April 16, 2024

Pushed to the wall over state police, by Eric Teniola

Who else but Professor Benjamin Nwabueze (2), by Eric Teniola

THE proposal to create state police and if possible local government police is consistent with the principle of true federalism and decentralization of powers. The arrangement would enable the states to effectively maintain law and order, especially during emergencies.

Besides, the Nigeria Police is ill-equipped and deficient that it cannot ensure safety of citizens and their property in spite of the huge budgetary allocations made to the Police Force in recent years. You will be alarmed at the amount of money so far allocated to the Nigeria Police Force in the last 25 years. 

Two positions were canvassed by Nigerians on the desirability or otherwise of allowing states to establish and maintain their police. Proponents of separate police for the states rested their demand on the strong ground that it was consistent with federal practice. The arrangement, they argued, enabled the federating states to effectively maintain law and order, especially during other social upheavals such as inter-communal riots, youth restiveness, riots and ethnic militancy without the often costly delays in obtaining federal approval by the Commissioner of Police even when a State Governor has so directed or requested. 

The handlings of the various inter-communal upheavals in the various states of the federation since the beginning of the current democratic governance left much to be desired. This, many people believe, was due to the provision of Section 215(4) of the Constitution which hinders a Governor from exercising his power as Chief Security Officer of the State. 

Experience has shown that state governors are mere figureheads in terms of security in their states. The Commissioners of Police get their directives from the Inspector-General of Police who is appointed by the President. 

Another example mentioned for the failure or weakness in the present centralised police structure was the inability of the Nigeria Police to contend with the high rate of violent crimes which ravaged major towns all over the country. In response to the hostage-like situation in which the states were held by hoodlums, some state governments have resorted to establishing vigilance groups which they claim have successfully dealt with the crime situation in those states.

 In some instances, however, people often accuse these groups as some kind of local “militia” who would not hesitate to take the laws into their hands at will and molest people. The recent experiences in some parts of this country constitute sufficient lessons not to allow local “militia” to be formed. The Nigeria Police is however so badly equipped and unmotivated and so could not effectively deal with the crime and security situation in the country. That is why Amotekun, a security outfit for South-West was launched in Ibadan on January 9, 2020 and Ebubeagu, a security outfit for South-East was launched in Owerri on April 12, 2021. Similarly, Shege Ku-Fasa, a security outfit for Northern states was launched in Kaduna on February 6, 2022.

BRACED Commission made up of Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa-Ibom, Edo and Delta states launched a security outfit for South-South on March 6, 2020. Even recently, Zamfara State launched its own security outfit, Asi Askarawa Zamfara on January 31, 2024. 

Representations against State Police bordered on the fear of abuses to which State Governors may subject their police. These fears included those of intimidation and harassment of political opponents and perpetuation of electoral frauds. References were made to the experiences in the country during the former Regional and Local Authority Police to abuse—a development which led to occasional breakdown of law and order.

The fall of the First Republic was partly blamed on the ignoble use of the regional and local police. It was, therefore, feared that it was too soon in the life of Nigeria’s nascent democracy for the idea of State Police to be entertained. For this school of thought, it was argued that the need for state Commissioners of Police to occasionally clear operational instructions with the Inspector-General was intended to check abuses and ensure that the orders by Governors were actually lawful. What the Nigeria Police needed in order to function properly and serve Nigerians more effectively, was a restraining programme, proper funding and adequate and up-to-date equipment while steps should be taken to sanitise the institution and rid it of corruption and other vices. 

The establishment of state police or local government police has now become inevitable. The ball is now in the court of our legislators to amend the Constitution and establish state police or local government police. 

The establishment of the Nigerian Police was made possible through the 1963 Constitution; so also was the abrogation of regional police. 

Chapter 7 Section 105 of the 1963 Constitution states that: “ (1) There shall be a police force for Nigeria, which shall be styled the Nigeria Police Force. (2) Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, the Nigeria Police Force shall be organized and administered in accordance with such provision as may be made in that behalf by Parliament. (3) Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, the members of the Nigeria Police Force shall have such powers and duties as may be conferred upon them by any law in force in Nigeria. (4) Subject to the provisions of this section, no police forces other than the Nigeria Police shall be established for Nigeria or any part thereof. (5) Parliament may make provision for police forces forming part of the armed forces of the Federation or for the protection of harbours, waterways, railways and airfields. 

(6) Parliament may make provision for the maintenance by any local authority within the Federal territory of a police for employment within the Federal territory. 

To be concluded