Governor Rotimi Amaechi
Chuks Okocha and Yemi Akinsuyi
The desirability or lack thereof of state police formations will top the agenda as the 36 state governors under the aegis of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) will meet tomorrow in Abuja to continue from where they left off following their aborted meeting a week ago.
It was gathered Monday that tomorrow’s meeting will focus on amendments to the 1999 Constitution, chief of which will be the issue of state police.
Save for Governor Jonah Jang of Plateau State, other governors from the Northern part of the country have opposed the creation of state police formations and have been at loggerheads with their counterparts from the South who want the constitution to be amended to decentralise the police force.
Apart from amendments to the constitution, the governors will at the end of the meeting harmonise their positions to be presented at Thursday's National Economic Council (NEC) meeting scheduled to take place at the presidential villa, Abuja.
The governors had last Tuesday put off discussions on constitutional amendments till after the Ramadan fast.
Reading a two-point communiqué after the forum's meeting held at the Rivers State Governor's lodge, Asokoro, Abuja, Chairman of the forum and Governor of Rivers State, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, said that the forum had deferred debate on the issue of constitutional amendment until after the fast when all members would be back from Umrah (lesser Hajj).
Also at tomorrow's meeting, the governors will discuss total polio eradication in all states of the federation.
Joining the opponents of state police formations yesterday, Chairman of the Presidential Committee on Police Reforms, Alhaji Mohammed Gambo-Jimetta, declared that those calling for a decentralised police force have a hidden agenda and should not be allowed to drag the country back.
Gambo-Jimetta, in Abuja, noted that it was the same military mentality which brought about a system that completely destroyed the police and almost removed all the dignity and respect it had.
He explained that though he served as Inspector-General of Police (IG) under the General Ibrahim Babangida’s military administration, he had disagreed sharply with the administration on several occasions on issues concerning law and order and operational procedures adopted then by the police.
He pointed out that it was the same military mindset, lack of history and basic knowledge on the functions of the police in a complex democratic structure like Nigeria that have made some notable Nigerians support the call for state police.
“What is happening in Nigeria today is indicative of plans by the same people who plunged us to where we are today to effect regime change so that we can get back to where we were before.
“If anybody can lobby to truncate the truth and stand the truth on its face, then we are all doomed, but this should not be allowed to happen.
“General Babangida was my boss. I have read in detail, the interview he granted. But with due respect, there is a wide range of differences between me and my former boss on the issue of state police.
“I must state that while I was serving under him, we had various differences on law and order and operations of the police at that time; there was a lot of misunderstanding and total ignorance on the establishment of law and order in a democracy, especially as it pertains to the Nigerian Police Force,” he said.
Gambo-Jimetta explained that though under an ideal democracy, the police could be decentralised, “but the colonial masters considered Nigeria’s vast cultural, religious and ethnic diversities and agreed with our leaders at the time to have a centralised police so as to galvanise our differences until they become one.
“That was why it was decided then, that we should have a single police force in Nigeria, insulated from political, religious and ethnic affiliations that would be properly focused and that would have integrity.”
He further explained that under the colonial administration, the leaders of the various segments of the country had decided that the country should have a centralised police with the IG at the federal level and the regions to be headed by a Commissioner of Police (CP).
The former IG stated that the personnel of each branch of the police was to be comprised people from the different tribes and religions in the country who would be under the administrative supervision of the Police Service Commission (PSC) and the IG, who serves as the overall operational commander to be appointed by the Police Council.
“The premiers of the various regions who were also heads of the various political parties were also members of the Police Council which guaranteed 100 per cent funding of the police through budgeting. It was the military that destroyed budgeting.
“There are really few states that can run the police better than it is being run now, if given the opportunity. About 99 per cent of the states can’t really run the police. That is why I am surprised that my former boss would canvass that the states can run the police.
“The duties of the police in relation to integration and unity of the country is a constitutional matter. This was done to avoid proliferation of agencies and what we have now in this country. A lot of damage has been done to the police and we cannot continue to dwell on that.
“Human life and security are so precious that we cannot afford to toy with such matters and so, we must understand the historical background and current applications before we make public statements,” Gambo-Jimetta stressed.
He further dismissed calls by state governors that they do not have direct control of police commands in their states, stressing that as chairman of the State Security Council and member of the Police Council, they are in a position to exert influence and control, if the constitution is followed to the letter.
He also spoke on the fraud in the Police Pensions Office and attributed it to the removal of the pensions’ office from the police to the civil service, just as he added that Chief Parry Osayande’s position on the scrapping of the Ministry of Police Affairs was in tandem with the recommendations of the Police Reform Committee which he headed.