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Pushed to the wall over state police

By Eric Teniola

The proposal to create state police and if possible local government police is consistent with the principle of true federalism and decentralization of powers.

 The arrangement would enable the states to effectively maintain law and order especially during emergencies.

Besides the Nigeria Police is ill-equipped and deficient that it cannot ensure safety of citizens and their property inspite of the huge budgetary allocations made to the Police Force in recent years. You will be alarmed at the amount of money so far allocated to the Nigeria Police Force in the last twenty-five years.

Two positions were canvassed by Nigerians on the desirability or otherwise of allowing states to establish and maintain their police. Proponents of separate police for the states rested their demand on the strong ground that it was consistent with federal practice. The arrangement, they argued, enabled the federating states to effectively maintain law and order, especially during other social upheavals such as inter-communal riots, youth restiveness, riots and ethnic militancy without the often costly delays in obtaining federal approval by the Commissioner of Police even when a State Governor has so directed or requested.

The handlings of the various inter communal upheavals in the various states of the federation since the beginning of the current democratic governance left much to be desired. This, many people believe was due to the provision of Section 215(4) of the Constitution which hinders a Governor from exercising his power as Chief Security Officer of the State.

Experience has shown that state governors are mere figure heads in terms of security in their states. The Commissioners of Police get their directives from the Inspector-General of Police who is appointed by the President.

Another example mentioned for the failure or weakness in the present centralized police structure was the inability of the Nigeria Police to contend with the high rate of violent crimes which ravaged major towns all over the country. In response to the hostage-like situation in which the States were held by hoodlums, some state governments have resorted to establishing Vigilante Groups which they claim have successfully dealt with the crime situation in those states.

 In some instances however, people often accuse these groups as some kind of local “militia” who would not hesitate to take the laws into their hands at will and molest people. The recent experiences in some parts of this country constitute sufficient lessons not to allow local “militia” to be formed. The Nigeria Police is however so badly equipped and unmotivated and so could not effectively deal with the crime and security situation in the country. That is why Amotekun, as security outfit for SOUTH WEST was launched in Ibadan on January 9, 2020 and Elubeagu, a security outfit for SOUTH EAST was launched in Owerri on April 12, 2021. Similarly, Shege Ku-Fasa, a security outfit for NORTHERN states was launched in Kaduna on February 6, 2022.

BRACED Commission made up of Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa-Ibom, Edo and Delta states launched a security outfit for SOUTH SOUTH on March 6, 2020. Even recently, Zamfara state launched its own security outfit, Asi Askarawa Zamfara on January 31, 2024.

Representations against State Police bordered on the fear of abuses to which State Governors may subject their police. These fears included those of intimidation and harassment of political opponents and perpetuation of electoral frauds. References were made to the experiences in the country during the former Regional and Local Authority Police to abuse—a development which led to occasional breakdown of law and order.

The fall of the first Republic was partly blamed on the ignoble use of the Regional and local police. It was therefore, feared that it was too soon in the life of Nigeria’s nascent democracy for the idea of State Police to be entertained. For this school of thought, it was argued that the need for state Commissioners of Police to occasionally clear operational instructions with the Inspector-General was intended to check abuses and ensure that the orders by Governors were actually lawful. What the Nigeria Police needed in order to function properly and serve Nigerians more effectively, was a restraining programme, proper funding and adequate and up-to-date equipment while steps should be taken to sanitize the institution and rid it of corruption and other vices.

The establishment of State police or local government police has now become inevitable. The ball is now in the court of our legislators to amend the constitution and establish state police or local government police.

The establishment of the Nigerian police was made possible through the 1963 Constitution, so also was the abrogation of regional police.

Chapter 7 Section 105 of the 1963 Constitution states that “ (1) There shall be a police force for Nigeria, which shall be styled the Nigeria Police Force. (2) Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, the Nigeria Police Force shall be organized and administered in accordance with such provision as may be made in that behalf by Parliament. (3) Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, the members of the Nigeria Police Force shall have such powers and duties as may be conferred upon them by any law in force in Nigeria. (4) Subject to the provisions of this section, no police forces other than the Nigeria Police shall be established for Nigeria or any part thereof. (5) Parliament may make provision for police forces forming part of the armed forces of the Federation or for the protection of harbours, waterways, railways and airfields. (6) Parliament may make provision for the maintenance by any local authority within the Federal territory of a police for employment within the Federal territory. (7) Nothing in this section shall prevent the legislature of a Region from making provision for the maintenance by any native authority or local government authority established for a province or any part of a provision of a police force for employment within that province.

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In this subsection “province” means any area that was a province on the thirtieth day of September, 1954.

