Vanguard (Lagos)

25 August 2012

Nigeria: State Police! to Be or Not to Be?

Photo: Vanguard
Nigerian female officers

analysis

The clamour for State Police now a central issue in the counrty have continued to draw interest from all segements of the society.The amber first fired by the Northern Governors had since earned the agitation of the Southern Governors. The heavy onus on everyone who care is, should Nigeria go for state police or not?

Mr. T.C. Ezeiro, a legal practitioner in Ikeja says agitation for state police was informed by Governors who want more powers for political needs. He says state police are prone to abuse as the police personnel will be employed to ensure that political opponents are suppressed through oppressive, indiscriminate and clandanstine use of powers of arrest and prosecution.

He dismissed the excuses advanced by the Governors that state police will afford them better charge of security matters in their states, as a far cry to the attendant danger that state police portends.

In the same vein, Mr.Nicol Afolayan who has his law office located in Apapa says state police might be the catalyast for the break up of the country. He says that discrimination will be promoted to the highest level with state police. The implication he says is that each state will only recruit into the state force officers and men from the particular state whose loyalty to the governor was certain. Mr. Afolayan wonders if the present personnel of the Nigeria police force will haveto be posted to their respective states of origin, retained as federal police or given the option to choose where to serve.!

Creation of state police no doubt raises constitutional implications. In brief, Sections 214 and215 of the 1999 consititution deals with the establishment of the Nigeria Police Force ,appointment of the Inspector General of the Police and control of the force. Section 216 on the other hand deals with the delegation of powers of the police by thePolice Council to the IG or any member of the force.

Therefore for there to be a state police, an amendment of the constitution is mandatory . Specifically Scection 214 of the constitution states "There shall be a police force for Nigeria which shall be known as the Nigeria Police Force and subject to the provisions of this section, no other police force shall be established for the federation."

State Police to be or not to be

DR PHILIP UGBODAGA

(former Edo State Chairman, Nigeria Medical Association and National President, Save Nigeria Group):-

The Nigerian federation is very dysfunctional and requires urgent restructuring and the creation of state police is one of the fundamental requirements of the call by patriots for the operation of a true federalism in Nigeria. The opponents of state police are doing very serious disservice to the unity and security of the country. Recent security challenges in the country have made the creation of state police an imperative which should be done without further delay.

The opponents think that once we have state police, a governor would just order the arrest of anyone for detention without trial. It surely goes beyond that although I do agree that it could be subjected to one form of abuse or the other. What we need to do therefore is to put necessary safeguards in its operation to prevent abuse by state governors and other state officers.

CHIEF FRED ORBIH (SAN)

The unfortunate thing in this country is that persons tend to look at national problem from their own narrow selfish perspective. What I have discovered is that people carve little kingdoms for themselves when they are placed in position of authorities. There is no doubt that there are compelling reasons why we should have State Police and those who are opposed to the idea also have their own reasons. But it would appear that the strongest opposition is to come from the Police Force and ex- Inspectors General of Police and what that tends to portray is that they look at the creation of State Police as the balkanization of their own small kingdoms. That indeed, is unfortunate. The truth of the matter is that we run a Federal system of government. In other federations especially in the United States of America, where we copied this idea of governance from, they have their own State Police Department and there is the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) that is in charge of the whole country.

The FBI is not called until an issue has crossed border between two states and immediately that happened, it becomes an FBI affair. Every person knows its limitations. If you continue to take Panadol for your headache and the headache remains with you, it means you are taking the wrong prescriptions for your ailment. We have run the Federal Police for a very long time.

Recent events have proved that the Police as presently structured are not performing as enshrined in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. You heard recently when the President expressed that security has become the number one issue in the country. So, why not we try a different level and start with the State Police.

In virtually every state of the country where we have crisis now, you call in the Army and the danger is that we are inadvertently inviting soldiers into the governance of the country. The primary function of the Army is to maintain the territorial integrity of the country while the Police are to take charge of Internal security challenges.

The fact that we keep inviting soldiers to come means that we have accept the fact that the Police as presently constituted and structured is not able to perform its duties. That is not to say that one is not aware of the arguments against the creation of State Police. The argument tends to be that the experience in pre-independent and the First Republic shows that they are easily manipulated by politicians at the grassroots level.

That they are used to play their dirty politics, they used to hunt opposition members and so on and so forth. If these are the reasons, I believe that they are issues that can be tackled in the sense that we put institutional frame work to ensure that they are not used for the purposes for which they were not created. The fact that something is capable of being misused does not mean it should be thrown away.

We should understand that these are things that happened over forty years ago.

Nigerians have moved on since then, the society is a little more sophiscated now, people are certainly more enlightened, we know that even the Federal Police are subject to abuses, some companies used them to collect debts, but Nigerians know that that is not the function of the Police and when that is done, they go to court to enforce their fundamental human rights. We have privileged to do that in number of cases for some of our clients and lessons were learnt from those instances.

AFOLABI OLAYIWOLA

(Constitutional lawyer and Notary Public): THE creation of State Police is long overdue in this country, so I am in total support for its creation. State Police apart from complementing the Federal Police in area of crime detection, will contribute to effective community policing, thus assisting in crime fighting and reduction.

We are already practising State Police with the Sharia Police in the North, LASMA officials in Lagos and even the traffic police wardens that effectively control traffic on our roads. Again, the fact that we have state police will not anyway abolish the Federal Police. The Constitution will spell out the duties of each police system and their limitations.

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