The raging argument over the necessity of state controlled police force took another dimension as the National Executive Council (NEC) seeks to decentralise operations of the Nigerian Police Force. ADEBIYI ADEDAPO observes that the proposed order may answer the question of community policing and address insecurity.

Although, a bill for an act to amend the 1999 constitution (as amended) to allow federating states own and control its own police force, is currently before the National Assembly, yet, the federal government and state governors have resolved to explore how the operations of the Nigeria police can be decentralised in order to improve the level of policing and security in the country.

The National Economic Council (NEC) penultimate Thursday had set-up a committee of state governors and the Inspector-General of Police Ibrahim Idris, to work-out modalities and ensure the decentralisation.

Members of the Committee include Chairman of the Governors Forum and the Governors of Zamfara state, Abdul’aziz Yari, Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, Plateau State Governor, Simon Lalong, Ebonyi State Governor, Dave Umahi, Katsina State Governor, Aminu Masari, Edo  State Governor, Godwin Obaseki and Borno Governor Kahsim Shettima, who will work with the IGP, Ibrahim Idris.

While briefing journalists at the end of the monthly NEC meeting, the National Security Adviser (NSA), Maj-Gen Babagana Monguno (rtd), said decentralisation of the police would aid greater access to information unlike the current centralised system.

According to him, the move had become compelling in view of asymmetric threats to security in the country.

Monguno said the volume of threats to security in Nigeria could not be easily overcome, hence the necessity for collaboration between the states and federal governments in tackling the situation.

He further explained that the committee will have a representation from each of the six geo-political zones.

“I gave a general overview of the current security situation in the country and all the trends that we are confronted with are becoming increasingly asymmetric in nature and l stressed upon the need to deal with these problems in a collective manner. It is true that it is the responsibility of security agencies to deal with these threats but the complexities of security in the 21st century was such that you need collective efforts in dealing with these issues.

“I emphasised to the council on the needs for the states to collaborate with and support the federal government in dealing with each individual threat. These threats differ from one zone to another. I briefed on behalf of the security agencies – both operational and intelligence. I gave a general overview of the security situation in the country, the current situation and the trends and also the challenges that we are confronted with.

“These things cannot be overcome within a short period. That is the hard truth. What we have decided to do is to work on certain methods. For example, the council decided that a committee would be set up with representation from each of the geo-political zone to be chaired by the IG, so that we find ways of decentralising police operations so that there will be greater access to information and handling this situation will be easier rather than a centralised and cumbersome approach.”

It is however not clear, whether or not the decentralisation of the national police will effectively address security concerns and lay to rest the calls for state controlled police.

However, when eventually the committee comes-up with a convincing and workable new policing structure, it may be easy to  discredit arguments for the creation of state police, since the National Assembly had initially rejected the bill in the ongoing review of the 1999 constitution (as amended) only to turn-around after one year to reconsider its decision.

Specifically, the House of Representatives, through its spokesperson, Hon. Namdas Abdulrasak, initially declared that the House would not consider the establishment of state police in the ongoing constitution amendment process, and that the bill may not be considered by the 8th National Assembly.

The House of Representatives had in September 2016 passed a bill titled, ‘A Bill for an Act to Alter the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999) to provide for the Establishment of State Police and to Ensure Effective Community Policing in Nigeria and for other related matters’ sponsored by the member representing Ibadan North federal constituency, of Oyo state, Hon.  Abiodun Awoleye Dada, for second reading.

The bill also seeks to replace the nomenclature of “Nigeria Police Force” with the “Nigerian Police Service” in the constitution.

However, only the second layer of the bill, which seeks to remove ‘Force’ from the nomenclature of the NPF survived the committee and has eventually been passed by both chambers, while the aspect seeking establishment of state police did not survive.

This development frustrated efforts of  state governors who had supported the idea of state police and set up a committee to consider the workability of having state police in their various states. However, the governors collaboration with the decentralisation signals a new experiment.

