The key point from the Ibadan meeting of governors of the People’s Democratic Party, (PDP) on May 17th, 2021 cannot but be where it called on Mr. President “as the Chief Executive Officer of Nigeria and Commander-in-Chief of Nigerian Armed Forces to immediately send an Executive Bill to the National Assembly to amend the Nigerian Constitution to devolve more powers to the states with respect to security arrangements culminating in some form of state policing and the general security architecture”
Although PDP governors constitute just one fraction of that layer of power since their APC counterpart constitutes another, their position could become the consensus in view of other voices in that direction.
If that happens and the idea of State Police in the Nigerian context materializes, would it not be correct to say that things have happened exactly as predicted? That is as predicted by no other person than a former Inspector-General of the Nigerian Police, about the only one who ran all the ranks in the Police Force, from Lance Corporal to IGP as well as a typical product of the Scotland Yard, the crime bursting arm of the British Police. That is the late Alhaji Gambo Jimeta who said that the Nigeria Police Force he knew might not exist in another 50 years.
That is what he told his interviewers from Weekly Trust in an October 16th, 2010 interview in which his fear was captured under the headline, “Nigeria Might Have No Police Force in Next 50 Years”. Could he be said to have seen far in the Weekly Trust interview in question?
The question to which the response led to the prediction was what Jimeta hoped to see 50 years from the time of the interview based on what he had seen in the first 50 years of the force. And he said: “The kind of neglect and irresponsibility shown by previous governments then, I am afraid there might be no police force in the country in 50 years. If appropriate steps are taken and police is given a rebirth, in the next 50 years, we would be among the best in the world”
He disagreed that the problem arose from inadequate number of policemen on the job, saying that “The strength of the police force depends on the development of the areas where they are operating and the equipment. A more equipped and civilized environment will require fewer policemen than the sort of situation we have now. The vast unplanned country and poverty-stricken and ill-motivated police force we have cannot do much. A well-equipped policeman will do a job which ten cops would do. One police horse for crowd control will do the job of fifty police men. You see what I mean. So, the strength of the force is irrelevant to its capacity to perform its duty. It is not about number, it is about skills and equipment available”.
Similarly, he did not agree it was a question of corruption. His argument went on like this: “That is a conjecture. If you people care to look at the budget, you will find out that there is hardly anything that is there for anybody to steal. You cannot steal people’s salaries or deny them their salaries for a length of time. The capital projects that are to be put up should also be visible. So, there is nowhere where any Inspector-General of Police will be able to embezzle the money. In any case, the police force does not handle the allocation in the budget. It is the police ministry that does that. So, these are misinformed aspects of the police force. Even an Inspector-General of Police like Tafa Balogun who was accused of embezzling money, until now, no one knows the source of the alleged embezzled money. No one has come up to say certain amounts of money were lost from the police budget. So, to make up such statement that the Inspector-General of Police has been misapplying the monies, to say the least, is unfortunate. They do not in any way disburse budgets. It is strictly under the Ministry of Police Affairs”
For him, the problem is rooted in a rundown police force arising from lack of funding and the country ending up “with a large number of policemen, ill funded, badly motivated and drained of their self esteem. So, really, the fifty years we are talking about has seen the police force regress from a very efficient and confident police force to what we have today”
He continued: “The Police Force of today is very huge, scattered and uncared for. To have a police force of a highly conscious and civilized society like Nigeria requires a lot of funding and it is one service that deals with what life is all about in the country. People want to see their lives secure, they want to be protected and want to feel happy without anybody molesting them. You cannot achieve this unless you have properly trained, well paid and confident police officers to enforce the laws of the country”.
Somehow, the interviewer did not ask him a precise question on State Police. He never liked the idea of State Police in Nigeria, to the extent of attacking his benefactor, General Ibrahim Babangida when the latter argued in June 2017 that “the fear of state governors using state police to run amok was not as strong as the greater benefit that creating state police would do for the nation”.
But, when he took on IBB for endorsing State Police, it was more about whether IBB was qualified to talk about State Police for Nigeria because he alleged that a lot of the destruction of the force was during his time as military Head of State. It was less on the technical side of the subject but, if he were still here, it is unlikely that he will join the crowd in favour of State Police. He is more likely to ask if the politicians have killed what combined to bring down the Nigeria Police Force from Olympian height to streetwise, self-help police force.
It is not clear how General Babangida came to the conclusion that the fear that governors and local notables using State Police against opponents and critics is misplaced. He probably meant that Nigeria has become too sophisticated for any governor to trample on people’s rights casually. He could be right but who may know what can happen?