Section 109 states that (1) There shall be a Police Service Commission for the Federation, which shall consist of a chairman and not less than two nor more than four other members. (2) The members of the Police Service Commission of the Federation shall be appointed by the President, acting in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister. (3) A person shall not be qualified to hold office as a member of the Police Service Commission of the Federation, if he is a member of either House of Parliament, a member of a legislative house of a Region, a Minister of the Government of the Federation, a Minister of the Government of a Region or a member of the public service of te Federation or the public service of a Region:

Provided that a judge of the High Court of a territory may be appointed as a member of the Commission.

(4)Subject to the provisions of this section, a member of the Police Service Commission of the Federation shall vacate his office— (a) at the expiration of five years from the date of his appointment; or (b) if any circumstances arise that, if he were not a member of the Commission, would cause him to be disqualified for appointment as such a member. (5) A member of the Police Service Commission of the Federation may be removed from office by the President acting in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister, for inability to discharge the functions of his office (whether arising from infirmity of mind or body or any other cause) or for misbehavior. (6) A member of the Police Service Commission of the Federation shall not be removed from office except in accordance with the provisions of this section.

Section 110—(1) Power to appoint persons to hold or act in offices in the Nigeria Police Force (including power to make appointments on promotion and transfer and to confirm appointments) and to dismiss and to exercise disciplinary control over person holding or acting in such offices shall vest in the Police Service Commission of the Federation:

Provided that the Commission may, with the approval of the Prime Minister and subject to such conditions as it may think fit, delegate any of its powers under this section to any of its members or to the Inspector General of the Nigeria Police or any other member of the Nigeria Police Force. (2) Before making any appointment to the office of Inspector-General of the Nigeria Police or removing the Inspector-General from office the Police Service Commission of the Federation shall consult the Prime Minister, and before making any appointment to the office of Commissioner of Police of a Region or removing the Commissioner from office the Commission shall consult the Premier of the Region.

On assuming power on January 15, 1966, General Johnson Thomas Umunnakwe Aguiyi-Ironsi (3 March 1924- 29 July 1966) from Umuahia, promulgated Decree 7 of 1966. It was the decree that absorbed all the Regional and local government Police into the Nigeria Police Force. The decree is called The Special Constables Decree.

The purpose of the decree is to modernize the law relating to the Nigeria Special Constabulary by repealing the Special Constables Act 1959 and replacing it with a Decree under which the Special Constabulary will form part of the Nigeria Police.

The decree has eleven sections. Section one—deals with the creation of the Nigeria- Special Constabulary as part of the Nigeria Police Force and what constitutes the special constabulary. Section two—deals with appointments of special constables in normal circumstances. Section three—deals with resignation, suspension and dismissal of special constables. Section four— deals with appointment of emergency special constables. Section five— deals with provisions supplementary to section four. Section six— deals with equipment. Section seven—deals with instruction of special constable. Section eight—deals with allowance, pay, pension and gratutity. Section nine—deals with interpretation. Section Ten—deals with repeal of Special Constables Act 1959 and revocation of Government Notice No. 1598 (Approval of Maximum Personnel Establishment, Special Constables Training and Allowance) Regulation 1960. Section Eleven—deals with citation, extent and commencement to the Decree which shall come into force on such date as the Executive Council may be order published in the Gazette appoint.

In addition, General Ironsi promulgated Decree No. 3 of 1966. The decree deals with the detention of certain specified persons in the interest of security of Nigeria for a period nor exceeding six months in such place or places as the Head of the National Military Government may from time to time direct. Persons so detained are entitled to make representations in writing to the National Military Government which may if it thinks fit constitute a tribunal for that purpose under conditions laid down in the decree. The decree suspends chapter III of the Constitution.

On Friday January 28, General Ironsi addressed the nation during which he declared that “I have abolished the offices of Agents-General in London”.

When General Yakubu Dan-Yumma “Jack” Gowon GCFR (89) assumed power in August 1966, he maintained the status quo of the Nigeria Police as the sole authority in charge of our security. However, in September 1966, he inaugurated an ad hoc constitutional committee to determine Nigeria’s future. The Nigeria Police Force was one of the key issues discussed at the conference.

The Western and Lagos delegation was led by Chief Obafemi Awolowo GCFR who earlier in September was named the Leader of the Yorubas in Ibadan by the LEADERS OF THOUGHT including the traditional rulers and prominent Yoruba elders at an event presided over by Colonel Robert Adeyinka Adebayo, the then Governor of Western Region. It was the first and last time any Yoruba Leader was declared leader of the Yorubas

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Other Western delegates at the ad hoc Constitutional Conference were Alhaji Lateef Kayode Jakande, Alhaji Femi Okunnu, Professors Hezekiah Oluwasanmi, Ayo Ogunseye, Sam Aluko and Akin Mabogunje. The Northern delegation was led by Sir Kashim Ibrahim. Other members from the north were Alhaji Inua Wada, Sir Aminu Kano, Chief Joseph Sarwuan Tarka, Alhaji Abdul Razak and Chief Josiah Sunday Olawoyin. The Eastern delegation was led by Professor Eni Njoku. Other members from the East include Chief C.C. Mojekwu, Chief E. Eyo and Chief Matthew Mbu. The Midwest delegation was led by Chief Eromosele Anthony Enahoro. Other members of the delegation were Chief Edwin Clark, Chief J.I.G. Onyia and Dr. Mudiaga Odje. The Midwest delegation was assisted by Chief T.E.A. Salubi, Dr. Christopher Okojie and Dr. D.P. Lawani.

