(By Iheanyi Ezinwo) – The Nigeria Police boasts of officers who are well trained; who love this country and who are largely committed to their duties in spite of the challenges in their operating environment.
While some of the challenges associated with payment of salaries and allowances etc are variable and controllable, there are others that are largely outside the control of the personnel.
Although there had been rumours of cases of arranged promotions and postings for political, religious and tribal reasons, any one who enlists in the Nigerian Police is expected, and should be prepared to serve any where he is posted.
Those who came up with this policy of personnel serving anywhere they are posted might have had some good intentions, the implementation has been problematic, as personnel of the Police in Rivers State for instance are often posted to places where they are strange to the language of the people, their traditions and geography of the area.
This observed limitations are the reasons for the increased agitation for state police. All over the world, there are security challenges. As America is looking inwards and trying to evolve an effective response to their own security problem, that is how other nations are considering home grown responses to their own peculiar security problems.
In Rivers State, the administration of Governor Ezenwo Nyesom Wike has been working tirelessly with the security agencies in the state to ensure the protection of lives and property. However, it does appear that much more needed to be done in the area of information gathering and transmission in the operations of the security operatives, most who are not from this section of the country, and so strange to the people and the geography of the area.
Meanwhile, to compliment the work of the security agencies, the Rivers State Government has come out with a proposal to set up a Neighbourhood Watch security outfit. Their duty is basically to compliment the security agencies in information gathering, a very important aspect of policing.
It is true that some persons have raised eyebrows over the provision in the law allowing the operatives of the Neighbourhood Watch to bear arms. Well, those in support believe that relevant statutes exist in Nigeria to answer questions bordering on bearing of arms by individuals or agencies of government.
However, those in support of the security outfit bearing arms are of the opinion that citizens who are engaged in security duties must be equipped to defend themselves whenever the need arises.
The Neighbourhood Watch outfit in Rivers State is being proposed at a time when many Nigerians across party lines are clamouring for state police as a panacea to discomforting security breaches across the country.
Those who are opposed to the idea do so out of fear that it could be misused by the governors, a speculation and fear that are neither here nor there as state police does not remove the fundamental human rights of the citizens from the constitution. Any one whose rights are infringed upon have the courts to seek redress, just as it has been the law in Nigeria.
From all indications, it does appear that many of those who are opposed to state police are people who are benefiting from the current system that is bogged down by internal contradictions, including bureaucratic problems.
It is also public knowledge that some politicians believe whoever is in office will use the police to harass his opponents, and also rig elections. However, the logic is inconsistent with Nigeria’s recent political experience where an incumbent president was defeated in an election. The same can happen in any state where the people truly desire a change, the presence of state police not withstanding.
While we concede that state police may not be a perfect system, we contend that the merits far outweigh its demerits. It is therefore against this background that we stand with those demanding for state police to enable them solve their peculiar security problems.
In a state like Benue for instance, where herdsmen are reported to have scores of the local farmers with impunity and are going about their businesses unpunished, the security challenges will be tacked comprehensively with the involvement of the locals in the security system.
Just as Hon. Gbenga Oyekola, member of Oyo State House of Assembly stated recently, the fear of abuse is not a good argument against decentralisation of the police force.
“Initially, I was against state police, mainly on the grounds that governors will abuse it.
“I have now changed my mind because the fear of abuse cannot outweigh securing the lives and properties of my people. There can be constitutional provisions to check abuse.
“The purpose of state police is for us to be able to have people who are indigenes of a particular state manning the police force, a police force that will know the nooks and crannies of the state and also understand its peculiarity.
“Policing should be a local affair especially in the face of the recurring farmers/herdsmen clashes,” he emphasized.
All said, it is important that members of the National Assembly take a second look at this popular demand and reflect it in the constitution. Furthermore, in states where a semblance of community policing is being promoted to ensure protection of lives and property, it is only wisdom to give it a chance. The safety of lives and property must not be compromised to satisfy the whims and caprices of selfish political office seekers.
The reason is simple: If it is the duty of the governor to ensure the protection of lives and property, then whatever actions he takes to do just that should be supported by any one who do not have a hidden agenda to subvert security in the state.
The Neighbourhood Watch security outfit proposed by the Rivers State Governor and which has been approved by the Rivers State House of Assembly is for the good of those who live and do business in the state. It is mere speculation to input extraneous motives to it. Rivers people cannot sacrifice their security on the altar of ambitions of parochial individuals.
If Neighbourhood Watch security outfit will help to create a safer environment for all in Rivers State in addition to providing employment opportunities to many, let it be. Those who have issues are at liberty to approach the courts for interpretations on any observed inconsistencies in the bill that has been passed by the Rivers State House of Assembly and awaiting the governor’s assent.
Rivers State does not belong to the loud handful but to all, and the millions that make up Rivers State have representatives in the state Assembly to ensure that their wishes and aspirations are fulfilled. If they pass a law, that law remains the direction that Rivers people have chosen to go, and it remains so until proven otherwise.
To the sceptics, we join Samuel Smiles to say that, “Great results cannot be achieved at once, and we must be satisfied to advance in life as we walk step by step”. Let us judge the fame of great men among us by the means they used to acquire their greatness.