Temie Giwa: Here comes the state police (Y! FrontPage)

The only thing that will save our police force is better training and better remuneration. The very same thing that will save Nigeria’s teachers, health workers in fact the entire civil service.

Some months back, I read a public service announcement in the Nigerian Vanguard newspapers. Using information from the Nigerian police, the article stated that the police wanted to warn Lagosians to stay out of certain parts of town because some ‘ritualists’ use those parts to kidnap people to be used in rituals. It was bizarre and sad.

In the North, where terrorism and sectarian violence is the new norm, the police have given over their responsibility to protect the people into the hands of the Nigerian military who seem to be just as ill equipped to provide security. It is so obvious that the police are unprepared for their responsibility. They have very little investigation skill and have obviously given up. They have morphed themselves into glorified statement takers and corrupt weapon sellers. They are just as scared as most citizens are when danger comes.

It is important to note that there are very good ones, the famous Officer Agbonika is one, but good policing in Nigeria is an exception to the rule of corruption. How do you go about fixing cowardice and corruption? Will decentralization actually work to reform the police? Or will a code of conduct be the magic pill to restore the police force to efficiency and effectiveness?

A new strategy to reform the Nigerian policewas launched this week by the Inspector General of Police (IGP) along with representatives of the Executive branch to great fan fare. It is hoped that telling policemen and women that they aren’t allowed to collect bribes or kill indiscriminately will make Nigerians more secure. Some claim that the code of conduct is yet another inefficient and ineffective policy proposal and that only a desegregated police force will do.  I am not one of them. No state in this federation has shown itself to be more efficient than the federal government.

Even the great Governor Fashola who is arguably the closest thing to a thinking executive that Nigeria has presently, has not shown a commitment to human dignity any more than the federal government. After all, a governor who wants “non-Lagosians” to go back to their village might be willing to employ the police force under his power to make it happen. Before you know it, all undesirables in Lagos would be forcibly removed and returned to their villages in Oyo, Jigawa and Aba. Yet Governor Fashola is one of the good ones.

Decentralization has its merits. The thought goes that if the police were closer to the people, and if they come from the same state, then they will be more accountable to the people they serve and this will lead to better security. However, the same governors who steal the state dry and create a system of graft and patronage cannot be trusted to run a police force. The democratic institutions in some states are so opaque and stuck in centuries past that entrusting this great responsibility, without the benefit of many eyes looking on, will most likely lead to little tragedies all across Nigeria. Decentralization simply decentralizes all the inefficiencies and corruption of the police force in its present guise, and might even compound these issues. This solution does not present to us a compelling policy advantage at all.

Decentralization, like state creation and the call to change to a parliamentary system of government are all methods of treating symptoms with expensive solutions that only serve to hide the illness further.  The only thing that will save our police force is better training and better remuneration. The very same thing that will save Nigeria’s teachers, health workers in fact the entire civil service.

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Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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