Nigeria: Ekweremadu's 10-Day Trajectory for State Police

26 February 2021

Uche Anichukwu, Media Adviser to Senator Ike Ekweremadu draws attention to his principal's suggestion to get the constitutional backing for creation of state police

The suggestion by former Deputy President of the Senate and former Chairman of the Senate Committee on Constitution Review in the 6th, 7th, and 8th Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, that the surest and handiest approach to restraining the demons of insecurity prowling the length and breadth of the country remains state and that the constitution cold actually be amended in 10 days or less to achieve it, has expectedly set tongues wagging. While overwhelming majority are excited at the prospects and wished the leaders of the country and stakeholders could listen even want it as a matter of today, many have equally wondered why the lawmaker believes that the nation could achieve in 10 days what he should have done in the 12 years that he piloted constitution amendment at the federal parliament.

The good thing, though, is that at least, unlike in those days when advocacy on decentralised policing was largely resisted by most political stakeholders and generally dismissed with a wave of the hand or even derided, an overwhelming majority of Nigerians are now seeing the present and imminent dangers in running a federal state with a unitary police. For one, the Nigeria's Governors Forum appears game.

Indeed, Ekweremadu has actually been on this project for well over a decade, but the political leadership of the country across party lines behaved like the ostrich. I was with him at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, in March 2013 when he delivered the Annual Lecture entitled "Policing and National Security in Nigeria: The Choices Before Us". The subject resonated in his lecture when he returned to the same arena to speak on the subject of "Constitutional Review in a Multi-ethnic Society". I was at the Banquet Hall of Aso Presidential Villa where decentralised policing formed part of his paper, "Strategies for Evolving a People's Constitution" at an event attended by virtually all the political stakeholders in September 2012.

I was with him at the Osgood Hall Law School, York University, Toronto, Canada, where the need for decentralised policing was a major part of the paper, "Nigerian Federalism: A Case for a Review", which he delivered there in April 2012. In fact, from Johns Hopkins University, Washington DC where he spoke on "Constitution Review in an Emerging Democracy: the Nigerian Experience", in April 2014 to New York where he spoke on "Constitutionalism and the Challenges of Leadership in Africa: An Evaluation of Tested Models" in October 2017, the UK Parliament where he spoke on "African Politics: the Dynamics and the Lessons" in January 2018; and to his innumerable interventions at the floor of the Senate, his interviews, etc., and countless press statements, Ekweremadu has been one of the few voices wailing in the wilderness on the need for decetralised policing that would include state police.

He has in the process tried to disabuse the minds of naysayers. I remember his February 2018 back piece in Thisday newspaper entitled "A Vote for State Police" and his appearance on Channels TV around the same period wherein he addressed point by point the fears and arguments against state police.

Over the years, our legislative chambers have become funeral homes of sorts with daily lamentations and a minute silence in honour of terrorism, banditry, armed robbery, etc. During a two-hour debate at the floor of the Senate over the massacre and arson wrought by bandits in Shinkafi LGA of Zamfara State in November 2017, Ekweremadu warned: "We are still treating the symptoms of insecurity in this country. We are using Panadol to treat malaria. We should devolve more powers to states and create state police. We can no longer shy away from this issue."

In the wake of the June 2018 arson and massacre of over 100 by suspected herdsmen, the lawmaker, while expressing his pains that "innocent people, who voted us into power to protect their lives and property are losing their lives and their property because we have refused to take the correct steps", predicted that "the sad news is not only that many people have died, but also that more people will die unless we take the right steps of putting the right security architecture in place". How right he was.

Although he piloted the process that broke the jinx of amending the 1999 Constitution in 2010, resulting in numerous successful amendments, every push to amend the constitution to create state police was defeated, sometimes even at the level of the Committee on Constitution Review. I think it was in the 6th or 7th Senate that the move was defeated by a single vote at the committee level. Unfortunately, unlike the executive where the views and intents of a governor or president is hardly opposed, a presiding officer, whether at the Committee level or plenary, does not vote, except to break a tie.

Chicken comes home to roost

Today, the chicken has come home to roost and who would blame Ekweremadu for venting his frustrations during the inauguration of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Committee on Electoral Act and Constitution Amendment, which he is also the Chairman.

He said: "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.

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