.

Take insecurity as an example, the nation is in dire state of strait. And as a response, individuals, groups have proffered solutions to the security threats in the country. Take as an illustration, while applauding the launch of the Western Nigeria Security Network (WNSN), codenamed Amotekun. An initiative of the Southwest governors- adjudged by well meaning Nigerians as a perfect way of bringing “policing arrangement close to the people in their various communities, the Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA)-a Lagos Based non-governmental group, a while ago, in conjunction with other prominent Nigerians, also called on President Muhammadu Buhari to create quasi—military outfits devoid of ethnic colourations. Noting that states should create their out security outfits but be supervised by the federal police. It should not be regional. If it becomes regional, you will begin to see ethnic and tribal colourations. The states should employ and fund it under the supervision of the States Commissioner of police.

Such creations the group added should be given specific mandates to deal with criminal elements in the country. They should be equipped with communication tools while being supervised by the Nigerian Police Force. Again, industrialisation of the country will help to draw the youth out of criminal intentions.

The concern over security and effective policing recently resurfaced as the Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) in charge of South West Geo-political Zone, Leye Oyebade, during his familiarisation tour of Oyo State Police Command, recently, advised officers to key into the community policing initiative in order to reduce crime in the country. The DIG said that it was only community policing that would help to reduce crime to the barest minimum level in the country.

Perfectly a well structured position. The police Boss’ position becomes even more appreciated when one remembers that he is not alone in this line of argument.

This admonition becomes even more appreciated when one remembers that bout two years ago, President Buhari while he played host to the traditional rulers from the Northern part of the country led by the Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence, Alhaji Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, Mr President going by reports stated that; the ongoing reform of the Police would include recruitment of more hands, cultivation of stronger local intelligence and networking with communities, traditional rulers and adequate training. This in specific terms he added will include recruiting more police officers from their local government areas, where they would then be stationed in the best traditions of policing worldwide. Working with the state governments; we intend to improve the equipping of the police force with advanced technology and equipment that can facilitate their work.

From the attributes of his speech, he did not only underline the importance of such arrangement but underscores the virtues and advantages of recruiting more police officers from their local government areas, where they would then be stationed in the best traditions of policing worldwide.

Precisely, this form of security architecture and community policing was amazingly the part of what the pro-state police and nations’ restructuring advocates demanded for –particularly as it was obvious that the vast majority of states can afford to equip their officers with the sophisticated security gadgets Mr. President listed above.

“We can restructure within one Nigeria context.” Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State does not favour restructuring as “panacea to the nation’s current socio-economic woes”; rather he prefers restructuring of “the national mindsets” aimed at returning Nigeria to “the path of progress.”

In view of the above, I am tempted to ask; why can’t the Federal Government allow and support the creation of state police where the state Commissioner of Police will be answerable to the state governor.

To further support the argument, if objective analysis can replace emotional discussion regarding state police/restructuring, one thing will definitely stand out; Nigeria has a choice, to restructure by plan or by default. As has been argued at different times and places, a planned restructuring will be collaborative, systematic, and redesign Nigeria, yet keep it whole while a  default restructuring will on its parts  happen, certainly not by choice, but definitely like an uncontrolled experiment with attendant risks and indefinite outcomes.

To further arrive at the answer, there are in my views, no federal police or state police models, but there are fundamental differences between the two. While cultural and geographical homogeneity which are strong factors and advantages of state policing are lost in federal policing, state police depend on these factors and more such as historical and friendship to keep the society orderly and without anarchy. This values no doubt makes a productive policing without disorder. And it is my belief that state governments have the capacity to fulfil this obligation.

Separate from the above position, there is no alternative to having the country restructured. The reasons are not far-fetched.

First, President Buhari in his campaign in 2015, promised to “Initiate action to amend the Nigerian Constitution with a view to devolving powers, duties, and responsibilities to states in order to entrench true Federalism and the Federal spirit.”.

To further refresh our minds on this topic, what the masses are saying and wanting in my understanding is that the padding of the second schedule of the exclusive legislative list, of our 1999 constitution with sixty-eight (68) items has made Abuja suffer ‘political obesity’ and need to shed some weight via power devolution.

What the people are saying is that the over blotted exclusive list has made our nation to currently stand in an inverted pyramid shape with more power concentrated at the top and the base not formidable enough making collapse inevitable if urgent and fundamental steps are not taken.

What the proponents of restructuring are saying is that majority of the items are too trivial for the Federal Government to handle and should serve the greater good of the people if left in the hands of both the state and the local government. This is the hub of the masses expectation.

Items such as; Police and some government security services, mines and minerals; including oil fields, oil mining geological surveys, control of parks, stamp duties, public holidays, taxation of incomes, profits and capital gains, and insurance among others to my mind should find their ways back to the states and the local councils.

Restructuring the nation will no doubt take care of community policing.

Jerome-Mario Utomi is with the Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA)-a Lagos Based Non-Governmental Organization.

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