While defending the committees’ decision shortly after the 2017 joint retreat of the Senate and House of Representatives with leaders of states of assembly in Lagos,  said; “We are not considering the Bill on State Police at the committee on the review of the 1999 constitution, the over 20 items we are working on didn’t include State Police. We cannot solve all the problems at the same time, what we have agreed to treat at the committee level are the items we considered in Lagos.”

When asked if the legislature would consider it since state governors have set up a committee to that effect, Namdas explained that; “They are state governors, they can exercise their executive powers on this matter but at the legislative arms of government, we are not likely to consider it. We will leave it for another constitution review committee, maybe for the 9th Assembly to handle.”

Investigation however revealed that pressure from the Executive arm of government and from the Nigerian Police propelled the lawmakers to drop the bill seeking establishment of state police.

One year after the bill was laid to rest, rising security concerns forced the two chambers in the National Assembly, to rescind their position on the matter and re-ignite the process, alter relevant sections of the constitution to allow state police.

Consequently, Senate, on the 4th of July, directed the Constitution Review Committee, chaired by Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, to come up with a draft amenment to the section of the constitution relating to state police and report back within two weeks.

While presenting the new bill, Ekwerenmadu expressed his hope the bill will be read for the second time and sent for public hearing as soon as possible.

The bill, titled, “Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (Alteration) Bill, 2018”, was sponsored by the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, and 75 other senators.

In the same vein, Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila in a letter dated Tuesday, 3rd July, addressed to the Speaker, Yakubu Dogara proposed the amendment to provide for the creation of state police.

The letter reads; “please find attached a copy of the proposed Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (Amendment) bill 2018, to provide for the creation of State Police in Nigeria and other related matters. Kindly endorse for further processing.”

According to the letter, the bill seeks to alter the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Cap. 23, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 to delete item 45 from the exclusive legislative list, grant the National Assembly and State Houses of Assembly the power to make laws with respect to the creation, formation and control of Police and other Government security Services in Nigeria.

The bill also seeks to alter Section 214  sub-section 1 of the Principal Act in line 2, by deleting the phrase  ”and subject to the provisions of this section no other police force shall be established for the Federation or any part thereof” immediately after the word “force”.

The Principal Act is to be amended in section by creating new sections 215 and 216 as follows: 217. (1)  “There shall be a police force in each state of the Federation. (2) Subject to the provisions of this Constitution (a) a state Police Force shall be organised and administered in accordance with such provisions as may be prescribed by an act of the State House of Assembly; (b) members of state Police shall have such powers and duties as maybe conferred upon them by law.”

Also, a new Section 218 in the proposed amendment provides that the state governors shall appoint commissioners on the advice of the State Police Council from among serving members of the State Police Force.

“218 (1) “There shall be -(a) a Commissioner of Police who shall be appointed by the Governor on the advice of the State Police Council from    among serving members of the State Police Force; (b) a Head of Police for each state of the Local   Government  Area of the State to be appointed by the  State Police  Service Commission. (2) The State Police Force shall be under the command of the State Commissioner of Police. (3) The Governor or such other Commissioner of the Government of the State as he may authorise in that behalf may give to the Commissioner of Police such lawful  directions with respect to the maintenance and  securing  of public safety and public order as he may  consider  necessary, and the Commissioner of Police  shall comply with those direction or cause them to be Compiled with”.

The new Section 219 proposed, empowers the state houses of assembly to make further laws for the regulation of the State Police.

“219.  (1) “Subject to the provisions of this constitution, the State House of Assembly may make laws for the further regulation and control of the State Police.”

According to the proposed amendment, the Principal Act is hereby amended by rearranging the existing sections 217 to 320 as sections 220 to 323, while item 45 is deleted from the exclusive Legislative list in part 1 of the second schedule of the Constitution.

The entire items on the Exclusive Legislative List in part 1 of the second schedule of the Constitution is hereby rearranged and renumbered as items 1 to 67 with the exclusion of the deleted item under this Bill.

