The blunder in not having state police (4)

By Eric Teniola

The policy, organization and administration of the Nigeria Police Force and all other matters relating thereto (not being matters relating to the use and operational control of the force of the appointment, disciplinary control and dismissal of members of the force) shall be under the general supervision of the Nigeria Police Council.

13. The President shall cause the Nigeria Police Council to be kept fully informed concerning the matters under its supervision and shall cause the Council to be furnished with such information as the Council may require with respect to any particular matter under its supervision.

14. The Nigeria Police Council may take recommendations to the Government of the Federation with respect to any matter under its supervision, and if in any case the Government acts otherwise than in accordance with any such recommendations it shall cause a statement containing that recommendation and its reasons for acting otherwise than in accordance with that recommendation to be laid before the National Assembly”.

And that is why Chief Rotimi Williams in his speech on November 1, 1977, did not include State Police creation when he presented his bill to the Constituent Assembly presided over by Justice Egbert Udo Udoma((21 June 1917 – 2 February 1998), who was the Chief Justice of Uganda from 1963-1969.

The regimes of President Shehu Usman Aliyu Shagari GCFR (25 February 1925 – 28 December 2018),Turakin Sokoto, Major General Muhammadu Buhari GCFR (79), General Ibrahim Babangida(80) GCFR, Chief Chief Ernest Adegunle Oladeinde Shonekan GCFR (9 May 1936 – 11 January 2022, General Sani Abacha GCFR (20 September 1943- 8 June 1993) and General Abdusalam Abubakar GCFR (80) did not create state Police. After his inauguration as President on May 29,199, President Olusegun Obasanjo GCFR then set up a Presidential Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution.

The Committee was inaugurated on behalf of President Obasanjo by his then Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Chief Kanu Agabi (76). The Committee which was later headed by Chief Clement David Ebri (69) former Governor Cross River State, submitted its reports to President Olusegun Obasanjo GCFR on February 28, 2001, unfortunately the committee did not recommend the creation of State Police.

Prominent members of the Committee were Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Chief Ayo Opadokun, Chief Barnabas Gemade, Chief A.K. Horsfall, Alhaji Iro Abubakar Dan Musa, Chief Arthur Nwankwo, Barrister Adeniyi Akintola, Chief Solomon Asemota (SAN), Mrs. Ayoka Lawani and others.

What the committee recommend was this “Two positions were canvassed by Nigerians on the desirability or otherwise of allowing States to establish and maintain their Police. Proponents of separate Police for the States rested their demand on the strong ground that it was consistent with federal practice.

The arrangement, they argued, enabled the Federating States to effectively maintain law and order, especially during other social upheavals such as inter-communal riots, youth restiveness, riots and ethnic militancy without the often costly delays in obtaining Federal approval by the Commissioner of Police e ewe a State Governor has so directed/requested.

The handling of the various inter communal upheavals in the various states of the federation since the beginning of the current democratic governance left much to be desired. This, many people believe was due to the provision of Section 215 (4) of the Constitution which hinders a Governor from exercising his power as Chief Security Officer of the State.

Another example mentioned for the failure or weaknesses in the present centralized Police structure was the inability of the Nigeria Police to contend with the high rate of violent crimes which ravaged major towns all over the country.

In response to the hostage-like situation in which the States were held by hoodlums, some State Governments have resorted to establishing Vigilante Groups which they claim have successfully dealt with the crime situation in those States. In some instances however, people often accuse these groups as some kind of local “militia” who would not hesitate to take the laws into their hands at will and molest people. The recent experiences in some parts of this country constitute sufficient lessons not to allow local “militia” to be formed.

The Nigeria Police is however so badly equipped and unmotivated and so could not effectively deal with the crime and security situation in the country. Representations against State Police bordered on the fear of abuses to which State Governors may subject their Police.

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These fears included those of intimidation and harassment of political opponents and perpetuation of electoral frauds. References were made to the experiences in the Country during the former Regional Governments when the authorities put the Regional and Local Authority Police to abuse – a development which led to occasional breakdown of law and order.

The fall of the first Republic was partly blamed on the ignoble use of the Regional and local Police. It was, therefore, feared that it ‘Was too soon in the life of Nigeria’s nascent democracy for the idea of State Police to be entertained.

For this school of thought, it was argued that the need for State Commissioners of Police to occasionally clear operational instructions with the Inspector-General was intended to check abuses and ensure that the orders by Governors were actually lawful What the Nigeria Police needed in order to function properly and serve Nigerians more effectively, was a retraining programme, proper funding and adequate and up-to-date equipment while steps should be taken to sanitise the institution and rid it of corruption and other vices.

The Committee weighed the agitations for and against allowing States to establish their Police Force. Both sides of the argument have their merits and demerits. However, the Committee notes that while the idea of State Police at some future date could not be wished away as Nigeria gradually matures in democratic governance, the prevailing situation today does not warrant the establishment of a parallel Police Force at the state level let alone at Local Government level.

By so doing, there is the inherent danger of threatening the corporate existence of the nation. The Committee maintains that national stability and unity at all times should be the overriding concern of all Nigerians. In view of the possible destabilising effect of having parallel Police at the State and Federal levels, the Committee recommends that the existing constitutional provisions as provided in Sections 214, 215 and 216 be retained.

It however agrees that there is need for reorientation, reorganization and repositioning of the Nigeria Police to enable it meet the requirements of public order, public safety and democratic governance at all levels”.

I could not believe what I read in Clement Ebri’s committee’s report. Even in the United States, the state police is a police body unique to each U.S. state, having statewide authority to conduct law enforcement activities and criminal investigations. In general, state police officers, known as state troopers, perform functions that do not fall within the jurisdiction of the county sheriff (Vermont being a notable exception), such as enforcing traffic laws on state highways and interstate expressways, overseeing the security of the state capitol complex, protecting the governor, training new officers for local police forces too small to operate an academy and providing technological and scientific services.

They support local police and help to coordinate multi-jurisdictional task force activity in serious or complicated cases in those states that grant full police powers statewide. In many states, the state police are known by different names: the various terms used are “State Police”, “Highway Patrol”, “State Highway Patrol”, “State Patrol”, and “State Troopers”. However, the jurisdictions and functions of these agencies are usually the same, regardless of title.

Some agencies’ names are actually misnomers with respect to the work regularly done by their members. All but two state police entities use the term “trooper” to refer to their commissioned members. I am aware that Spain, Mexico, Indonesia, India, Germany, Canada, Brazil, Australia, Argentina and many countries have state police.

And this has helped the security outfit of those countries. Since 1999, we have been attempting to amend the Constitution but till today, we have not created state police. Since 1999, every deputy Senate President to date, Alhaji Ibrahim Mantu(2003-2007), Ike Ekweremadu(June 6 2007-June 11, 2019), Obansi Ovie Omo Agege(11 June 2019 to date) and deputy speakers of the House of Representatives from 1999 to date, Chibubom Nwuche (61), Austin Adiele Opara(58), Emeka Ihedioha(57), Yusuf Sulaiman Lasun(61), Ahmed Idris Wuse(58) have all been charged as Chairmen of various committees to amend the Constitution.

Huge amount of money have been allocated for these exercise, we are yet to have state police included in the constitution. The question now is, do we need State Police and is it desirable. Of course we do and it is urgently desirable. It is hereby advocated.


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