NGF Chairman and Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi
By Chuks Okocha
A stormy session seems underway as governors of the 36 states of the federation meet on Tuesday in Abuja over the demand for state police, which has polarised them along regional lines.
THISDAY sources said state police is the major item on the agenda of the meeting, though the constitutional amendment being undertaken by the National Assembly may also come up for discussion.
The Northern governors had last week backpedalled on a joint decision to demand for state police reached on June 24 by the governors under the aegis of Nigerian Governors’ Forum.
It was learnt that the Tuesday meeting will attempt at examining the arguments of the Northern governors, which informed their change of mind, in a bid to resolve their differences on the issue.
Lagos State Governor Raji Fashola, featuring on Face Time with THISDAY Board of Editors, said he would want to hear from the Northern governors first and find out their reason for turning round to oppose the demand.
One of the governors from the North-west told THISDAY last night that the Northern governors were opting out of the demand for state police because of the implications it would have for the country.
The Chairman of the NGF and Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi had said the position of the governors on the matter remained unchanged.
Responding to a question on the volte face by the Northern governors on the demand for state police, Fashola said: “I cannot make a comment because first of all, I want to speak to them and find out what was their reason. It may be a reason that hasn’t been addressed and if it is addressed; their position can change because I know they are committed to security as we are. It is a process of engagement to know what their fears are.
“But my position on the state police is that it is eminently sensible because if you have a federal university, a federal legislature, a federal judiciary and central police and you have state universities, state House of Assembly, state judiciary, then you don’t have state police, to me it doesn’t make sense. If you open our constitution, you’ll see federal executive, state executive, National Assembly, state House of Assembly, you will see federal and state judiciary and the only thing you will see is the final control, the police. So, how do you enforce laws when you don’t have the law enforcement capacity? All sorts of arguments have been made, they said it will be abused and let us assume that it is true that 36 of us (Governors) are irresponsible, is our irresponsibility more dangerous than the loss of lives? The constitution says that we should protect lives and property. Now, let us go back, that we used to have this regional police before and it was said to have been abused. So, there was a problem at the time.
“Government, at a time, like you and I, changed it about 40 years ago and decided to call it a central police because they wanted to solve a problem. Now, there is a new problem 40 years later, if we change it and it does not work for us, we will change it again. We cannot continue to do the same thing and expect a different result, it is technical insanity. So, they are ruling us with the decision taken 40 to 50 years ago and we are afraid that Fashola is going to use it for election”.
The Northern governor, who pleaded not to be mentioned, however, said: “We (governors) are meeting on Tuesday and the position of the governors from the North has not changed. There cannot be any constitutional amendment to Section 214 without two-third Yes votes from the state Houses of Assembly.
“Already 18 of us of have spoken, because Governor Jonah Jang has opted out of the decision of a meeting he attended. Even at that, you still need 24 states to pass the recommendation for state police and I don’t see how that would be possible, when 18 out of 36 are saying No,” the governor said.
He added that the issues of security and state police are too delicate to be left in the hands of the various state governments.
Rather, he advocated for a reformed federal police, where most of the security challenges would be tackled.
The governor cited the example of state independent electoral commissions in which many Nigerians have accused the governors of politicising appointments into the electoral bodies and the conduct of their affairs.
The North-west state chief executive asked rhetorically: “Has any state controlled by a party ever lost the local government elections in the state ever since states began handling local government elections. You saw what happened in Ogun last week.
"This is just a tip of the iceberg. The truth of the matter is that we are merely playing politics. The country is not ripe for state police. As far as we the governors from the North are concerned, the amendment in respect of state police is dead.”
The NGF had in a communique issued at the end of its meeting on June 24 urged the federal government to immediately consider the creation of state police in a bid to rein in the spate of violence and insecurity in the country.
The governors also called for a special fund to fight insecurity in the North.
But on Friday, July 27 at their meeting in Abuja, the Northern governors changed their stance, rejected state police, saying the country was not ripe for it. Instead, they resolved to prevail on the federal government to embark on police reform that will assist the states in control and management of police affairs.
Governor Jang later distanced Plateau from the decision of the Northern Governors, saying the forum had earlier taken a position collectively as 36 governors.
Also speaking over the weekend in Port Harcourt, Amaechi had said: “I am Chairman of the Governors’ Forum, my view is the view of the governors’ forum, I would not want to hold any view to the contrary, but currently the view of the governors’ forum as at now is that we are in support of state police”.