The Principal Act is hereby amended by creating  new sections 21 in part 2 of the second schedule as follows:” (1). The National Assembly may make laws for the Federation or any part thereof with respect to –  a. Police force and other government security services in respect of anything pertaining to internal security and the maintenance of law and order in Nigeria b. Regulation of ownership and control of Federal Policeand other Government security services.”

“(2)   A House of Assembly of a State may make laws with respect to:  a. The creation, formation or/and establishment of Police Force and other security services in respect of any matter pertaining to internal security and the maintenance of law and order within that state and with regard to the enforcement of any law validly made by the House of Assembly of that state. b. Regulation of ownership and control of State Police and other State Government security services.”

Two weeks after, the bill had passed second reading and referred to the House Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

While the House is already treating the bill at the committee level, there are still dissenting voices to the bill in the senate and from the Executive arm of government.

Chairman, Senate Committee on Police Affairs, Abu Ibrahim, noted that the fear of indiscriminate arrest and detention by state governors may kill passage of the State and Community Police Bill. He explained that the bill which has passed first reading on the floor of the Senate, may not get two-thirds majority to allow for a third reading and passage.

He said that while lawmakers from some parts of the country may vote in favour of the bill because of their control system, others may not for fear of abuse.

“My fear is the required numbers. The disagreement between the national assembly members and governors may kill it. This is because I know many senators and House of Representatives members think that if state governors get state police, they can trample on them, arrest and detain them.

“From my assessment, there is no way it will get two thirds in the National Assembly. Probably the bulk of South West senators will go for it because in the area,  there is some control and there is synergy because of the control system, I do not want to mention names but there are states that there is no way they will vote for its passage, from the way I see it, nine states out of 37 will not vote for it. But let us see how it goes,” he said.

Ibrahim also stated that besides the fear of intimidation and abuse, there were other factors that may not allow the structure to work effectively.

“If you create state police, will you get a better funding? These are the things we should ask ourselves. What are the main reasons for failure of the federal police system if it is regarded as a failure, the reason is lack of funding.

“You give Nigeria Police N20 billion as budgetary allocation when they require about N300 billion, even the N20 billion is not fully released. It is sometimes between 40 per cent and 50 per cent. So, will state police do better? They may know the locality better but do they have the resources? Can the states pay them their salaries and allowances? These are things we should look into,” he said.

Ibrahim advised that rather than creating a system that would be dead on arrival because of the mirage of problems that would come with, the current internal security system should be overhauled and properly funded.

According to him, if state police must work, there must be change in the revenue allocation formula to give states more money.

“If we maintain the current allocation formula, maybe Lagos, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Kano, Kaduna may pay. But after that who else, this is a federal function, if I have to take a federal function to state, it is reasonable that I reduce the amount going to federal and give more to the states.

“Also, there are questions like, how many functions do you take from federal to states? We cannot just say, create state police with the present allocation formula. It will not work and that is beside the political angle I spoke about earlier, that is, the relationship between state governors and lawmakers,” he said.

Similarly, the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), and Minister of Justice,  Abubakar Malami, advised proponents of state police to balance it against fears of politicisation of police activities, arms proliferation and bias.

The AGF had in his 2017 address at the opening of a two-day retreat organised by Southern Senators’ Forum in Calabar, said that while there was no doubt that state police services may ensure deeper grassroots penetration, the fears of abuse should not be undermined.

“The discourse here has largely been driven by arguments by several state and non-state actors in favour of the establishment of State Police Forces or Services, as the case may be, arguments both ways are quite persuasive in my opinion.

“There is no doubt that state police services may ensure deeper grassroots penetration by operatives of the police due to greater understanding of local conditions, give governors more de-facto supervision of security and create employment opportunities. We must, however, balance them against fears of proponents of a strict federal police,” Malami said.

While a new policing structure is being awaited, the agitation for the creation of state police may tarry for a while to observe effectiveness of the new order, more so that the state governors are partners in the new arrangement.

It must be noted that getting two-thirds of states houses of assembly to endorse the proposal (If eventually passed by the National Assembly) may be a tall dream without support from the state governors.