The House of Representatives is contemplating constitutional backing to enable states establish their self-run police, writes Adedayo Akinwale
The current state of insecurity in the country under the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari is now the new normal. The horrific tales of killings, kidnappings, terrorism have become an everyday occurrence with Nigerians now looking on to God for their protection.
The daring attack on the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) a few days ago by terrorists was another indication that governance of the country which elicited high expectations at the beginning of the President Muhammadu Buhari, a retired Nigerian Army General, administration has become rudderless, with many asking if a high profile military establishment could be brazenly attacked, then where else is safe?
The attack on the NDA has brought home an embarrassing reality: The Federal Government is overwhelmed. This apparent hopeless and helpless situation has forced various states to establish security outfits. To give more credence to this, the Governor of Kastina State, Hon. Aminu Bello Masari recently called on the people of the state to arm and defend themselves against bandits, and other unwanted killer elements like terrorists.
Despite the alarming state of insecurity, the creation of state security outfits like Amotekun and Ebubeagu was not without legal battles between the federal and the state governments. The seemingly overwhelmed federal government wants the status quo of a centralised policing and security system to remain despite its failure to secure lives and property of Nigerians
However, a legislation that will give more legal backing to the various security outfits established by various state governments to tackle insecurity in their domain is in the offing as the House of Representatives has resolved to alter the 1999 constitution by considering a bill to amend the Principal Act to remove Police and other government security services from the Exclusive Legislative List and insert it in the Concurrent Legislative List so that both federal and state governments can legislate on the subject.
The Bill sponsored by a member representing Etinan/ Nsit Ibom/ Nsit Ubium Federal Constituency of Akwa Ibom State in the House, Hon. Onofiok Luke seeks to alter the 1999 Constitution to provide for State Police and other state government security services to enhance security and preservation of lives and property in Nigeria.
The Lawmaker who led the debate when the bill was considered by the House said the primary responsibility of every government all over the world is to protect and preserve the lives and property of its citizens and to maintain law and order.
He argued amongst many other responsibilities of government, the responsibility of preserving lives and property ranks first.
Luke pointed out that the principle of social contract is chiefly anchored on this responsibility where the people relinquished and contracted their individual rights to the government for the protection of their lives and property. He noted that any failure on the part of the government to keep to this basic responsibility/contractual term portends danger.
The lawmaker lamented that many years after independence, Nigeria has continually been beset with insecurity ranging from terrorism, kidnapping, armed robbery, and domestic violence.
Luke said granted that there is no society without crime or manifestation of criminal behaviour, the inability to bring to the barest minimum crime is a scathing indictment on the current security architecture and structure in the country.
He added that the federal structure of the country’s security does not encourage community policing or localisation of policing, saying that recruitment and subsequent deployment of police officers in their local area is one of the major ways of curbing crime. Such officers, the lawmaker stressed, understand the area, terrain, language, behaviour and attitude of the people he or she is policing.
Luke was of the opinion that Nigeria, a country with over 201 million people, is grossly under-policed with about 400, 000 police personnel, adding that the number falls far short of the United Nation’s recommendation of ratio one policeman per 400 citizens.
The lawmaker explained that the Constitution envisages Nigeria as a federal state, noting that allowing state governments to establish their police force and other security apparatuses would bring Nigeria into its original constitutional contemplation of a federal state.
The objectives of the Bill according to Luke is to enhance greater security and preservation of lives and property in Nigeria’s federating units and in the country as a whole.
The bill also aims at enhancing maintenance and preservation of law and order; reduce incidents and occurrence of crimes in the country; establish community policing and install greater public participation in policing; and to support and provide assistance to federal police and other federal security agencies.
Summary of the Bill
This Bill seeks to excise Item 45 (Police and other government security services) from the Exclusive Legislative List and place the same on the Concurrent Legislative List to allow different state governments to legislate on security matters, which will effectively give state governments powers to establish state police.
The Bill comprises five clauses. Clause 1 generally alters the provision of the Principal Act, while Clause 2 establishes the State Police Council and State Police Service Commission just as we have at the federal level.
Clause 3 of the Bill alters the Second Schedule to the Constitution by deleting from the Exclusive Legislative List police and government security agencies and inserting the Item in the Concurrent Legislative List, thereby empowering both the National Assembly and Houses of Assembly of states to legislate on police and other security matters.
Clause 4 provides for the composition and functions of the State Police Council and State Police Service Commission. The function of the council, amongst others, shall be the organisation and administration of the State Police Force while that of the Commission shall generally be the appointment of persons to offices in the State Police Force. However, Clause 5 contains the citation of the Bill.
Citation of the Bill
The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Cap.C23, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 (in this Bill referred to as “the Principal Act”) is altered as set out in this Bill. Alteration of Cap. C23, LFN, 2004.
Section 197(1) of the Principal Act is altered by inserting after paragraph (d), new paragraphs “(e)” – “(f)” –which states: (e) State Police Council; and (f) State Police Service Commission.”
In the proposed bill, The Second Schedule to the Principal Act is altered–in Part I, by deleting item 45 from the Exclusive Legislative List; and in Part II, by inserting after item 30 on the Concurrent Legislative List, new items “31” – “32”.
The Section 31 now states: The National Assembly may make laws for the establishment of the Federal Police and other Federal Government security services.
Section 32 also states: A House of Assembly may make laws for the establishment of State Police and other state government security services.
Also in the proposed legislation, the Third Schedule to the Principal Act is altered by inserting after paragraph (8), new paragraphs “9” – “12”
Paragraph 9 in the proposed bill now reads: A State Police Council shall comprise the following members: the Governor, who shall be the Chairman; the Chairman of the State Police Service Commission; and State Commissioner of Police.
While paragraph 10 of the proposed bill says: The functions of a State Police Council shall include:
(a) The organisation and administration of a State Police Force and all other matters relating thereto (not being matters relating to the use and operational control of the Force or the appointment, disciplinary control and dismissal of members of the Force);
(b) The general supervision of a State Police Force; and (c) advising the Governor on the appointment of State Commissioner of Police.
Also, paragraph 11 of the proposed bill says: A State Police Service Commission shall comprise the following members – a Chairman; and such number of other persons, not less than five but not more than seven, as may be prescribed by a Law made by the House of Assembly of a State.
Paragraph 12 says: The Commission shall have power to – appoint persons to offices (other than the office of the State Commissioner of Police) in the State Police Force; and
(b)Dismiss and exercise disciplinary control over persons holding any office referred to in sub paragraph (a).
The Bill sponsored by a member representing Etinan/ Nsit Ibom/ Nsit Ubium Federal Constituency of Akwa Ibom State in the House, Hon. Onofiok Luke seeks to alter the 1999 Constitution to provide for State Police and other state government security services to enhance security and preservation of lives and property in Nigeria