The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) and Pan-Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, on Tuesday, backed the House of Representatives’ quest to create state police as a bill seeking to amend the 1999 Constitution to that effect scaled through second reading at the lower chamber.
There have been divergent views on the creation of state police to address the rising insecurity in the country.
While some are in support of state police, believing that it would go a long way in tackling the security challenges bedevilling the country, others are of the view that it would become a tool in the hands of state governors to silence perceived enemies.
If the bill is passed by both chambers of the National Assembly, scales through other constitution review processes and assented to by the president, the current police system will be decentralised.
It also means the Nigeria Police Force will be moved from exclusive legislative to concurrent list in the constitution.
Agitations for state police had prompted many governors, especially in the southern part of the country to form security outfits either individually or collectively.
The Amotekun in the South West and Ebube Agu in the South East are examples of attempts to domesticate policing at the state and regional levels.
Even though the federal government has established community policing across the country, the move did not in any way dissuade some governors and regional groups from making a case for state police.
However, the Coalition of Northern Groups yesterday tackled governors of the 19 governors in the region for not doing much in establishing state police like their counterparts in the South.
‘State police bill to enhance security for Nigerians’
Titled, ‘A bill for an Act to Alter the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Cap C23, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 to provide for state police and other state government security services to enhance security and preservation of lives and properties in Nigeria, and other related matters’, it was sponsored by the Chairman of the House Committee on Judiciary, Onofiok Luke.
Presenting the bill, the lawmaker reminded that Nigeria, with a population of over 200 million people, is grossly under-policed as it has only about 400, 000 police personnel.
“This number falls far short of the United Nation’s recommendation of ratio 1 per 400 citizens.
“The constitution envisages Nigeria as a federal state. Granting allowance to state governments to establish police force and other security apparatuses will bring Nigeria into original constitutional contemplation of federal state,” he said.
Luke said the primary responsibility of every government all over the world is to protect and preserve the lives and properties of its citizens and to maintain law and order.
According to the lawmaker, the principle of social contract was anchored on the protection and preservation of lives and properties.
“Any failure on the part of the government to keep to this basic responsibility/contractual term portends danger. Many years after independence, Nigeria has continually been beset with insecurity ranging from terrorism, kidnapping, armed robbery and domestic violence.
“There is no society without crime or manifestation of criminal behaviour; our inability to bring to the barest minimum crime is a scathing indictment on the current security architecture and structure in the country.
“This bill seeks to excise item 45 (Police and other government security services) from the exclusive legislative list and place same on the concurrent legislative list to give allowance for different state governments to legislate on security matters, which will effectively give state government’s power to establish state police.
“The Bill comprised of 5 clauses. Clause 1 generally alters the provision of the Principal Act. Clause 2 establishes state police council and state police service commission just as we have at the federal level. Clause 3 alters the second schedule to the constitution by deleting it 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 state police council and state police service commission…Clause 5 contains the citation,” he said.
While lending his support to the bill, the Deputy Minority Leader, Toby Okechukwu, said state police would be relevant because it would address most of the security challenges facing the country beginning from the community level.
“As a matter of fact, there is no state in this federation that does not run a security outfit. No state; whether it is Amotekun or hisbah or vigilante or Ebube Agu. Whichever name you call it, they all run it but what character do they (operatives) possess?
“What ingredient are they lacking? They are lacking the power to bear arms and to arrest and prosecute. We need to occasion this; we need to bring it to the fore to solve the challenges we are having,” he said.
We support state police, not regional policing -NEF
The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) has supported the bill seeking to provide for the creation of state police but stressed that it must be done in a way that will not give room for political abuse.
The NEF said even though the issue of sub-national policing was a sensitive issue, it was one that must be addressed with resolve and within a time frame that would reduce the exposure of Nigerians to violent crimes.
Speaking with Daily Trust, NEF’s Director of Publicity and Advocacy, Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, said: “I don’t think it is a bad idea and it should be made flexible for states that don’t need it or cannot afford it to opt out and therefore depend on the federal police.
“The truth is that most states in this country have one form of regulatory outfits or the other and we are already operating subnational security outfits, it is just a matter of being realistic. The federal government cannot continue to shoulder the burden of policing in this country,” he said.
Baba-Ahmed, however, stressed that state police is completely different from regional policing adding that “regions have no place in the Nigerian constitutions, therefore, regional outfits that have emerged in the likes of Amotekun and the others have no basis in this discussion.”
He called on the National Assembly and the Presidency to recognise that Nigerians were in difficult times hence the challenge to improve the capacity of states to police citizens, lives and property.
“There is virtually no policing in most parts of the North. We need to improve and increase the capacity of the federal and state governments to protect citizens and if the only way out is to have state police provided and they meet those criteria of not being politicised and being used to harass groups or individuals, I think the North should advocate for that,” he said.
Northern govs lacking in foresight – CNG
On its part, the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) have accused governors in the northern region of lacking in foresight because they failed to introduce an alternative security outfit that could be collapsed into state police when the bill seeking its establishment is passed. It also described the bill seeking to establish state police as a ploy by the federal government to abdicate its responsibilities.
Its spokesman, Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, said they were particularly worried that the North would remain at the receiving end with the Amotekun and others way ahead of any regional security outfit that the North might come up with.
“The South as it were would only need to convert their already established and kitted outfits while the North would only be starting,” he said.
The group called on northern governors to explain why they rejected earlier suggestions for a northern regional security outfit including the Shege ka Fasa initiative introduced by the CNG in 2020 without coming up with an alternative.
“In the unfolding scenario in which the southern security networks are being used by their regions to harass and intimidate northerners living as minorities in the South, it will be double jeopardy for the northerners due to the lack of foresight of the northern governors and a section of the traditional leadership,” the group maintained.