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Decentralised policing not new to Nigeria — Speaker

During the National Dialogue on State Policing in Abuja organized by the House of Representatives, Speaker Abbas Tajudeen stated on Monday that decentralised policing is not unfamiliar to Nigeria.

He noted that policing during colonial times was purely decentralised, as seen with the Lagos Police Force, Hausa Constabulary, and Niger Coast Constabulary. This structure persisted even after the merger of the Northern and Southern Protectorates, with the establishment of the Northern Nigeria Police and the Southern Nigeria Police.

“In fact, under the First Republic, these forces were first regionalized before their subsequent nationalization. However, subsequent civilian and military governments adopted a rigidly centralized pattern for the Nigeria Police,” Abbas said.

The speaker argued that while most Nigerians agree on the need to reform policing, “there is no agreement on how best to proceed with the reform or the best policing model for Nigeria.”

“In considering the path forward, we must recognize that no one-size-fits-all solution exists. The vast diversity of Nigeria, with over 300 ethnic groups and a range of geographic, economic, and social conditions, requires a policing model that is adaptable and sensitive to local contexts. As we explore the models of state policing that have been successful in other nations, we must be judicious in adapting these frameworks to fit our unique Nigerian context.

“Furthermore, it is also important to remind ourselves that decentralised policing is not alien to Nigeria. Historically, during both the colonial and immediate post-colonial periods, Nigeria operated under a system where local police forces played significant roles in maintaining public order specific to their regions,” he added.

While also noting that decentralised policing is not an entirely new proposition, Speaker Abbas said the historical precedent supports the notion that a decentralised approach can be beneficial and effective if properly managed.

He added: “However, we must proceed with caution. There is a palpable fear among our citizens – a fear of potential tyranny and the misuse of police powers if control is devolved to the State level. These concerns are not unfounded and must be addressed frontally, without bias or sentiments.

This emphasises the need for robust frameworks that ensure accountability, transparency, and equitable service delivery across all states. Giving reasons why it was important to decentralise the police force, the speaker said, “First and foremost, it is imperative to acknowledge that the push for reforming our police forces is not merely desirable but necessary. We are at a stage where public trust in law enforcement is teetering.

“Also, the burden of policing the vast geographical expanse of our country and a rapidly expanding population warrants a reform of the current structure. The need for a system that maintains law and order and upholds every Nigerian’s dignity and rights cannot be overstated. Reform is essential to heal and to build – rebuilding trust, rebuilding effectiveness, and rebuilding our shared commitment to justice.”

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