As Senate Leader Makes Case For State Police…

Hammed Shittu reports that Leader of the 10th Senate, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele, at a recent public lecture made case for the amendment of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to give room for the creation of state police. 

There is no gain saying the fact that the debate on the need to have state police in Nigeria has continued  unabated among the various stakeholders in the country. 

The development, according to THISDAY checks, may not be unconnected with the perceived insecurity ravaging all parts of the country despite the fact that the central police force is on ground.

The situation has created alot of fears and tension among the residents which hirtherto has led to dwindling economic prosperity and security-free society in  the country. 

The myriads of security challenges cut across kidnappings, banditry, robbery, terrorism, among others. 

The ugly situation has also brought a lot of untold hardship to the people especially the teeming farmers which, according to reports from various parts of the country, have prevented many farmers from embarking on large scale food production and thereby translating into current hike in food prices in the country. 

Apart from this, it has led to many residents of communities becoming homeless as a result of the reported cases of terrorism and banditry in some parts of the country.

Although, the National Assembly has commenced constitutional amendments on the need to have state police in the country but this needs to have the backing of two third of the Houses of Assembly in the 36 states of the federation.

Based on this situation, there are agitations from stakeholders for the creation of state police so as to address the mounting security challenges across the country. 

Just last week, the issue of state police was in the front burner again at the 2024 Distinguished Personality Lecture Series jointly organised by the Department of Political Science  and  Institute of Legislative Studies, University of Ilorin, Kwara State.

The lecture, titled “Constitutional Amendment and the Political Dynamics of State Police in Nigeria,” was chaired by the Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Barau Jibrin who was represented by Deputy Senste Leader, Senator Oyelola Ashiru.

At the session, the guest lecturer and Senate Leader, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele lamented the dysfunctionality of the Nigeria Police, pointing out that as currently constituted, the police was not properly established to succeed in the country.

Bamidele, who is also Vice Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution, further observed that any police structure that did not reflect Nigeria’s federal realities would not effectively address the roots of security challenges facing the federation.

Bamidele dissected the diverse socio-economic and political forces responsible for the dysfunctionality of the Nigeria Police and reeled out antidotes to the problems of policing in Nigeria.

While warning against the incessant deployment of the armed forces without compliance with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution, he faulted the undue establishment and operations of vigilante groups and security outfits at the state levels without national legal framework. 

Bamidele explained that the incessant deployment of the armed forces for the purpose of maintaining law and order internally was at variance with their mandate under the 1999 Constitution and did not portray Nigeria as a truly democratic and internally stable democracy.

The Senate Leader observed that the challenges facing the Nigeria Police “are numerous. How the police are organised, managed, governed and funded can determine its ability to deliver on its constitutional mandate of protecting the life and property of Nigerians. 

“Understanding these dynamics can help in appreciating what needs to be done to improve security in the country. It is clear that Nigerians do not fully appreciate the depth and scale of the challenges facing the police. 

“I maintain that the police have not been set up properly to succeed in this nation. Effective policing in Nigeria is almost impossible unless there are fundamental changes. Indeed, the constraints faced by the police are used as excuses for various misconducts and unprofessional behaviours by many officers of the force. 

“Despite many attempts by its leadership of the Nigeria Police to enforce discipline and even sack bad eggs, operational misconduct is still prevalent in the ranks of police operatives, and this undermines their capacity to decisively respond to pervasive insecurity nationwide.”

He further argued that the regular deployment of the Nigeria Armed Forces across the federation was, no doubt, an indication that the present police structure could no longer address the present security challenges of our nation.

To correct these anomalies, the Senate Leader canvassed the adoption of decentralised police model to address a myriad of security challenges currently undermining the country’s internal cohesion and disincentivizing investors from coming into the country.

According to him, it is self-evident that the establishment of state police will go a long way in mitigating Nigeria’s current security challenges, especially if the proper control mechanisms are put in place.

