Governors U-turn on state police

On a solidarity visit to Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State last Tuesday, Governors Babangida Aliyu (Niger State), Sule Lamido ( Jigawa), Rabiu Kwankwaso (Kano) and Murtala Nyako (Adamawa) rekindled the state police debate which has raged in the polity for some time now. While expressing shock over the role allegedly being played by the Rivers State Police Commissioner, Mr. Mbu Joseph Mbu in the political crisis which has engulfed the state, the governors immediately called on the National Assembly to address the issue of state police. They said: “We wish to call on the Inspector General of Police to hearken to the voice of reason and immediately redeploy and discipline Commissioner Mbu. His actions smirk of unprofessionalism and political partisanship, which is unbecoming of his office. With the way the police is being used and abused and with officers like Mbu in the force, we do not see the need for state governments to fund an antagonistic police and may be forced to reconsider our position on the financial contribution of the states towards the funding of the Nigeria Police.
“Arising from the actions of the police and Mr Joseph Mbu in Rivers State, the call for state police as a constitutional provision has become a necessity.
We note that events in Rivers State have again brought to the fore the question of true federalism and the need for institutions derived from constitutions be allowed to function without undue interference. As federating units we must be allowed the space to guarantee our people sustainable development as provided by the constitution.’’
This position immediately drew the ire of the governor of Plateau State, Jonah David Jang, who branded the governors as hypocrites and self-serving individuals. Jang’s grouse was that the governors had vehemently opposed his call for the establishment of state police in the country. To him, the sudden change in perspective by the Aliyu camp was to “enable them to achieve their selfish political ambition, rather than addressing the prevailing security challenges facing the nation.”
Jang’s outburst is a corollary of the ongoing Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) crisis which has pitted his camp against the pro-Amaechi camp to which Aliyu, Lamido, Nyako and Kwankwaso belong. While Jang, as confirmed by Benue State governor, Gabriel Suswam and Governor Isa Yuguda of Bauchi State, had been unanimously endorsed by the Northern States Governors’ Forum (NSGF) for the chairmanship of the NGF, the Aliyu camp made a U-turn on election day, allegedly because of religious and political reasons. While Yuguda and Suswam immediately descended on the Aliyu camp, branding it a collection of political manipulators and turn-coats, the Aliyu camp insisted that it supported Amaechi because it was comfortable with his leadership.
The crack in the NSGF seems to have deepened ever since, with Suswam insisting, on Sunday, that he would never go back to the NSGF even in the face of the change of mind by Yuguda, who had earlier issued a similar threat.
Thus, Jang is considered by many analysts to be embittered by the actions of the Aliyu camp, particularly given the clear signal that it would not be supporting President Goodluck Jonathan’s re-election bid in the 2015 polls, a project to which his own camp seems committed. In press statement signed by state Commissioner of Information and Communication, Yiljap Abraham, in Jos, Jang said: “Those calling for state police now are doing so as an after-thought and not for nationalistic reasons. Their calls are stemming from their own induced interpretation of certain events beyond their political control, and so would wish to see a state police that is readily available to handle a delicate political operation.
“The hard-to-believe statement by four Northern state governors, who visited the Rivers State governor in Port Harcourt on Tuesday, July 16, 2013, should strike some repulsion in us as a nation, (particularly) of how not to be elegant regarding public policy. The call is stemming from their own induced interpretation of certain events beyond their political easy control – and so would wish to see a state police that is readily available to handle a delicate political operation. The Plateau State government strongly believes that the establishment of state police will promote deeper practice of democratic federalism. We maintain our consistency on this very matter.
“For those just waking up to this reality in far away states other than theirs, it does appear the chicken has finally come home to roost. It is on record that almost all Nigerian governors had in June 2012 agreed to prevail on the Federal Government to urgently consider the creation of state police as a solution to the state of violence in the country. But about a month after that, most northern state governors had backtracked and opted to drop their demand for the creation of state police with (such) reasons that the country may not presently be ripe for a state police, because most of them were not financially buoyant to own such an institution, that state police might be used by any government in power to muzzle the opposition and breed tyranny.
“That state police might breed more security problems in the North than addressing the insecurity in the region; that we also think that funding is a major issue the governors have been considering; that it is not a tea party to fund any police system when you talk of staffing, equipment and providing adequate security. Our reason for calling for the creation of state police is hinged on the protracted attacks on communities in the state. As a government, we have sustained our efforts in tackling the peace and security challenge,” he said.
While Jang’s position may be tainted with politics, it is difficult to dismiss his conclusion. It will be recalled that when, during an event in the Niger state capital, Minna, to mark his 71st birthday in August last year, former President Ibrahim Babangida repeated his call for the establishment of state police, the NSGF had denounced plans for any amendment that would authorise the proposal, weeks after the NGF had backed the setting up of another tier of policing. Babangida had said those opposed to state police were only haunted by the notorious activities of the proscribed native police during the pre-Independence period when the government in power used the police to intimidate their opponents to win the elections. He was however of the view that the nation had passed that stage. But Kwankwaso, who relayed the position of the Northern governors in Abuja, had said that:“People don’t understand. All of us in the Northern Governors’ Forum, probably the 19 of us with the exception of one or two, are bitterly against the issue of state police. We are not supporting it, at least, for now; because there are some inherent dangers. There are issues on the ground that have to be sorted out before we land on the issue of state police.”
Also, while receiving a delegation of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) at the Government House, Minna, Governor Aliyu completely agreed with the ACF that the country may not presently be ripe for a state police because most of them were not financially buoyant to own such an institution.
Beyond the Jang-Aliyu opposition, however, the main challenges to the call for state police have not been addressed. As noted by many analysts, the issue of state police should ideally not be a matter for debate, given the federalist system to which the nation subscribes. However, the issue of the potentiality of abuse by state governors as Chief Security Officers of their states and the issue of funding have continued to remain at the heart of the debate.

Uche Anichukwu