By CHIOMA IGBOKWE
Former State Security Service, SSS, director, Dennis Amachree has thrown his weight behind those canvassing for state police advising that it should be extended to the local government. In a chat with Daily Sun, he posited that state police is the only solution to criminalities and incessant crisis at the grassroots level.
According to him, state police will not usurp the Nigeria Police, as many perceive. He also pointed out that when formed, law would be promulgated to check their excesses.
There has been diverse opinion over the proposed establishment of a state police. Which side do you belong?
Right from1999, I have been talking about state police in Nigeria. We even went ahead from our own professional association known as the Nigerian Private Security Association, presented a bill to the senate. It went through to the first reading but during the second reading it was killed by a senator who was a former Inspector General of Police. Then nobody took us seriously and I can tell you that just like GSM, whether Nigeria likes it or not we will have state police.
LASTMA is Lagos state police, if you like call it any other name. Rivers state has the same kind of arrangement. The origin of state police started in California where people volunteered to help check traffic. They also discovered that there were criminals moving inside the cars. They formed a security arrangement that started pursing criminals in cars and at the end of the day, they arrested some of them and the state gave them power of prosecution.
Those criminals were prosecuted and jailed and from that day, other states gradually started having their own state police. They usually start from traffic control and at the end of the day they control crime. There is no clash, they know their jurisdiction and stick to it. The former IGP who killed this bill was scared that state police will come and usurp their own responsibilities but that is not true.
What is happening is that when you have state police, it will enforce state laws not federal laws. Federal laws will be enforced by the federal police and vice versa. Local government laws will be enforced by local government police. In America, the local government police are called Sheriff. The university that I graduated from has its own police. They enforce the university laws; they don’t deal with federal laws like murder. The main argument is that state police would be used by incumbent governors to oppress the opposition? Some have argued that governors would use state police to oppress the opposition parties.
The fact remains that before state police can be established in any state, the national assembly will promulgate the laws that would govern them. They will give the guidelines. It is only when you call them police legally that they can be given arms to enforce laws.
It is also necessary for the local government police and even the university police to carry arms because there are very violent people.
Who is to ensure that these laws are enforced?
We have beautiful laws but the problem we have is in the area of enforcement. The state police will be controlled by the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
They will enforce the status given by the state house of Assembly. The president will not control the Federal police because if he commits a crime, the federal police will arrest. Just like the SSS, the only bodies the President can control are the armed forces because he is their commander in chief. The Nigerian security services, all of them are allegiance to the constitution of the Federal republic of Nigeria, so nobody manipulates them. It’s the National Assembly that will promulgate a bill and pass it. All the president has to do is to sign it into law. Federal government has decided to dialogue with the sect called Boko Haram.
Do you think that move will bring an end to the reign of terror?
I don’t believe that we should dialogue with terrorists because if you start you are simply offending families of people that they killed their members innocently. It’s too bad that the presidency has chosen to dialogue with a terrorist group. What we expect them to do is to have a national dialogue. People have been calling for sovereign national conference, why can’t we go in for that. It was the mistake they did with the Niger Delta. The Niger Delta became peaceful and then you have Boko Haram in the North. When you solve the problem with Boko Haram then another one will spring out from the west.
There are so many things to be addressed in the country, why not go ahead and have a national conference, everyone will be there. And government will decide whether they want to solve this problem or go back to ground zero. Nigeria is a very large country where for all the 250 tribal units; you don’t expect it to have a smooth sail. Is there any hope that kidnapping can be curtailed? The focus on this is that urban terrorism, including kidnapping are not crimes that the security agencies can wipe out, just like that.
Even in America, it is hard to wipe it out. In Nigeria, the advice will be for the security agencies to review and up their game. The ability of the agencies to keep the kidnappers scared of being caught will reduce the number of incidents. It is when they know that, they will not be caught and even when they are caught, there will be no prosecution, then they act in impunity.