He, therefore, reeled out different measures to prevent the political elite from using the state instrument against dissenting voices if the state police is eventually adopted.

Bamidele first suggested that an Independent Police Service Commission should be established to guarantee the autonomy, independence and non-partisanship of the state police at federal and state levels in matters of appointment, discipline, promotions and accountability. 

Such an independent police commission, he suggested, should be patterned after the National Judicial Council and utterly be insulated from the undue interference of the political elite whether at state or federal level.

He observed that the adoption of a decentralised police model “is not without its political complexities. One of the primary concerns is the potential for abuse of power by the political elite. Its critics fear that the political elite may use state police to suppress opposition political parties, critical social actors or perceived enemies”.

However, according to him, this fear is not unfounded given Nigeria’s history of the abuse of police powers under the Nigeria Police.

He expressed grave concern about the proliferation of vigilantes and security outfits in nearly all states of the federation without providing a legal framework for their operations. 

Bamidele noted that the increase in the number of vigilante groups and security outfits among states, might degenerate into complex crises if we fail to provide a comprehensive legal framework for their operations consistent with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution. 

He observed that the vigilante groups or security outfits are indirectly exercising the powers of state police outside the purview of the 1999 Constitution. But most governments have justified their resolve to create vigilante groups via Section 4(7). 

According to Bamidele: “This provision expressly empowers the State House of Assembly to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the State or any part thereof. But Section 214 of the 1999 Constitution explicitly grants the federal power absolute policing powers. 

“It is therefore improper for the state governments to exercise policing powers without clearly constitutional provisions or nationally defined legal framework in order to avoid undue descent into anarchy”.

He advocated for robust mechanisms for oversight, accountability and transparency to ensure that state police forces operate within the bounds of the law and respect citizens’ rights. 

“Federal oversight, independent review boards, and clear legislative frameworks are essential to prevent misuse of power. Another critical aspect to consider is the economic feasibility of state policing. Establishing and maintaining state police requires significant financial investment. 

“States must be prepared to allocate adequate resources for training, equipping, and remunerating their police personnel. On its part, the federal government can support this transition through grants and technical assistance, ensuring that no state is left behind due to financial constraints.

“The path to constitutional amendment and the establishment of state policing in Nigeria must be carefully navigated. It requires broad consensus and collaboration among federal, state, and local governments. 

“Stakeholders – civil society organisations, traditional leaders, and the general populace – must be actively involved in the discourse to ensure that the transition is transparent, inclusive and devoid of rancours.

“Public education and awareness campaigns are also vital to garnering support for this significant change. The benefits of state policing-enhanced security, improved community relations, and more effective crime prevention-must be clearly communicated to the Nigerian people.”

Bamidele, however, said Nigeria must explore state policing as the next available option for the central police force, adding that the central police force has failed to effectively manage the nation’s security challenges.

In his keynote address, Vice Chancellor of University of Ilorin, Professor Wahab Egbewole(SAN) lauded the gesture of the department of Political Science and Institute of Legislative Studies of the institution for organising the public lecture on Constitutional Amendment on State Policing. 

He said: “This kind of inter disciplinary collaboration between the legislative arm of government is apt  in view of the importance of legislative arm as a symbol of democracy”.

“The public lecture is focused on the temporary legislative activities on the constitutional amendments and restructuring of our policy with the  establishment of state policing in Nigeria.

“The idea of state police is good as it will make our communities safe but appropriate legislation should be made so as to avoid the challenges we are witnessing with the state electoral commission in the country to ensure that it is not created for political witchunting. 

“It is the duty of the legislature to ensure that adequate provisions are made so as to avoid any unwarranted challenge in its implementation and not abused 

“Since the advent of Fourth Republic, a lot of constitutional amendments have been made but the implementations have been thoroughly challenged.  So there must be synergy between the arms of government in order to ensure that there is adequate provisions that would guide its implementation”.

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