NOT a few Nigerians were taken aback when Zamfara State Governor, Abdul'aziz Yari, announced, last June, that he was dropping his title or position as the Chief Security Officer of the state. And by way of an explanation, he had given as reason for taking this radical, unprecedented decision: lack of control of the state security machinery.
As most Nigerians tried to come to terms with this bombshell of an announcement, it had emerged that the governor's action was a form of protest against his helplessness in arresting or stemming the tide of recurring killings in his state. Describing his constitutional position of "Chief Security Officer" as a mere nomenclature, he said: "We have been facing serious security challenges over the years, but in spite of being governor and Chief Security Officer of the state, I cannot direct security officers on what to do nor sanction them when they err". He added that it only took a presidential order from Abuja for the killings to stop.
Governor's Yari's experience is not an isolated one. It will also be recalled that Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State had repeatedly expressed his helplessness to tackle killings in the state, noting that even though in name he is the state chief security officer, he was not in control of the police.
The same complaints had been given by many other governors, who expressed helplessness in confronting insecurity in their respective states due to the fact that they are not in control of the police, which is controlled from Abuja and most often do not respond at the speed a sitting governor would want in the event of crisis in a state.
It is for this reason that many have before now argued and continue to argue that the introduction of state police into Nigerian policing system is possibly the best option for curbing the spate of security challenges in the country. The National Assembly recently rekindled hope for the actualisation of this as a bill to that effect has scaled first reading in the Senate, while the same bill has scaled second reading in the House of Representatives.
The bill is specifically in reaction to cries across the country over attacks, particularly in the Middle Belt and North West, by gunmen, while state governors as chief security officers have been helpless in dealing with insecurity in their states.
The Bill before the Senate for the alteration of the 1999 Constitution for the creation of state police entitled 'Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (Alteration) Bill, 2018' is sponsored by the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu and co-sponsored by 49 other Senators.
The Bill seeks to alter the provisions of the Constitution to establish State and Community Police; change the names of Nigeria Police Force to Federal Police Service; the Nigerian Police Service Commission to National Police Service Commission; the Nigerian Police Council to the National Police Council; and other related matters.
The Bill also seeks for the creation of a National Police Service Commission to be responsible for the appointment of persons to offices (other than office of the Inspector-General of Police) in the Federal Police; exercising disciplinary control over members of the Federal Police; recommending to the Governor of a State the appointment of the Commissioner of Police, Deputy Commissioners of Police and Assistant Commissioners of Police of the State Police based on a list submitted to it by the State Police Service Commission of the relevant state and subject to confirmation by the House of Assembly of the State."
It also seeks to provide a State Police Service Commission to recommend to the Governor, the discipline and removal of the Commissioner of Police, Deputy Commissioners of Police and Assistant Commissioners of Police of the State Police; supervising the activities of the Federal Police and State Police to the extent provided for in this constitution or by an Act of the National Assembly; prescribe standards for all police forces in the country in training, criminal intelligence data bases, forensic laboratories and render assistance to State Police in areas as may be requested by such State Police."
Against the backdrop of the mixed feelings the introduction of the bill generated, Vanguard sought the reaction of cross-section of Nigerians, lawyers, socio-cultural organisations on what the fresh move by the National Assembly to actualise state police portends for the country.
State police will benefit Nigeria -- PANDEF
In his response, Chairman, Pan Niger Delta Forum and former military administrator of Akwa Ibom State, Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga said: "The call for the establishment of state police has been a recurring thing. So many people have been talking about it; it is going to benefit Nigeria. For instance, looking at what is happening in Benue State, if there was state police the governor would have reacted much better.
"But the federal police that is in Benue does not understand the terrain, does not understand the language. And they wait for the Inspector General of Police to give instruction. There is no way you can react to crimes like that. These are the issues.
But if it were to be state police, the crime rate would have gone down because most of them know the way, the culture of criminals in their areas. So it is good that the national assembly is talking about it. And PANDEF appreciate the fact that the National Assembly has seen the need to restructure, but we are saying that they should take restructuring holistically.
"Maybe due to the biting insecurity situation in the country, that is why they are talking about it, but we are saying that restructuring is a holistic thing, there is no need doing it in piecemeal. There are 64 items in the exclusive list of the Federal Government which include state police. It is under true federalism that you have devolution of powers and under devolution of powers, you have the state police."
There is nothing wrong with state Police --Afenifere
PANDEF stand on the issue is shared by the pan-Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere. According to its National Publicity Secretary, Mr Yinka Odumakin: "The call for State Police is not new to us, even in the First Republic, there were calls for a state police. If we have such institution in place, it will not take President Buhari three months to know that the Inspector General of Police did not carry out his orders. There must be local content to policing in Nigeria.
"You can imagine the Federal Government sending 30,000 policemen to Ekiti just for election purposes; you can imagine how lean the security would be during the general elections. So it will be wrong for those arguing that state won't be able to pay the salaries. I feel strongly that if states are allowed to run their own mineral resources, there is no segment of the state that won't be able to pay."
Pros will outweigh the cons ----Lagos Attorney General, Mr Adeniji Kazeem
"Lagos State Government, as we all know, has always supported state police and other security services in the state. In term of State government providing support for police system, the state is far ahead of others. I must tell you however that supporting state police system require lots of funds and lots of responsibilities. I can speak for Lagos State, which has the wherewithal and discipline.
