State police bill: A blend of new, old methods of police command and control

A sneak preview of the new State police bill has some interesting provisions. Significant is the distinct roles and coordination between Federal and State police, coupled with accountability, checks and balancing, with foresight of potential abuse by the political class,  MUYIWA ADEYEMI and SEYE OLUMIDE write.

The relentless push for a constitutional amendment to accommodate a decentralised Police Force received its best attention last week at the House of Representatives. The bill, entitled: “A bill for an Act to alter the provision of the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria to provide for establishment of State Police; and for related matters”, scaled the second reading – a milestone in the history of its advocacy.

Notwithstanding the arguments against the State police system that is working in other parts of the world, the parliament was of the consensus that it is a model whose time has come in Nigeria.

The bill, sponsored by the Deputy Speaker, Benjamin Kalu, along with 14 other lawmakers – Julius Ihonvbere,  Onanuga Oriyomi, Joseph Bassey, Ibe Okwara-Osonwa, Thaddeus Attah,  Joshua Gana, Hassan Shinkafi,  Chinwe Nnabuife, Obed Shehu, Fatima Talba, Tolani Shagaya, Blessing Onuh  and Abubakar Nalaraba – clarified some of the sentiments harboured against the creation of state police, just as the bill provided for how the establishment will not be hijacked by governors or other political actors in a state for selfish purposes.

Identifying the aims and purpose of the bill, the framers noted that in recent times, Nigeria’s collective security has been greatly challenged and needed a major policy shift.

He acknowledged that a federation of 36 states and a Federal Capital Territory, 774 councils, over 250 ethnic nationalities, over 200 million citizens and a vast terrain spanning over 920,000 square kilometres, could not be adequately secured by a single and centralised police system that employs less than 400,000 police officers.

In addition, the fabric of any democracy is woven with the threads of constant adaptation to the evolving needs of its society. “At this point in our nationhood, State Policing is not only inevitable, but urgently desired to tackle the mounting challenges of insecurity,” the sponsor said in his preamble.

“This Bill emerges as a necessary response to several calls for a decentralised and community-oriented approach to law enforcement. It seeks to navigate the complex landscape of security challenges by empowering our states with the means to address issues unique to their localities. This proposed alteration represents not just a legal adjustment to our grundnorm, but a visionary leap towards a safer, more secure, and harmonious Nigeria.”

Landmark in its propositions is the transfer of “Police” from the “Exclusive Legislative List to the Concurrent Legislative List, which aimed to empower the states to have a separate controlled policing system, introduction of a comprehensive framework to ensure cohesion as well as accountability and uniform standards between the federal and state police; the provision of prescribed rigorous safeguards preventing unwarranted interference by the federal police in state police affairs, emphasising collaboration and intervention only under well-defined circumstances and the establishment of State Police Service Commissions (SPSC) separately  as distinct from the Federal Police Service Commission with clearly defined roles and jurisdictions.

The bill provides for the re-calibration of the National Police Council, to include the chairmen of the State Police Service Commissions. It emphasis on the collaborative and consultative nature of policing in the federal system; a recognition of the possible financial challenges, which may be faced by States Police, by empowering the Federal Government to provide grants or aids, subject to the approval of the National Assembly, thus ensuring adequate resources for effective policing and others.

The sponsors of the bill, however, appealed to Nigerians as well as politicians the need to eschew  party lines and ideologies but to focus on the collective good of the nation, saying, “The alterations proposed in this Bill are not just alterations to the Constitution, they are also the building blocks of a more secure, accountable and resilient.”

Part of the framework of the bill is to provide for a Federal Police that shall be responsible for the maintenance of public security, preservation of public order and security of persons and property throughout  the Federation to the extent provided for under this Constitution or by an Act  of the National Assembly, whereas provision will also be made to empower states for its  police subject to the provisions of the Constitution.

Unlike what is obtained now, under the proposed arrangement, the Federal Police shall not interface with the operations of any State Police of its internal 15 security affairs except-to contain serious threats to public order where it is shown that there is a complete breakdown of law and order within a state, and the State Police is unable to contain the threat or where the governor of a State requests the intervention of the Federal Police.

