A CONVERGENCE OF NATIONAL AND STATE POLICE SYSTEMS AS A MEANS OF ACHIEVING IMPROVED
POLICING IN NIGERIA
1. Self-preservation is a fundamental human instinct. Accordingly, the safety of lives and property is of paramount importance to individuals, groups, and nations. Nation-states and other levels of human communities seek to optimize the security of citizens, inhabitants, neighbourhoods, and environments. Among the strategies usually emplaced towards achieving this end state of security, is the establishment and maintenance of institutions for the provision of security services; enforcement of laws; and maintenance of societal order.
2. The institutions for optimization of security include the armed forces; emergency management agencies; and police forces among others. Police forces are established principally to perform duties aimed at ensuring internal security; crime prevention and detection; law enforcement; and maintenance of public order. The legal provisions for the establishment and maintenance of police forces vary from country to country. Thus, while in some countries the power to establish police forces is decentralized; in others such powers are centralized.
3. In the United States of America (USA), with 50 states and a population of 328,054,892, the power to establish police forces is decentralized. In this regard, there is no standing national police force. Various states and other levels of human communities such as municipal councils, counties and universities can establish their own police. As at 2016 the ratio of sworn law enforcement officers to 1000 people in the USA was placed at 2.17, this equals 1: 460, thus falling below the United Nations (UN) recommended ratio of one police officer to 400 people. In 2016 the US ranked 103 out of 163 countries on the global peace index. In that same year, Iceland ranked first out of 163 despite having a ratio of one policeman to 15,000 people. This shows that the ratio of police officers to the population possibly has an insignificant influence on peace and security.
4. In South Africa, with 9 provinces, and an estimated population of about 57.7 million as at 1 Jul 18, the power to legislate on the police and other government security agencies is vested exclusively in the national parliament. Hence the country has only one centralized police force, known as South African Police Service (SAPS). It is headed by a National Commissioner usually appointed by the President. Thus South Africa though running a federal system of government has a centralized police force.
5. Nigeria has a centralized or national policing system. The Nigeria Police Force (NPF) is primarily responsible for ensuring internal security throughout the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, and a population of 198 million people. This is predicated on the provisions of Section 214 Subsection (1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (As Amended) which states that there shall be a police force for Nigeria, which shall be known as the NPF, and subject to the provisions of this section no other police force shall be established for the Federation or any part thereof. Also Item 45, of Part I of the Second Schedule of the Constitution clearly outlines ‘police’ in the Exclusive Legislative List (ELL). As such only, the National Assembly (NASS) can legislate on police. Accordingly, there is only one police force in Nigeria with constitutional authority to function nationwide. It is known as the NPF.
6. Despite the employment of the NPF, Nigeria polity has been confronted by various conflicts and security challenges over the years. These include political upheavals and riots, civil war, and internal boundary conflicts among states. Some of the contemporary security challenges facing Nigeria include insurgency, kidnapping for ransom, separatist agitations, killings by armed militias, and violent conflicts involving livestock pastoralists.
7. In response to these challenges, there are calls for the amendment of Nigeria’s Constitution to allow for the establishment of police forces by state governments. Advocates of this position argue that the answer to the challenges lies with the establishment of ‘state police’. Antagonists argue vehemently against it, adducing several reasons for the retention of the current constitutional provision about the establishment of police.
8. The purpose of this paper is to make recommendations for improved policing in Nigeria. The paper will cover an overview of policing systems in Nigeria, challenges of national police system and implications of proposed state police system, as well as a convergence of national police and state police systems as a strategy for improved policing in Nigeria. A basic understanding of the functions and operational structure of the NPF is assumed. The paper will be limited to the period from 2013 to 2018 when the debates about state police have become more intense.