Senate Leader Advocates Legal Framework to Prevent Abuse of State Police by Governors

Senate Leader, Opeyemi Bamidele, has explained that an effective legal framework put in place by the National Assembly would prevent likely abuse of multi-level police by governors, when established. Bamidele said this in a statement yesterday in Abuja.

He said state police remained the best way to guarantee adequate security for Nigerians and the national assets, as well as create a functional economy. 

The representative of Ekiti Central Senatorial District argued that the current unitary policing structure was no longer desirable as a result of the country’s huge population.

He stated that the National Assembly was under obligation to provide a legal framework that would provide clearly defined preconditions, to which sub-national governments must conform before they could establish their own police formations.

Bamidele added that the role of all the 36 state Houses of Assembly was equally indispensable in the quest to adopt the decentralised police system, because at least, the two-thirds of the state legislatures must approve the proposal before it could become effective. 

He said the legal framework must be actionable and definite, evident and transparent, to allay public concern about state police. 

Bamidele said, “It must convincingly address thorny issues that can, in the future, encourage the arbitrary use of state police by governors. 

“It must clearly set out globally acceptable standards for unambiguous definition of the investigative, operational and prosecutorial powers of state police. 

“There must be well-structured welfare packages that will discourage unethical practices, minimum security equipment that will encourage efficiency, mainstreaming accountability and transparency mechanisms into the state police operations as well as promoting professionalism across all strata of police operatives, among others.

“Providing a legal framework for the establishment of state police should not be confused with its actual implementation, when eventually adopted. 

“Each of the sub-national governments is at liberty to set its own timeline for the operationalisation of state police within its jurisdiction. 

“By implication, sub-national governments can choose to operationalise their own police formations at their own pace. 

“Every state, already prepared for its operationalisation, can go ahead with it without further delay. 

“The development of the legal framework will prevent sub-national governments from hiding under vigilante groups to arm people unconstitutionally. 

“The National Assembly must comprehensively set out the legal framework for establishing state police so that all sub-national governments can follow laid-down principles and procedures in bid to protect people’s lives and secure collective assets. 

“The legal framework, no doubt, entails setting a globally acceptable policing standard, an assignment the National Assembly must carry out in outright demonstration of our spirit of nationalism, non-partisanism and utter allegiance to the Federal Republic of Nigeria.” 

Bamidele added, “As a people of collective purpose, therefore, we are also under obligation to deviate from the shadow of our horrible past and embrace innovative approaches to our collective challenges. 

“One of such approaches is the establishment of the state police, which in truth should be objectively designed to avoid cases of misuse for political ends.” 

Like other models, Bamidele said the benefits of state police outweighed its costs in all ramifications and “now is the time for us as a people of collective purpose to do the needful in the national interest”.

He equally said, “Globally, also, demography often determines the size, strategy and structure of the police system a federation will adopt. 

“This singular attribute largely defines the way most emerging democracies protect their citizens; secure their collective assets and create an environment for a functional economy. 

“Nigeria, as one of the world’s fastest growing populations, cannot continue operating a unitarist security architecture despite its strong federal tendencies. 

“Such a policing model cannot meaningfully address existential threats to our internal cohesion and stability.”

The principal officer noted that the current unitarist policing structure worked, when it was first adopted because the country had a smaller population compared to the current situation.

According to him, “Unlike in 1979, when we had a population of 70.75 million, Nigeria is now a federation of 229 million people, currently the world’s sixth biggest country, as shown in the demographic data of the United Nations. 

“Contrarily, as revealed in the recent presentation of the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Kayode Egbetokun, Nigeria has a police-citizen ratio of 1-650. 

“This ratio is a far cry from a ratio of 1-460, which according to the United Nations, is a minimum requirement for every sovereign state or territory worldwide. 

“This shortfall further reinforces the dysfunctionality of the centrally controlled model we are currently operating. Effective policing, therefore, is always a function of understanding the security environment. 

“This evidently requires all operatives to understand the peculiarities of the security context without ambiguity. It also means they understand the culture, history, language and values of the people they are engaged to protect. 

“It entails that they have built, even maintained a network of social capital that can help them function effectively. 

“This suggests that they are familiar with their areas of responsibility, mainly the socio-economic dynamics that often breed internal challenges within the security environment.

“As currently constituted, the Nigeria Police does not possess any of these attributes, which I strongly believe, is central to crafting an alternative national security architecture that will guarantee the protection of lives and property. 

“In other words, the dysfunctionality of the current police system directly correlates to the prevalence of criminal incidents in virtually all states of the federation. 

“This further justifies the public demand for an alternative police system that can deepen internal stability and incentivise diverse investors from within and without.”

Bamidele explained that Nigeria was operating a decentralised policing system with each regional, provincial and district government having their separate command units, until the 1966 military coup that demolished the structure.

He said, “However, the progressives do not in any way share the conviction of the conservatives on the issue of the decentralisation of the police.

“Rather, in absolute terms, they propose the need to recraft Sections 214-216 of the 1999 Constitution to introduce local, state or regional police into the country’s security architecture. 

“This also suggests the exigency of devolving policing powers to other federating units – local and state governments. It is not entirely new to Nigeria’s political system.

“Until the promulgation of Decree No. 34 that birthed the unification of Nigeria in 1966, we had practised the decentralised police system under the First Republic. 

“In this dispensation, as established in Section 105(7-8) of the 1963 Constitution, each regional, provincial and district government was statutorily vested with the power to create and operate its own police.

“However, the 1966 coup heralded the military rule that dismantled the decentralised police structure we embraced at independence.”

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