(This is the second and concluding part. Read the first part here)
The vested interests against the establishment of a state police are passionate about the issue. Fortunately for them, a cripple would sooner climb Mount Everest several times before a constitutional amendment occurred in Nigeria. To put the difficulty of the task in context, since the 1999 Constitution was signed into law by General Abdulsalami Abubakar, only two sections (these don’t even address the serious structural issues facing Nigeria) have been successfully amended. And that is even in the face of the fact that there are many glaring inconsistencies begging for change.
It has been tried several times. The famous was when Obasanjo wanted to amend the Constitution to get himself a third term. It didn’t even get past the National Assembly. And that is even before the all States Houses of Assembly voted on it.
Seeing how difficult it would be to amend the Constitution to approve the establishment of state police, you wonder why the anti-state police protagonists even bother to state their case passionately. Their reasons are no less compelling. But it comes from a place of fear: mostly fear of such a drastic change.
The most important protagonists are the vested interests. These are very powerful people who would do anything for the status quo to remain.
The anti-state police vested interests
To get to the bottom of this, the question to ask is, who would lose the most by the establishment of a state police?
You don’t have to look too far as the answer is rather obvious.
The people who control the police and benefit from it stand to lose a lot by the decentralization of the police. First on the list are the Presidency and the executive branch of government. However, their powers would not be whittled too drastically because they would still be in charge of other security agencies. We are talking the armed forces, intelligence agencies, secret services and so on.
The biggest loser would be the Inspector General of Police (IGP) and his deputies. A state police would immediately reduce the influence of these police top guns. In an instant, the IGP would go from commanding about 400,000 men nationwide to a tiny fraction of that if States and communities are allowed to have their own formation.
That is a big loss of power and influence even a saint would be hard put to give up.
The elites and the very rich with access to the centers of power in the country, are also a crucial pillar of that vested interest. These are people who also have the police at their beck and call due to their closeness to power. All they need is a phone call to police headquarters in Abuja or to Aso Rock to have a detachment of armed policemen rushing to do their bidding in any part of the country.
Of course, they reciprocate these gestures in other ways. It is mutually beneficial to both parties. A state police would mean curtailing their influence to just a few states. Anyway, with their money, they would find a way to survive and resume business as usual.
All these vested interests, including contractors and other businesses profiting from a federal police, would do anything to truncate the idea. And they are not sitting back and hoping that time and loss of interest would take people’s mind away from the issue. They fight back fiercely trying to make the rest of us see reasons why that is a bad idea.
State police: a bad idea?
The fear of an all-powerful state governor taking over the state police force under his control had been drummed into Nigerians so many times. It would happen if state police became reality. There is no escaping that.
Even without a state police, many governors have succeeded in hijacking the operations of the police in their state. The trick is simple: liberally spread the right amount of money in the right places (state commissioners mostly) and they can do anything they want.
This is mostly seen when they are fighting real and perceived political enemies. And of course, during elections to help in rigging.
Even making the new state police independent with constitutional provisions would not stop that from happening. After all, though most state houses of assembly are independent, we all know the governors control them completely.
Again, some argue that states would not able to afford the wage bill of the police. It is known that many states cannot even pay civil servants promptly. Nigeria News had reported how several states are many months behind in back payments. So it would be dangerous to compromise the police by not paying them. They might use other ingenious means to survive. We know what that means.
Listening to them arguing passionately against the creation of a state police, you’d think they just discovered the next best thing. But these ‘facts’ would collapse spectacularly in the face of logic.
Doing things differently
The key to nation building is evolution. Things have to be done differently or we risked being stuck in one place while expecting great things to happen. So far, that is what is happening with the police.
The perennial and well-documented failings of that institution cannot be de-linked from the unwillingness to embrace real change.
Every police reform in the country had being more or less cosmetic. Things like a change of uniforms, remuneration, housing, policing tools are what Nigerians are offered as change. But we’ve seen that it has never worked.
State Police? That has never been tried. Yes, all those misgivings would likely occur. Here is the thing though, we are already living with them in the present police structure.
Even if state police doesn’t work out, at least a serious effort was made to make it better. Sometimes, change can be an end in itself. At least, you get to know that a particular option was all hype, but you get to eliminate that option as a workable plan.