Meanwhile, any form of intervention the federal police will make, which include administrative, financial or other problems which render the state police inoperative at any given time shall only be made after approval by two-thirds majority of the Senate.

The bill also deals with the appointment of Inspector-General of Police and the Commissioner of Police in a State. It recommended that the IGP shall be appointed by the President on the advice of the National Police Council subject to confirmation by the Senate whereas the Commissioner of  Police, who will head the state police structure shall be appointed by the governor on the advice of the Federal Police Service Commission but subject to confirmation by the State House of Assembly.

The governor may authorise the Commissioner of Police, such lawful directions with respect to the maintenance and securing of public safety and order as he may consider necessary, and the Commissioner of  Police shall comply with those directions or cause them to be complied with unless the Commissioner feels that the direction given under this subsection is unlawful or contradicts general policing standards or practice, he may request that the matter be referred to the State Police Service Commission for review and decision of the State Police Service Commission shall be final.

For checks and balances, the bill proposed that an Act of the National Assembly may prescribe a bi-annual certification review of the activities of State Police by the Federal Police Service Commission to ensure that they meet up with approved national standards and guidelines of policing, and their operations do not undermine national integrity, promote ethnic, tribal or sectional agenda or marginalise any segment of the society within the State.

To further check expected excess of governors, the bill suggested that removal of IGP shall be done by the President upon the recommendation of the National Police Council, while the governor could remove a Commissioner of Police  upon the recommendation of the Federal Police Service Commission with two third majority approval of members of the State Assembly.

THE bill itemised the offenses upon which the IGP or Commission of Police could be removed.

Allaying the fears of funding of State Police, the bill proposed provisions of  grants or Aids to state police by the Federal Government may provide grants or aids to State on the  recommendation of the National Assembly.

REACTING on the bill, several stakeholders supported the idea just as they urged the lawmakers to expedite action on passing it into law.

They posited that if finally established and scripted in the Constitution, no state governor would be able to use it for selfish purposes since it bothers on security.

The leader of Afenifere, Pa Ayo Adebanjo, tasked the media with the responsibility to appropriately explain the nitty-gritty of the bill and also educate Nigerians on what state police is all about under a federal arrangement.

He dismissed the misconception of skeptics concerning the funding of state police and the possibility that governors can mismanage it or hijack it for selfish purposes.

According to him, “Many people do not understand what State Police is all about, hence their fear. There is nowhere in the world where true federalism is practiced and such a country runs the unitary policing system like ours. The question is not about funding because the funding would be provided for in the constitution. We need to change the 1999 Constitution and every other thing will fall in place. Let the governors spend whatever they are spending now to fund federal police on their state police.”

Debunking the insinuation that some governors may decide not to fund state police as they are currently doing with Southwest Security outfit, Amotekun, the Director-General, Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) Commission, Seye Oyeleye, said, it is unfair to say that Amotekun has failed because the governors are not funding it.

To him, “Amotekun is a big success in Ondo and Oyo states where former Governor Rotimi Akeredolu and Governor Seyi Makinde took the responsibility of funding.”

Oyeleye also appealed to the media to educate Nigerians. He said if State Police is included in the Constitution, necessary financial allocation would be made through the Constitution, which no governor can misappropriate.

“The beauty of the argument is that those who were initially against state police are now the ones championing it. If no governor has abused Amotekun in the last four years there is no way anyone would abuse State Police. Which of the 36 governors in Nigeria today is not spending billions from their state allocation or security votes, to fund and equip the present Federal Police? On the other hand is the Federal Government also funding the police appropriately? I don’t see that as a fear.”

He said whenever state police is approved, the current allocation and revenue sharing pattern would change to accommodate its funding.

“The idea is it would bring security and intelligence gathering closer to the grassroots, yes. If security is devolved to states it will enhance peace. I can bet that it will be very difficult, if not impossible for any governor to abuse state police. That will be tantamount to compromising the peace of your state.”

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