The Senate has began plans to amend the Constitution to decentralise the police force, whittle down the powers of the President over commissioners of police by giving state governors the power of the ‘last command’, The Guardian reports.
Through a gazetted Senate Bill 346 sponsored by Solomon Olamilekan of the All Progressives’ Congress (APC) from Lagos East Senatorial District, the Upper Legislative Chamber has given full powers to governors to issue unconditional directives to the Police in their states.
The report further reported that a copy of the Bill specifically deleted the provision in section 215 (4) of the 1999 Constitution as amended that empowered the President to overrule any orders given to a Police Commissioner by the state governor.
Also, the bill plans to nullify the provision in section 215(5) which had prevented any court from entertaining cases arising from such orders issued by the President to the police.
It will also give greater control of the police to states to reduce tension between the presidency and state governments over local policing, bolster efforts at fighting crime and ease governance. Effective policing at that level would also help states build the required infrastructure to create jobs.
Many have said this is a good development as loud calls in the past have advocated for the political restructuring of the country for effective policing at the state and local government levels in response to rising spate of crime, including insurgency, armed robbery and kidnapping.
The idea of state police has received increasing support despite Federal Government’s insistence on total control of the force. It was also part of the recommendations of the 2014 National Conference convened by former President Goodluck Jonathan which the current government has refused to implement.
Security experts have however said, without appropriate checks and balances in place, governors’ control of police commissioners in their states would be a “recipe for disaster.”
The Police force in its reaction said it would simply enforce any law made by the Legislature and signed by the Executive arm of government.
“I can’t comment on political decisions; we are professionals and law enforcers. Whatever law comes into force, we would obey,” Force Public Relations Officer (FPRO), Don Awunah, told The Guardian.
He described the Police as an agency vested with the responsibility of enforcing the law, while the National Assembly makes the laws.
The specific amendment that removed the obstacle on the way of state governors in directing the police commissioners reads: “The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (in this Bill referred to as “the Principal Act”) is altered as set out in this Bill.
Section 215 of the Principal Act is altered by deleting the provision to subsection 4.”
The same section 215 is also altered by deleting immediately after the word “shall” in line 3, the word “not” in subsection 5. 3.”
The explanatory memorandum to the Bill states that it seeks to alter the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (As Amended) by deleting the Proviso to section 215 (4) and removing the ouster provision of directions given to the Police on combating crime under section 215(5) of the Constitution.”
The amendment, according to sources within the Senate, became necessary following undue control of the police by the Federal Government and its agents in Abuja, which has made it difficult for governors to promptly address security issues in their states..