"You must be aware that one of the criticisms of those opposing state police is how responsible the state government will be in controlling the police force. That is why it requires the will of the people that run the state: the chief executives. We have been blessed with responsible and far thinking chief executives in this state.
"We also expect that in other states such calibre of people will be needed. However, there are counter-arguments that fear should not be a barrier to state police. If you weigh the pros and cons of the state police, the pros will outweigh the cons.
"If the state police have to be considered, the checks and balances for the use of the state police by the state executives have to be considered. I am sure that the National Assembly, which is looking at this, must consider the checks and balances. It is something that as an individual and my office has to go for."
State police good, but can the States afford it--Mr John Odubela, SAN
"Well for me having State Police is very good for our country particularly with the Federal System of Government and the recent various experiences that we have encountered. States at least will have some sort of control of internal security of their States.
"One of the major challenges will be finance. If majority of the states can't pay salaries for their workers can they pay the salaries of the Police and allowances? Remember the Maiduguri incident of the Mobile Police protesting against non-payment of their allowances by the Federal Government.
"You can see that if the Federal Government is still having these problems you can imagine what will happen at the state level. So State Police is good and ideal for our system of government but can the states afford it?"
It will bring security closer to the people-- Mr. Michael Gusa, Benue State Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice
"Eventually when you have state police, you are bringing security closer to the people and that is to say a Governor of the state would have direct control. That is to say that the police in the state will be taking direct orders from the Governor.
"It will effectively put to an end to the practice of having to report to the Inspector General of Police and complain to the President who is the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces when there are security challenges in your state. In this instance, the governor will give directives as to how the security of a state should be handled.
"And that will change the security architecture of the country because each and every state has her particular security problem. It is the Governor and the people of the state that know how to handle their peculiar security challenges and problems. So, it will improve on our internal security. It is good development.
"The media have been reporting the security challenges we have in the state, and you know the kind of proactive action the Governor took to address the problem, but that action of his was not backed up with an equally proactive security support.
"If he had been given direct control of the security I am sure the situation wouldn't have got to that level. Just like he was proactive, speaking to the Presidency and reporting to the security agencies, he would have gone ahead to give necessary directives to the state police command if he had the authority to do that. If that were done, we wouldn't have had the kind of problems that we had.
"You know that whether we like it or not, the law establishing the state police will have to limit the extent of the use of the state police force. So the Governors would not have wide range of powers within the laws establishing the state police in order to check abuses.
"It is in exceptional cases that you can talk of the abuse of such powers. Generally, Governors are supposed to secure the lives and property of their people in the state. So I can't see them abusing such powers because setting up the state police will be aimed at protecting lives and property of the people in the states."
We need to start from somewhere - Chief Bode George
"Ideally, one will get worried about the insecurity in the country, I was a member at the National Conference, and this was one of the issues that came up at the conference. Now, how does it work with our attitude, flagrant disregard for the rule of law?
"The Americans who practise this did not start doing so in a day. Of course, my fear about state police is a major concern. The Governor may decide to run away with powers and hide under immunity with the state police and lock up his opponent(s) over one issue or the other.
"I believe with modern technology and instant information things will take shape. We need to start from somewhere. It will relieve the FG of total national control of the police. Policing is supposed to be local. If you look at it theoretically, it makes a lot of sense. It is the workability of it that is a major concern for you and I.
"Are we developed and civilized to that level to do what is right and just as against flagrant abuse of powers? There's a lot of fear about the corrupt misuse of powers by the state police. However, we must be ready to develop our system; nobody will come around to do that for us. If we are able to do that successfully, the pressure on the Federal Government on policing will be reduced. With this, the police man will be for the state and will be living among the people; he or she will know everywhere and every person."
Nation's security can't wait for establishment of State Police--Femi Falana, SAN
"Like majority of concerned citizens I have watched with dismay and frustration the unabated killing of thousands of innocent people, including children, and the wanton destruction of properties by terrorists, herders, kidnappers, armed robbers and other bandits.
"Having taken over the monopoly of violence the armed gangs have continued to unleash mayhem in various communities despite official assurance that the Federal Government is committed to the protection of the life and property of every person living in Nigeria.
"In view of the worsening security situation in the country I am compelled to call on the 36 state governors to request President Mohammadu Buhari to convene an urgent meeting of the Nigeria Police Council to deliberate on the organisation, administration and general supervision of the Nigeria Police Force with a view to designing strategies for effective policing of each state of the federation and the federal capital territory.
"It is pertinent to point out that this request is based on the following legal grounds: 1. The Nigeria Police Council is one of the Federal Executive Bodies established pursuant to Section 153 (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended. 2. By virtue of Paragraph L, Part 1 of the Third Schedule to the Constitution the Council is constituted by the President, the Governor of each of the States of the Federations, the Chairman of the Police Service Commission and Inspector-General of Police. 3.The functions of the Council include the general supervision, organization and administration of the Nigeria Police Force and other matters relating thereto.
The Council is also required to advise the President on the appointment of the Inspector-General of Police in accordance with section 215 (1) of the Constitution. 5. But due to the failure of the Council to hold regular meetings in line with the provisions of Section 159 of the Constitution its functions have been performed exclusively by the Presidency since civil rule was restored in the country May, 1999.
6.Instead of insisting on joint control and management of the Nigeria Police Force with the President as envisaged by the Constitution the 36 state governors are currently campaigning for the establishment of State Police, thereby giving the impression that we have in place is a Federal Government Police Force.