Senator Shehu Sani has expressed reservations about the suitability of state police in the North.
The Senator who represented Kaduna Central Senatorial District in the 8th Assembly said this when he appeared on the online interview programme, 90MinutesAfrica, hosted by Rudolf Okonkwo and Chido Onumah.
“When we speak about that (state police), we speak about history,” Sani said. “In the colonial times when the police were under the emirs, they were used to persecute people who were critical of the emirate system or the religious order. The ruling political party then, the Northern People’s Congress (NPC) used native police to go after critics.”
The activist-turned-politician currently aspiring to be the next governor of Kaduna State rejected the argument that the country had evolved since the 60s. “In as much as it will be good for local security, we also have a problem where it can be used by state governors to persecute political enemies and it becomes the armed wing of the ruling party in the state,” he said.
The north-western part of Nigeria has been facing the challenge of banditry and terrorism in the last six years.
“In Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto, Zamfara, Kaduna and Niger States, bandits have become a state within a state,” Senator Sani noted. “They kill people. They kidnap and extort ransom. People have to sell their farms and homes to pay kidnappers ransom to secure the release of their loved ones, wives, husbands or children. Many of the boarding schools located in these rural areas are closed because of the activities of these bandits.”
According to Senator Sani, “In some states like Niger, bandits have become so emboldened and daring that they have taken over control of some villages, and they have their local chiefs and even local imams and in other places, they impose fines and taxes on villagers for them to secure the freedom to go to their farms either to plant their crops or harvest. Sometimes, they send notices to villages that it is either they pay a certain amount of money or we are coming to raid such village.”
On the question of state police as a solution to the crisis of banditry and terrorism in Nigeria, Senator Sani said he welcomed anything that could be done to restore law and order and security in the country, “but we have to be mindful that those instruments can be misused or abused.”
Reminded that the governor of his state (Kaduna), Nasir El-Rufai, supports state police, Senator Sani said many governors want state police when they are in power, but the moment they are out of power their views change particularly when they start having problems with their state governor.
“He (El-Rufai) may be in power today, he wants state police. After May 29 next year and I take over Kaduna State, ask him his views. Should Shehu Sani be in charge of the state police? I don’t know whether he will say give him all the powers to control state police. I have met many governors and we discussed. They supported state police while in power and out of power they don’t support state police. If you give them (governors) state police and state prisons, the opposition and social media critics will fill the prisons each time you write anything against them. We want security, but we also want a situation where such apparatus of the state in the control of state governors does not become an instrument of persecution and oppression.”
He urged states that feel their governors will use the police justly and fairly to push the idea of state police. He said he would not accept a police force that is directly under the control of his state governor. “I believe the very day state governors have the control of the police, you can’t even post critical comments on Facebook and Twitter…who are going to be in the police force? They are going to be the supporters of the governor. The political forces of the governor will be the ones recruited into the police. They will be given uniforms and empowered by law to act,” he noted.
On what he would do differently as governor, he said he would ensure security vote is used for security and not as “a largesse to be shared among politicians.”
“You can’t fight 21st-century crime with 20th-century strategy. The security instrument in Nigeria today lacks the technological ingredient to tackle the crimes of the 21st century. Many police stations and police formations are underfunded and underequipped,” he added.