In this report, AKEEM NAFIU writes that the establishment of state police has been widely suggested as panacea for the incessant security challenges in the country
Not a few Nigerians were alarmed when on June 28, 2018, a global human rights group, the Amnesty International, released a report indicating that at least 1,813 persons have been murdered across 17 states in Nigeria within the first six months of the year. The figure is double the 894 people reported to have been killed by the same group in the entire 2017.
The killings were linked to the rampant farmers-herders conflict, Boko Haram attacks, as well as armed banditry among others.
In the report, Amnesty International accused the Nigerian Government of encouraging the impunity fueling the increasing insecurity in the country by failing to hold murderers to account. The allegation has since been denied by government.
Despite government’s denial, the killings have remained unabated across the country with many blaming the carnage on the inability of the federal police command to contain the challenges.
As innocent lives are being lost on a daily basis across the country, coupled with the seeming helplessness of the federal government to bring the situation under control, the clamour for the establishment of state police are mounting by the day.
It is believed that the closeness of the state police to the society of its jurisdiction places it in a more proactive position to detect and curtail any emerging crime before it grows.
Campaign for the establishment of state police is indeed spreading like wild fire and it had already engulfed the National Assembly.
Already, a bill seeking an amendment to the Constitution to accommodate state and community policing has been introduced at the Senate.
The bill, titled, “Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (Alteration) Bill, 2018”, was sponsored by the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, and 75 other senators.
After the bill was read for the first time on July 12, the Deputy Senate President said he is hopeful that the bill will be read for the second time and sent for public hearing as soon as possible.
Ekweremadu also called for the immediate passage of the bill on Peace and Conflict Resolution Committee, to help in resolving the killings across the country, in addition to other security challenges.
The Senate had earlier on July 4 directed its Constitution Review Committee to put machinery in motion to amend the Constitution to allow for the creation of state police.
It also resolved to call on security agencies to stop involving themselves in the politics of the nation.
The lawmakers arrived at the decision after the debate on a motion sponsored by Jonah Jang (PDP, Plateau) in which he drew the attention of the senate to the recent killing of about 200 persons in Barkin Ladi and Ryiom areas of Plateau state by gunmen.
Moving the motion of urgent national importance, Jonah Jang recalled how the herdsmen invaded the villages and killed people, adding that the efforts of the police to address the insecurity was not good enough, as many people were killed helplessly.
Justifying the creation of state police as it is being practiced in other developed climes, Jang said in the USA, even the universities have their independent police structures.
He noted that the fear that governors will abuse the state police is unfounded saying any sitting president who wants can also abuse the federal police. He was of the view that the country stand to benefit more from the establishment of state police.
He regretted that as it was the case while he was at the helm of affairs in Plateau, state governors despite being the Chief Security Officers in their domain, has no control over the police commissioners who take instructions from the Inspector General of Police.
In his submissions, the senator representing Zamfara Central on the All Progressive Congress (APC) platform, Kabir Marafa, cautioned against giving religious colouration to the killings of innocent Nigerians.
He wants the killers to be addressed as criminals and not with any tag that will portray them as one religion fighting another.
In his brief remarks, Senator Adesola Adeyeye, said the present federal police has become a colossal failure.
He urged his colleagues to urgently take action towards creating a state police structure irrespective of whether the executive likes it or not.
Other senators who spoke were of the view that the federal police is increasingly becoming overwhelmed by the country’s high level of insecurity. They said the establishment of state police has become expedient.
Other resolution adopted by the Senate was for its committee on Constitution Amendment to look into the Act establishing the Nigerian police with a view to addressing the inefficiency in the federal police.
The House of Representatives was also not left out as a bill seeking to accommodate state and community policing has been read for the second time at the Green Chamber.
The bill, titled, “Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (Alteration) Bill, 2018”, was sponsored by the leader of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila (APC, Lagos). It seeks to delete item 45 from the exclusive legislative list and move it to the concurrent list.
Leading the debate on the bill, Gbajabiamila disclosed that Nigerians are united on state police owing to the spate of killings in the country.
“It is not enough for us to talk, talk and just condemn killings, it is time for us to change the security architecture,” he said.
One of his colleagues, Oker Jev (Benue) talked about how the current security challenges facing the nation altered his opposing views about state police.
In opposing the bill, Muhammed Monguno (APC, Borno) said rather than creating state police, the Constitution should be amended so as to ensure that states get more funds.
“State governors are finding it difficult to pay wages, adding state police to it is not acceptable. I do support amending the Constitution so that states can get more money, then we can talk about state police,” he said.
Monguno was echoed by another lawmaker, Henry Archibong (APC, Akwa Ibom) who expressed his fears that deleting schedule 45 would mean giving states power to create all sorts of security agencies.
Despite the oppositions, members unanimously voted in support of the bill and it was referred to the ad hoc committee on Constitution amendment.
A cross-section of senior members of the Bar have also thrown their weight behind the establishment of state police as a way of stemming the ugly tide of killings across the The lawyers in separate telephone interviews with New Telegraph Law at the weekend said the time has come for the localization of policing in the country.
They noted that unfolding events in the nation has revealed that the federal government does not have the manpower as well as the resources for the police force.
Speaking on the issue, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Chief Ifedayo Adedipe, said the time is ripe for states to have their own police. He disclosed that the continuous policing of the country centrally is a recipe for crisis.
He said: “There have been clamour that we should have state police, I think I clearly back that. For instance, people in Lagos state know their peculiar terrain and challenges. The same thing is applicable elsewhere and to police us centrally can only lead to crisis. So, we really do need to localize policing in the country.
