* As NBA President laments state of correctional centres
By Alex Enumah
The Governor of Rivers State, Mr Nyesom Wike, on Monday admonished the federal government to stop playing politics with security, stressing that solution will continue to elude the nation inasmuch as the federal government continues to show double standards in the fight against insecurity in the country.
Wike, who also called for the amendment of the constitution to pave the way for State Police, noted that the Nigerian Police Force with its current staff strength, “which stands at about 372,000” lacks the operational capacity to fulfill its primary or core mandate of protection of lives and properties as well as maintaining the peace in the country.
He spoke at the 3rd Annual Nigerian Criminal Law Review Conference, organized by the Rule of Law Development Foundation in Abuja.
Wike, who lamented the plight of governors in trying to always get the cooperation of security agencies during crisis situation, disclosed that he had had to work with eight different commissioners of police in the last five years.
“The point being made here is that as long as the federal government continues to politicise issues of security whether national or local, so long shall our criminal justice system remain seriously jeopardized. The suzerain power exercisable by the federal government over matters of security is made manifest by the irregular posting of commissioners of police to the Rivers State Police Command,” he said.
According to him, heads of security agencies in Rivers State were redeployed, “on the grounds that they joined the Governor of Rivers State to enforce the restriction of movement across the boundaries of Rivers State”, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in the state.
He said that the implication of the government manipulation and interference was that the criminal justice system of the state was rendered vulnerable thereby compromising the security, peace and order of the state.
The governor, while stating that the criminal justice system is inextricably linked with the security, peace and order of the state, enjoined critical stakeholders in the sector to rethink the system through reforms designed to address current challenges.
He therefore urged participants to identify current challenges in the criminal justice sector and formulate solutions to address them.
In a goodwill message, the President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr Olumide Akpata, commended the foundation for the conference, noting that the theme: ‘Updates and Developments Within the Last 12 Months on Criminal Law, Criminal Justice, Procedure and Evidence in Nigeria’, is instructive, as it brings to the fore how the nation has fared in the last one year.
While he gave kudos to the country over the recent Police Act, which according to him, will enhance policing once it is fully operational, he decried the state of most Correctional Service Centres in the country.
He stated that the jailbreaks witnessed in some states following the hijack of the peaceful#EndSARS protest revealed the sorry state and dehumanizing conditions of inmates, adding that the Correctional Service Centres would be one of the areas the conference should focus on.
In a welcome, the Coordinator of the Foundation, Mr Joseph Daudu (SAN), said that the conference will review bills passed and accented to, particularly those relating to the criminal justice system.
While stating that the recent Police Service Act will improve upon the nation’s criminal justice system, he however urged that the Act should be amended to make university degree the minimum requirement for entry into the Police Force.
He also called for the amendment of Section 214 of the 1999 Constitution, so that states can have their own police, adding that insufficient policing have a way of affecting the economy of the country.