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Memo to Senate Committee on Constitution (1)

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Senate
Nigerian Senate

By Yinka Odumakin

Senate: SHORTLY after General Ibrahim Babangida annulled the June 12, 1993, presidential election, Professor Bolaji Akinyemi did a piece in which he used the disaster clock at the UN to warn about the dire situation the unjust diktat had put Nigeria.

The clock is a measuring device for imminent explosion in a country under monitoring. Whenever the country reaches a tipping point like Senate President Ahmed Lawan warned after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari last week, the clock is set at quarter to midnight.

If there is such clock for Nigeria today, it must certainly be at quarter to midnight as the state has virtually lost all its authority and the governable space shrinking daily with states like Zamfara and Katsina openly holding bilateral talks with bandits.

It was in the midst of this chaos that the Senate and House of Representatives held their stormy sessions on the state of insecurity recently with far-reaching resolutions.

There was a practical demonstration of the prevailing situation at the 55th birthday ceremony of chairman of Nigerian Governors Forum, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, at the weekend. The well-attended event saw three governors almost taking to their heels when little fireworks came on after the book marking the governor’s birthday was unveiled. A bomb had exploded in the state 24 hours to the event which is now under investigation.

The whole idea of Nigeria as we know it now is under serious threats; we need to quickly re-examine the way we are constituted to see if we can still salvage things. This is why the 57-man panel raised by the Senate to review the Constitution should not see their assignment as another jamboree but a very serious undertaking to rescue the sinking ship of the country.

If the committee understands the historic mission, they should approach this work with all the dedication they can muster. And fortunately, the task has been simplified for them by the 2014 undertaking in the nationhood process. They should dust that report from the archives and make use of its noble recommendations as the task of saving a sinking country is not about claiming originality. I am sure members of that conference would not make any claim to the document again if that is the condition for its adoption.

Missed opportunity

It has been a missed opportunity for Nigeria that those recommendations have been ignored in the last six years. Many of the challenges confronting us today would not have lingered if we had used that document. And I will give practical examples:

  1. 1. Mounting insecurity: Nigeria has today become a bandits backyard with all manners of crime putting it under and the state either unwilling or helpless in bringing the situation under control. It was at the peak of despondency that the South West Governors mooted Amotekun as a protective measure following the failure of centralised security architecture, which the Sensate President admitted had collapsed, to rise to the occasion.
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The imperial response of the Federal Government to the measure put the country on the edge until common sense prevailed. But we now have the trivialisation of the whole thing with some youth from the North mimicking the effort of state actors in the South West in a very childish way. The 2014 Conference dealt with this when it discussed multi-level policing with recommendations:

“The Nigeria Police Force: Centralised or decentralised police: Conference received several memoranda from individuals, the Nigeria Police Force, NPF, and corporate organisations. Some of these memoranda advocated for centralised police, while others argued for decentralised police. Those who advocated for centralised police advanced the following arguments:

1.State police will lay the foundation for the eventual break-up of the country;

  1. The current crop of political leadership will misuse the organs of state police to intimidate political opponents;
  2. Very few states in Nigeria can at the moment fund and maintain a police force;
  3. That even the developed countries of the world are moving towards centralised police; and

e.There will be serious conflict in operational jurisdiction between the federal and state police.

(iii) On the other hand, those agitating for decentralised police insist that given the current augmentation of fund to the police by state governments, states should be allowed to establish their own police service, which will complement the efforts of the NPF. Other arguments include:

  1. Personnel of state police are likely to do better intelligence gathering and rapid response actions because they know the terrain, speak the local languages and even probably know the criminals;
  2. That the argument that governors will abuse a state police assumes that the Federal Government has more integrity than the State Government; this, according to them, is yet to be empirically proved, given the experiences of some states to the contrary;
  3. That the on-going invasion of most states in the North Central by terrorists without apprehension by the NPF questions the integrity of the Force; and
  4. The idea of state police will enhance cooperation and partnership between Federal and state governments to stem the tide of insecurity in the country.

Conference, therefore, decided that:

  1. There shall be a federal police with areas of jurisdiction covering the entire country and on clearly spelt out matters and
  2. For any state that requires it, there shall be a state police at the state level, to be established, funded and controlled by the state;
  3. State law may also provide for community policing;
  4. Deployment of police officers of the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police, DSP, and below should be done to their states of origin. This will address concerns about the need for such officers to understand the language and culture of the people of the state, especially as this group of officers actually constitutes the operational component of the Force;
  5. Reinvigoration of the Police Council with a full time secretariat so as to discharge its constitutional mandate as spelt out in the Third Schedule, Paragragh 27, of the 1999 Constitution;
  6. Section 214 of the 1999 constitution which provides for the establishment of ‘The Nigeria Police Force,’ NPF, should be amended to rename it ‘The Nigeria Police’ because the police ought not to be a force;
  7. Appointment of the Inspector General of the Police, IGP: Nomination and appointment of the IGP should remain with the President and the National Council of States subject to confirmation by the Senate;
  8. Funding of the NPF: The funding of the Police should be seriously enhanced and given priority attention. All logistic needs of the NPF should be met by government, and the enactment of the Police Trust Fund Act should be expedited to complement government funding;
  9. Minimum manpower (general duties) requirement for the Force should be worked out to achieve optimum police service delivery on the basis of Nigeria’s current population. Other factors such as crime rate and industrial development should also be considered in Police deployment;

k.Police Council should remain the body responsible for Force policy, finances, organisation and standards. It should play a far greater role in shaping the aims and objectives of the service. It should be responsible for the appointment of the Inspector-General of Police on the advice of the Police Service Commission;

  1. Police Service Commission should continue to be responsible for appointment, promotion and discipline of all officers below the IGP, except the operational control of the Force which is vested in the IGP. It should be independent enough to guard against nepotism in recruitment, discipline and promotion and the dominance of the service by any single or few ethnic groups. In other words, it should implement the requirement of the Constitution to reflect Federal Character in recruitment. Memberships of the Commission should be apolitical and should comprise men and women of proven integrity;
  2. The Inspector-General of Police should be made accountable to the Police Council for the effectiveness and efficiency of the Force;
  3. Rehabilitate, expand and equip the existing police institutions to enable them meet the training needs of the Police;

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Security and Intelligence service

  1. Training the trainers to acceptable standards while appropriate incentives should be introduced for trainers to attract some of the best in the service;
  2. Rehabilitate the existing manpower, weed out the bad and the untrainable ones and commence the retraining of the retained ones;
  3. Ensure proper screening and vetting of the background of all prospective recruits using police apparatuses, the Security and Intelligence Service and traditional institutions, i.e. ward, village and district heads, emirate council and similar outfits in other parts of the country;
  4. Provide a modern communication network and restore the integrated radio satellite communication introduced in 1992;
  5. An Inspectorate Department headed by a retired officer not below the rank of DIG should be established under the Ministry of Police Affairs to undertake inspections with a view to maintaining standards of performance of police formations and functions throughout the country; records of arms and ammunition and other police station records, as well as maintain general sanitation of Police station and barracks;
  6. Public order law which had been grossly abused should be reverted to the police for implementation;
  7. A Police Reform Implementation Committee should be put in place to facilitate the implementation of the recommended reforms; and
  8. The IGP should be the accounting officer of the Nigeria Police and be answerable to the Nigeria Police Council on financial matters.”
  9. To be concluded…

VANGUARD

 

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