The current police system in Nigeria is set to be decentralised by moving police from the Exclusive Legislative List to the Concurrent List as the House of Representatives bill on the issue has passed for second reading.
The bill seeks to amend the 1999 Constitution to allow for the establishment of state police and also legalise regional security outfits across the country.
According to The Punch’s report, Onofiok Luke, Chairman of the House Committee on Judiciary, who sponsored the bill, explained that the bill is to ensure that the Constitution is altered “to provide for state police and other state government security services to enhance security and preservation of lives and properties in Nigeria.”
The bill especially seeks an amendment to Section 197(1) by adding fresh Paragraphs ‘e’ and ‘f’ to enable the provision for ‘State Police Council’ and ‘State Police Service Commission,’ respectively.
The proposal further states that the National Assembly may make laws for the creation of the federal police and other federal government security services and also make laws for the establishment of state police and other state government security services.”
The Third Schedule to the Constitution will also be altered by inserting new Paragraphs 9 to 12.
The new paragraphs read, “(9) A State Police Council shall comprise the following members: (a) the governor, who shall be the chairman; (b) the chairman of the State Police Service Commission; and (c) State Commissioner of Police.
“(10) The functions of a State Police Council shall include (a) the organisation and administration of a State Police Force and all other matters relating thereto (not being matters relating to the use and operational control of the Force or the appointment, disciplinary control and dismissal of members of the Force); (b) the general supervision of a State Police Force; and (c) advising the governor on the appointment of State Commissioner of Police.”
While making an argument for the bill, Luke said, “Many years after independence, Nigeria has continually been beset with insecurity ranging from terrorism, kidnapping, armed robbery and domestic violence.”
“Granted that 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.”
“The federal structuring of our security does not encourage community policing or localisation of policing. Recruitment and subsequent deployment of police officers in their local area is one of the major ways of curbing crime. Such officers understand the area, terrain, language, behaviour and attitude of the people he or she is policing.”
Luke, as he made a case for the bill, said Nigeria with a population of over 201 million people, is extremely underpoliced with about 400, 000 police personnel.
“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 a federal state,” he argued.
Toby Okechukwu, the Deputy Minority Leader, while also supporting the bill said the country was already behind time in the creation of state police with the current insecurity plaguing the nation.
“This bill is germane. About an hour ago, we observed a minute silence for our people; for the citizens of Nigeria who were killed in Kaduna,” Okechukwu said.
“In addition to that, my colleague, Hon Barde, also moved a motion to ensure the rescue of 140 pupils – children – who were going to school that were taken in Kaduna.”
“We have had situations in this country that ordinarily, this issue of state police should have been addressed a long time ago.”
“Good enough, the recurrence with which it appears and comes up in the efforts to alter the Constitution gives strength to the fact that it is needed. As a matter of fact, the Exclusive List needs to shed weight and if it is going to shed weight with regard to making our country more efficient and secure, the better we are for it.”
“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 possess? What ingredients are they lacking? They are lacking the power to ordinarily 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. We cannot be living and pretending that everything is okay. Nothing is okay. If 13 schools were closed in Kaduna, it is not a joke. We need to address this and address this seriously.”
On June 9, 2021, the House had earlier approved a bill to amend the 1999 Constitution to give legal backing to security outfits established by states to support the Nigeria Police Force in the effort to curb insecurity.
Already several states and regions in a bid to curb the growing insecurity across the country had established various vigilante groups and security outfits.
There are regional outfits such as South-West Security Network Agency, known as Amotekun,
Ebube Agu in the Southeast, Civilian Joint Task Force in the Northeast fighting insurgency alongside the Nigerian Army, Hisbah in some northern states, and the Livestock Guards in Benue State.
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