“In other parts of the world, they have Metropolitan police, London City police and so on. Therefore, we do need states to have their own police. Though, arguments about abuse of state police by governors are valid to some extent, but we are now talking of a larger society. We then need to work out issues about funding and the rest”.
Adedipe was echoed by another silk, Mr. Olatunde Adejuyigbe, who opined that it is no longer safe to leave the policing of the nation solely in the hand of the Federal Government. “When people are saying the country is not ripe for state police, I don’t know what they are talking about. I even think we are addressing the issue belatedly. We say we are practicing federalism, every state has its civil service, there is the executive and the judiciary. But when it comes to the security of the states, it’s in the hands of the federal government.
“It is obvious that the federal government does not have the manpower as well as the resources for the police force. The immediate past chairman of the Police Service Commission (PSC), Mike Okiro, was making the point at a time that a substantial number of about 300,000 policemen that constitutes the force are providing security for high profile individuals, so what are the ordinary Nigerians left with?
“Secondly, if you look at Lagos State, there is what is known as the Security Trust Fund which has been the major source of funding, even for the police within the state. So, the question is when will the country be ripe for state police? Is it when all the citizens are killed?
“Concerning the fears about abuse by state governors, I think we should have a re-orientation on how these policemen were deployed for assignment. About 30,000 policemen were deployed by the Federal Government for the Ekiti governorship election. The implication of this action is that a lot of states will be porous by the weekend of the election. This will not augur well for the security of people in those states that were left unpoliced. So, clearly we desire state police in this country”, the silk said.
Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN) frowned at Sections 214 and 215 of the Constitution which he said enthroned a behemoth, elephantine and immobile police force on the country.
He said: “The daily slaughter ritual in Nigeria that has turned the Nigerian geographical soil into a killing field is not only criminal, but also smacks of total abdication of governance by the current government. It is most cruel, horrific, inhuman, dastardly and barbaric. The government that appears covertly overwhelmed (if it ever cared at all), wrings its hands in utter helplessness and blames everyone, but itself.
“Never before or after the three years bloody fraticidal civil war has Nigeria witnessed such barefaced butchery of innocent souls in a manner that portends ethnic cleansing and genocidal tendencies.
“The Nigerian Constitution (Section 14) makes the welfare and security of lives and property the primary purpose of government. Any government that cannot protect its citizens is not worth being called a government by any description or appellation.
“A governor that is supposed to be the Chief Security Officer of his state is nothing but a toothless bulldog, having been stripped of such luxury by Sections 214 and 215 of the Constitution which enthrones a behemoth, elephantine and immobile police force. That is why I have consistently and persistently clamoured for true fiscal federalism that allows for state police and community policing.
“From Agatu in Benue state, Demsa in Adamawa state, Riyom, Barkin Ladi and Jos in Plateau state, to Southern Kaduna areas in Kaduna state,Taraba, Nassarawa, Delta, Edo and Enugu states,the story is similar, gory and hideous blood-letting.The greatest irony in all these is that the killers are known.They even thump their chests, confess and own up to their criminal acts. But the government not only looks the other way, it actually condones the heartless cold-blooded slaughter. Nigeria cannot continue like this.
“The governments must rise up to the occasion, draft military personnel to these volatile areas and wash its hands off like Pontius Pilate, of compromise, condonation, aiding and abetting of this national horror”.
Another silk, Wale Adesokan, said despite the desirability of state police owing to the current situations of things in the country, necessary measures must be put in place to make it beneficial to the populace.
“Clamour for the creation of state police is a mark of loss of confidence in the existing Nigeria police force. Creation of state police is desirable having regard to the poor performance of the police as it is. But the creation needs to be properly articulated and structured and the jurisdiction and interrelationship between one state police and another and the Nigeria police force must be carefully worked out. Otherwise, creation of state police will mark the beginning of the dismemberment of the country as various states would now have legitimately stockpiled arms and ammunition and trained personnel that can be used in furtherance of agitation for independence.
“Again, rather than curb crime and protect lives and property, state police can be used for ignoble political purposes, as we have seen in the case of the various state INECs which now virtually function as avenues for state governments to handpick local government chairmen and councilors”, Adesokan said.
To lawyer and rights activist, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, the establishment of state police is now desirous more than ever in view of the spate of killings across the country that has risen beyond all expectations.
“The clamour for state police is orchestrated by the general trend of insecurity all over the nation, giving the impression that the existing police force is unable to cope with the upsurge in crime and criminal items.
“Under and by virtue of Section 14 of the 1999 Constitution, the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government. The word primary here means that the security and welfare of the people shall be the basic reason for the existence of any government. Since the inauguration of the Buhari regime, the spate of killings all over the land has risen beyond all expectations.
“Our hope was that given his military background, the president would be better placed to tackle insurgents, terrorists, rebels, kidnappers, armed robbers, cultists and the like, but that has not been the case, as indeed, their ranks have swelled in geometric proportions, showing clearly that the present government has failed in the area of security.
“It is against this background that people are clamouring for state police, the thinking being that the existing federal police force is unable to respond to and combat the rising crime wave in the land.
“Presently, the military has taken over the statutory responsibilities of the regular police force. Also, in most states of the federation, the governors have set up security trust funds, to cater for the welfare and logistics of policemen deployed to those states. So if the state governments have taken over the regular maintenance of the police, why can’t they have their own police then? Also fueling the agitation for state police is the confusion created by the constitutional provision that commissioners of police in the states are not responsible to the governors of their states, whereas the same Constitution makes the governor the chief security officer of the state.
“However, in considering the establishment of state police, form measures must be put in place to involve all relevant stakeholders such as civil societies, labour and other organization, to avoid abuse,” he said.
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