It is time for state police in Nigeria, by Sunday Ehindero


The agitation for state police has a long history.

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It dates to the First Republic where the Premier of Western Region argued against the Unitary government that was operated. According to him, how could the Premier of a Region who oversaw security of the region be without the power to control the police force? Ever since, the agitation for state police has not abated. I recall that sometime in the ’80s, the Federal Government experimented with state police. All officers from Deputy Superintended of Police downward, including Inspectors and Rank and File were transferred to their states of origin. The result of the experiment was revealing. Some states did not have enough manpower. Others had more manpower than they required. But things have changed. With recruitment based on equal representation, the situation has improved.

The concept of State Police

Simply put: State Police does not mean the absence of a National Police Force. It means a locally controlled Police Force coexisting with the National Police Force. The police forces in the states will not be under the control or supervision of the Inspector General of Police. Rather, it will be the responsibilities of the governors of states to maintain law and order without the interference of the Inspector General of Police or the President. In other words, section 214 of the 1999 Constitution as amended which provides for the whole country, Nigeria, a single Police Force and prohibits the establishment of any other police force for Nigeria must be further amended.

Concomitantly, section 215(3) of the 1999 Constitution as amended must be altered to remove the authorisation of the President or the Minister to give direction to the IGP on the maintenance of law and order and public safety throughout the country. Similarly, the proviso in section 215(4) of the Constitution which requires that the directive given to the Commissioner of Police by the Governor of a State may be referred to the President has to be amended. This proviso has, in fact, to be deleted to have a State Police.

But let us consider the reasons for and against the desirability of a state police. In so doing, may I observe that the issue of state police goes beyond whether police is within my constituency or not. The issue of creation of state police is a national issue of public interest surpassing sectorial interest. Now, to the reasons for and against state police.

Firstly, the need to control crimes. It has consistently been argued that policing is essentially a local affair and as most crimes are local, we need a local police force. We all know that most crimes are not local. Crimes such as terrorism, trafficking in drugs and human persons, money laundering, Kidnappings, armed robbery, herdsmen/farmers clashes are not local. They are national, international, and trans-border crimes. They are crimes beyond the capacity and capability of state police to control. Crimes are no longer local affairs. Britain, from whom we derived our policing practice, today is moving towards a National Police Force. In the ’40s Britain had 180 police forces. In 1962 she had 120 police forces. In 2011 she had amalgamated the forces into 43. The process is on-going.

The other argument raised in favour of state police is that the State Governor who is the chief security officer of the state ought to have the control of contingent of police stationed in the state. But our experience in the past was such that Local Government Police and Native Authority Police were used to subvert the democratic process. The state police was used and manipulated by politicians to intimidate, persecute and suppress perceived political opponents. How about the conduct and results of local government elections in the states where the party in power in the state wins all the elections.

It was my candid opinion that state police may be an invitation to secession and dis-integration of the country. There are divisive elements within and without the states, with mutual suspicion of one another, religious and political intolerance in the country.

Moreover, police matters are too expensive to be left in the hands of the states. Apart from Lagos, Kano, Rivers, Delta, Akwa Ibom, Ogun and some few states, others are unable to pay salaries of workers. What of the multiple costs associated with the maintenance of 36 police forces and the FCT, each force pursuing the same issues as recruitment, training, and financing. My opinion all the while was that the country was not yet ripe for state police.

When the House of Representatives Ad Hoc Committee on the review of the 1999 Constitution invited me to their Retreat on May 22, 2012, to deliver a paper titled “National Security, Police Reform, and the Constitution”, these were the points I made amongst others. My conclusion was that though, state police was desirable, we were not ripe for it. Of recent, I was interviewed by ARISE Television on the desirability of state police. My answer was the same in the context of which I was interviewed.

But soon after, the Federal Government provided a template of the state police within the federal police structure. That was a game changer. When I read: ‘THE BILL FOR AN ACT TO ALTER THE PROVISIONS OF THE CONSTITUTION OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA TO PROVIDE FOR THE ESTABLISHMENT OF STATE POLICE, AND FOR RELATED MATTERS’, my fears were allayed, and my hope rekindled. Governor’s powers to direct the commissioner of police of a state in matters that the latter has reservation has been curtailed. The CP has an option to refer the matter to the State Police Service Commission if he thinks the order is unlawful. It does not matter that the Governor appointed him.

The Bill in clause 12 amended section 214 of the 1999 Constitution as amended to further amend the section to provide separate functions for the Federal Police and the State Police. The Federal Police shall be responsible for the security of persons and property, maintenance of public security, preservation of public order throughout the Federation and the state shall be responsible for the same security within a state. The Federal Police shall not interface with the operations of any state police except to contain serious threats to public order where it is shown that there is a complete breakdown of law and order within the state and the state police is unable to contain the threat and where the Governor of a state requests the intervention of the Federal Police to prevent or contain the breakdown of law and order in the state and where a state police is unable to function provided that any intervention shall only be made after approval by two-thirds majority of the Senate. This is remarkable. The overwhelming powers of the Federal Government to intervene in states matters have been curtailed.

Clause 13 of the Bill also provides that section 215 of the 1999 Constitution as amended be altered to give the President the power to appoint the IG on the advice of the National Police Council from serving members of the Federal Police Force subject to confirmation by the Senate, while the Police Commissioner of the State shall be appointed by the Governor of the State on the advice of the Federal Police Service Commission from serving members of the state police subject to confirmation by the State House of Assembly.

But while giving sweeping powers to the President to direct the IGP without question, it provides that where the Commissioner of Police has reason to question any directive of the Governor, the State Service Commission shall intervene, and its position shall be final. But if I may ask: why should the appointment of the Commissioner of Police of a state by the Governor be on the advice of the Federal Police Service Commission? Why not on the advice of the State Police Service Commission?

Clause 14: Removal of IGP and CP from office

This Clause proposes the amendment of section 216 of the Constitution to outline the process through which the IG and the CP can be remove from office. The IGP shall only be removed by the President upon the recommendation of the National Police Council praying that he be so removed on any of the grounds of misconduct in the discharge of his official duties, breach of Police Act, regulation, Code of Conduct, conviction of any offence involving fraud or dishonesty by a court of law or tribunal, bankruptcy or mental incapacity: the removal shall be subject to approval by a resolution of a two-third majority of the Senate.

A Commissioner of Police of a State shall only be removed by the Governor upon the recommendation of the Federal Police Service Commission praying that he be so removed on any of the same grounds above provided the removal shall be subject to approval by two-thirds majority of the House of Assembly of the State. Again, why should the removal of the Commissioner of Police of a state not be on the recommendation of the State Police Service Commission?

In effect, the grounds for the opposition to state police by and large, have been taken care of. The Federal Police has been retained to take care of national and transborder crimes amongst others. So also are NDLEA, NAPTIP, EFCC, etc., will be federal agencies retained for containment of transnational crimes. Let us hope the implementation of the creation of state police will be in accordance with the spirit of these amendments and that politicians will not subvert the Bill for political gains when it becomes an Act. It is also expected that these amendments will be panacea to crimes of banditry, kidnapping, terrorism, and robberies provided police at federal and state levels are numerically improved, well equipped, trained, motivated, and allowed to perform their internal security duties. Be informed that the state police will bear firearms. With they being armed less will be required of the military. Too much military visibility in internal security matters is not good for our nascent democracy.

•EHINDERO CFR, NPM, is a retired Inspector-General of Police, IGP

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