THERE was a consensus yesterday on what must be done to establish state police – Constitutional amendment.
The consensus followed President Muhammadu Buhari’s acceptance of a report recommending the establishment of state and local government police.
The recommendation was contained the report submitted to the President at the State House, Abuja, by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Presidential Special Panel on Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) Reforms.
Rights activist and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) Femi Falana said the 1999 Constitution must first be amended before the government can implement the recommendation on state or local government police.
He said that without going through the National Assembly, a single-handed implementation by the President would be null and void.
A statement by the Senior Special Assistant on Media and publicity, Garba Shehu clarified President Buhari’s position on the recommendation.
He said that the President’s specific directive was that a three-man panel be set up to produce the white paper.
The statement reads: “The report of the white paper committee will form the basis of the decisions of the government on the many recommendations, including the setting up of state and local government police made by the Ojukwu panel.
“Until a white paper is produced, it will be premature and pre-emptive to suggest that the recommendations contained in the report have been approved by the President in part or whole.”
Falana said: “State police is a constitutional issue; there must be an amendment of the constitution in order for the President to approve the recommendation of the National Human Rights Commission.”
Afenifere Leader Senator Ayo Fasanmi described the President’s acceptance of the panel’s recommendation on local and state police as a welcome development
He said insecurity would be effectively tackled at the grassroots by the local and state police if established because the personnel would understand the terrain, the culture and the environment better than the federal police.
Fasanmi said that local and state police would increase the capacity of security operatives in dealing with crimes.
He bemoaned the insecurity of lives and property in the country.
Fasanmi said: “It appears the Federal police are overwhelmed. Lives and property are not safe. Southwest that used to be safe has been penetrated by hoodlums. You can’t sleep and close your two eyes. People are now afraid to go out in the day time for fear of being kidnapped.
“I am happy Buhari has accepted the recommendation. He had promised to tackle insecurity diligently. We should support and pray for him.”
The chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Ogun State, Adebayo Dayo, also hailed the President’s acceptance of the recommendation, saying state police will secure the communities.
A highly placed source in the police said the President’s acceptance of the recommendation can only be effective after the constitution has been amended.
The source, quoting Section 214 of the 1999 Constitution, said as far as he was concerned, Nigeria has only one police.
Section 214 (1) of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution provides that there shall be a police force for Nigeria which shall be known as the Nigeria Police Force and subject to the provisions of this section, no other police force shall be established for the Federation or any part thereof.
The source said: “Section 214 of the constitution clearly says that there can only be one police. So, if you want to create state or local government police or anything, the first thing you do is to amend the constitution.
“If you are talking about community policing, which is just a policy implementation, fine. It can go but you cannot have state or local government police without first of all amending the constitution.”
A member of the Senate Committee on Police Affairs also said that the establishment of state police had a process that must be followed before it can become legal.
The senator who did not want to be named because “I am not the chairman of the committee”, said: “The National Assembly must proceed to amend relevant sections of the constitution because state police cannot be established with presidential fiat.
“Section 214 of the Constitution must be amended to create room for state police. Otherwise it will be an exercise in futility.”
A Bill seeking the establishment of State Police sponsored by Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu is pending before the National Assembly.
The bill is not likely to be passed before the expiration of the Eighth National Assembly’s tenure.
But the reported acceptance of the report was lauded by prominent Nigerians.
A chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Lagos, Lanre Razaq, said it was a right step in the right direction.
Former Transportation Minister Ebenezer Babatope said the President should be applauded. “This is a bold initiative and if we really want to tackle security challenges, we have to beam the light on the grassroots. We have been talking about local and state police for decades and if actually the President has approved this, he must be commended. I do hope that the National Assembly will approve it.”
The Chairman of the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL), Mr. Debo Adeniran, described the development as a good omen.
He said: “It is a step in the right direction. However, it still needs the National Assembly to make it formal. The President, by the day, is proving to be a listening President. He has just acceded to the demand of true federalism. You can also see his stance on autonomy for local governments. Gradually, he is moving away from dictatorship to true democratic practice.
“So, I appreciate the President for doing so. But then he should initiate an executive bill to back it up. A decentralised police is what Nigeria needs now; devolution of power is what Nigeria needs now.”
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