Nigeria mulls state policing to combat growing insecurity

By Thomson Reuters Feb 15, 2024 | 8:28 AM

ABUJA (Reuters) – Nigeria is considering the introduction of state police in its 36 states to bolster its national police force as it struggles to contain widespread violence and insecurity, the information minister said on Thursday.

An Islamist insurgency in the northeast, kidnappings for ransom, deadly farmer-herder clashes in the central belt and separatist and gang violence in the southeast are some of the challenges faced by Nigeria’s police force.

President Bola Tinubu met the country’s state governors to discuss insecurity, which is hurting farmers and contributing to high food prices and inflation.

The federal government and the state governments agreed that a state police force was necessary, marking “a significant shift” in approach, Information Minister Mohammed Idris told reporters after the meeting.

This is the first time that Nigeria’s federal and state governments have agreed on the need to set up state police to reinforce the more than 300,000-strong national police force in Africa’s most populous nation.

Nigerian Police Inspector General Kayode Egbetokun said last year at least 190,000 more officers were needed to secure the country adequately. He said the force was well below the United Nations’ recommended ratio of one police officer to about 450 citizens.

Some states, like Lagos, have annual budgets the size of small African countries, and have long advocated for their own state police, saying this would help combat insecurity.

Ikemesit Effiong of risk consultancy SBM Intelligence said establishing state police would not solve the whole problem.

“Expanding the police force is one thing, fundamentally reframing the architecture and focus of policing from retribution and state control to investigation and crime prevention is quite another,” Effiong said.

(Reporting by Felix Onuah; Editing by Ros Russell)