Chief Edwin Clark will be 97 on May 25.

On the issue of the police, the following was agreed at the conference.

There shall be a Nigeria Police Force which shall be organized in Regional units composed entirely in each Region of personnel indigenous to that Region (2) The operational control of the units in each Region shall be the responsibility of the Regional Commissioner of Police.

N.B. There were some disagreements on the right of the Regional Government to give directions to the Regional Commissioner as follows:

‘Directions with respect to the maintaining and securing of safety and public order within the Region or any part thereof may be given to the Regional Commissioner of Police by the Head of the Regional Government and the Regional Commissioner shall comply with those directions or cause them to be complied with; provided that before carrying out any such directions which may involve the use of arms the Commissioner may request that the matter should be referred to the Police Council for their direction’.

The East proposed that the words ‘Police Council’ should be replaced by the words ‘Regional Security Committee’ in order to bring it into line with the corresponding arrangements in the case of the Army.

The Mid-West reserved its position on the clause ‘which may involve the use of arms’. (3) Training facilities, depots and stores shall be organized on a Regional basis. Recruitment shall be the responsibility of the Regional Commissioner of Police acting in accordance with policy laid down by the Regional Government. (4) At the national level there shall be a Police Council which shall be responsible for — (a) Laying down general policy which should include the strength of police personnel in each Region, types and quantities of equipment, weapons, minimum standards of recruitment, promotion, discipline, etc. (b) overall operation control of the Regional units in the event of the Regional Governments requesting the Council for Police assistance to cope with any actual or threatened security situation within the Region beyond or likely to be beyond the capability of the Regional unit; provided that a Regional Commissioner with the consent of the Head of the Regional Government may request the Commissioner of another Region for police assistance in an urgent situation and that such a request shall not be granted or refused except with the approval of the Head of Regional Government concerned.’

N.B. There was slight disagreement on the composition of the Police Council. There was general agreement that it should include: the Head of the Federal Government; Heads of the Regional Governments; the Inspector-General of Police; Regional Commissioners; the Minister responsible for police matters.

The North proposed in addition the Chairman of the Public Service Commission.

There was also disagreement on the terms of the office Inspector-General of Police. ‘The East and West propose that the Office of the Inspector-General of Police shall be held in rotation by the Regional Commissioners of Police for fixed periods not exceeding twelve months. The North and Lagos propose a period of three years and the Mid-West proposes that this should be held on permanent basis.’

(5) The Police Council shall be served by a Secretariat under the Inspector-General of Police. The personnel in the Secretariat shall be drawn from the Regions in equal numbers. (6) Five years after the new Constitution has come into effect, all local authority police forces shall cease to exist, and in the meantime there shall be a progressive reduction in those local authority forces.’

EAST: (i) Original proposal. ‘The police shall be regionalized.’ (ii) Revised proposal. As in progress report.

N.B. (a) the office of Inspector-General of Police to rotate among the Regions at least once a year (b) the Regional Commissioner of Police to comply with all directions given by the Regional Government. (c) no mention made of any Minister responsible for police matters, i.e. at the centre (d) police to be financed by the Regions.

MID-WEST: (i) Original proposal. Federal responsibility.

(ii) Revised proposal. As in Progress Report, but more precise formulation of the reservations concerning the power of a Regional Government to give binding directions to the Regional Commissioner of Police; this acceptable only ‘if it is agreed in what circumstances the Premier may give such directions or what directions a Premier may lawfully give’. Additional stipulation that the Police Council have overall operational control for the purpose of S. 70, 71 and 86 of the 1963 Constitution.

N.B. Post of Inspector-General of Police to be a permanent appointment.

NORTH: (i) Original proposal. Each State to have its own Police. (ii) Revised proposal. As in Progress Report.

N.B. (a) Chairman of the Public Service Commission to be included on the Police Council. (b) Inspector-General of Police to be appointed for a period of three years.

