Former Deputy President of the Senate and Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Committee on Electoral Act and Constitutional Amendment, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, says decentralised policing remains the way out of the mounting security challenges in the country, noting that with the requisite political will, Nigeria could successfully amend the 1999 Constitution in 10 days to the needed legal framework for state police.
Ekweremadu, who chaired the Senate Committee on Constitution Amendment in the 6th, 7th, and 8th National Assembly, while listing numerous successful electoral reforms and constitution amendments recorded under successive PDP administrations, enjoined the All Progressive Congress-led administration to take the bull by the horns by building on those successful efforts.
He stated this during the inauguration of the PDP Committee on Electoral Act and Constitution Amendment in Abuja, Thursday evening, regretting that the security of lives and property had totally collapsed, hence the need for urgent steps to pull the nation back from the brinks.
“The weaknesses in our structure and the Constitution we operate have never been as pronounced as they are today. I must also add that it is unfortunate that the rain, which some of us shouted on top of our voices, forewarning the nation against and even proposed policies and sponsored Bills to avert, is now beating us heavily.
“I rallied my colleagues and together we sponsored the Bill for the Creation of State Police in the 8th National Assembly. I am equally sponsoring a Bill for the Creation of State Police in the current Senate.
“Unfortunately, we do not appear ready yet or show a sense of urgency to stem the tide of insecurity or rebuild our economy through the decentralisation or devolution of power. With the right political will, the amendments to the Constitution to achieve a decentralised police and secure lives and property can be achieved 10 days.
“So long as we run a dysfunctional centralised policing, for that long will our insecurity-induced pains and losses continue to rise. The community policing initiative is illusory, cosmetic, ephemeral, inorganic, and will certainly not change anything.
“It is either we do the right things to get the right results or continue to do the wrong things and live with the consequences of our choices, as is presently the case. We must also have it at the back of our minds that things will probably get worse.
“Therefore, I call on our party faithful, the media, Civil Society, and well meaning Nigerians, to put narrow political, partisan, ethnic, religious, and sectional interest aside, and seize the opportunity of the ongoing constitution amendment exercise to immediately pull our nation back from the brinks”.
On electoral reforms, the lawmaker also enjoined his colleagues, political leaders and Nigerians to support the move to amend the Electoral Act to allow early primaries and electronic transmission of results. On how the constitution can be amended in ten days he said the following”
“First, we have to understand that the Constitution allows us as a parliament to regulate our proceedings.
Remember that what the Constitution requires is that for you to amend any part of the constitution, you have to come through a Bill. You need a two-thirds majority of each chamber of the National Assembly. Then you go to the States to get at least one-thirds of each of at least 24 states voting in favour of such amendment.
“So, if you now introduce the Bill on a Monday, for instance, you can actually do First Reading, Second Reading, and Third Reading the same day under our Rules.
In fact, you can actually finish this particular Constitution amendment to decentralise the police in one week or less than 10 days.
All you need to do is to suspend that Section that says you must take the First, Second, and Third Reading on three different days.
“So, if you suspend the Rule, you take the First Reading, then the Second Reading is the debate. After the reading you send it to the Committee. That committee can actually be a Committee of the Whole House and everybody will now contribute. Because it is already a Bill, we can now take it clause by clause that same day.
So, when it is now passed, probably the third day, you now send it to the State Assemblies.
“But before all those, there has to be a meeting of the Governors, the President, the leadership of the National Assembly, the Speakers and principal officers of the State Assemblies. That way, once the political will is there and its is agreed at the meeting that this will be done, everybody will now be waiting to play his part. Of course, at the meeting, the President will guarantee that he would sign it.
“So, once the National Assembly is done with the Bill in two or three days, it will be sent to the States Assemblies, which are already waiting for it because this is a national emergency.
“Of course, the only role required of State Assemblies in constitution amendment is to vote yes or no because it is already processed and involves other states. After voting on the fourth day, they make a return on the fifth day.
“On the same fifth day, the National Assembly seats again to ratify what the States have done. On that same day or the sixth day, it will be sent to the President for assent.
“So, it can be achieved in maximum ten days if we really want to do it. If we now agree that it is the way to go to pull our nation from the brinks, believe me, we can achieve it.
“How many days did it take us to amend the constitution to handle the issues arising from the late President Musa Yar’Adua’s illness? First, we did the Doctrine of Necessity to enable the then Vice President Goodluck Jonathan to take over because there was no provision in the 1999 Constitution at the time to handle the situation. Thereafter we came back to do the necessary constitution amendment. And it took us just a few days.
“During the Yar’Adua administration when there was an urgent need to amend the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC Act, we deed it in just one day. Senators David Mark, Victor Ndoma-Egba, and Folarin are all living witnesses. It is a matter of political will.