WEST: (i) Original proposal. Each State to establish and control its own Police. (ii) Revised proposal. As in Progress Report excerpt: (a) a Regional Commissioner disagreeing with any direction given him by the Head of the Regional Government could request that the matter be referred to the Regional Security Committee for its direction. (b) Police Council to be able, when necessary, to call for expert advice from the Ministry of Establishments (c) Office of the Inspector-General of Police held by the Regional Commissioners of Police rotating annually.

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The Nigeria Police Force maintained its statutory role until General Murtala Mohammed GCFR came to power on July 27 1975. He then set up a Constitutional drafting Committee. The subcommittee on Public Services including the Armed Forces and the Police headed by Dr Obi Wali made the following recommendations.

(1) “There shall be a police force for Nigeria, which shall be styled the Nigeria Police Force. (Recommendation 1). (2) Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, the Nigeria Police Force shall be organized and administered in accordance with such provisions as may be made in that behalf by the National Assembly. (Decisions on Recommendation 2). (3) Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, the members of the Nigeria Police Force shall have such powers and duties as may be conferred upon them by any law in force in Nigeria. (Recommendation 3). (4) No police force other than the Nigeria Police Force shall be established for Nigeria or any part thereof. Recommendation 4).

(5) The Legislature may make provision during emergencies for Police Forces forming part of the armed forces of the Federation, or for protection of harbours, waterways, railways and airfields. In this paragraph, “emergencies” means periods of emergency under this Constitution (Decision of Recommendation 5). (6) There shall be an Inspector-General of the Nigeria Police and a Commissioner of Police for each state of the Federation, whose offices shall be offices in the Public Service of the Federation. (7) The Nigeria Police Force shall be under the command of the Inspector-General of the Nigeria Police. (Recommendation 7).

(8) The President or such other Minister of the Government of the Federation as may be authorized in that behalf by the President may give to the Inspector-General of the Nigeria Police such directions with respect to the maintaining and securing of public safety and public order as he may consider necessary and the Inspector-General shall comply with those directions or cause them to be complied with. (Recommendation 8).

(9) Subject to (8) above, the Commissioner of Police of a State shall comply with the directions of the Governor of the State or such other Commissioner of the Government of the State as may be authorized in that behalf by the Governor with respect to the maintaining and securing of public safety and public order within the State or cause them to be complied with:

Provided that before carrying out any such directions the Commissioner may request that the matter should be referred to the President or such other Commission of the Government of the Federation as may be authorized in that behalf by the President for his directions. (Decision on Recommendation 9).

(11) There shall be a Nigeria Police Council, which shall consist of (a) The President (b) State Governors (c) Inspector-General of Police (d) The Attorney-General of the Federation.

The Chairman of the Police Service Commission of the Federation shall attend the meetings of the Nigeria Police Council and, save for the purpose of voting, may take part in the proceeding of the council. (Decision on Recommendation 11).

(12) The policy, organization and administration of the Nigeria Police Force and all other matters relating thereto (not being matters relating to the use and operational control f the force of the appointment, disciplinary control and dismissal of members of the force) shall be under the general supervision of the Nigeria Police Council. (Recommendation 12).

(13) The President shall cause the Nigeria Police Council to be kept fully informed concerning the matters under its supervision and shall cause the Council to be furnished with such information as the Council may require with respect to any particular matter under its supervision. (Recommendation 13). (14) The Nigeria Police Council may take recommendations to the Government of the Federation with respect to any matter under its supervision, and if in any case the Government acts otherwise than in accordance with any such recommendations it shall cause a statement containing that recommendation and its reasons for acting otherwise than in accordance with that recommendations to be laid before the National Assembly”.

The Constituent Assembly submitted its report on August 29, 1978 and the Assembly was dissolved on September 20, 1978. The Supreme Military Council headed by General Olusegun Obasanjo GCFR on September 21, 1978, promulgated Decree 25 as the 1979 Constitution for the country, to take effect on October 1, 1979.

Unfortunately by the time the Constitution was released to the public in 1979, the recommendations of Dr Obi Wali’s subcommittee as it relates to state governors being members of the Nigeria Police Council, was deleted. Issues like the National Youth Service Corps Decree 1973, the Public Complaints Decree 1975, the Nigerian Security Organisation Decree 1976 and the Land Use Decree 1978 which were never adopted at the Constituent Assembly were all included in the 1979 Constitution.

Till today we do not really know whom to blame, either the Supreme Military Council or the Constituent Assembly headed by Justice Udo Udoma or the three legal drafting team of the Constituent Assembly—Justice Omoloulu Thomas, Justice Bashir Wali or Justice G.C. Okeke.

The 1999 Constitution is like the 1979 Constitution as it stands now in terms of the Nigeria Police Force. If they can, the Legislators should amend the Constitution and allow the creation of State Police and the Local government Police. It will be in the interest of everyone.

That is not to say that the creation of State Police or the Local Government Police will end the security challenges in the country. No. It will simply reduce it.

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