By Munachi UGOCHUKWU and Ayo OBASEYE
HB 1530: A BILL FOR AN ACT TO FURTHER ALTER THE CONSTITUTION OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA TO PROVIDE FOR THE ESTABLISHMENT OF STATE POLICE AND FOR RELATED MATTERS
Sponsored by Hon. Tajudeen Adekunle Obasa
Bill type: House Bill
Sponsored by Hon. Tajudeen Adekunle Obasa
The Bill seeks to alter the provisions of the Constitution to establish State and Community Police; change the names of Nigeria Police Force to Federal Police Service; the Nigeria Police Service Commission to National Police Service Commission; the Nigeria Police council to the National Police Council.
First reading: 18th July, 2018
Status: First reading
The first part of the bill seeks a change in nomenclature from Nigeria Police Force to Federal Police service; the Nigeria Police Service Commission to National Police Service Commission; and the Nigeria Police Council to the National Police Council.
While the last two changes hope to prevail on the sentimental value of the semantics of reflecting Nigeria as a Federation, the first is in line with recommendations from both the Presidential Commission on the Reform of the Administration of Justice in Nigeria (Ejiwunmi Report, 2006) and the CSO Panel on Police Reform (2012), which summarily sought the change for the purpose of institutionalizing the police as a service delivery organization.
The second part of the bill seeks the establishment of Federal and State Police as well as the delegation of the National Assembly to prescribe for the structure, organization, administration and powers of the police and provide framework and guidelines for the establishment of state police through an Act.
There are both protagonists and antagonists on the issue of creation of State Police Forces with each group having their reasons for their viewpoints. While in 2012, a CSO Panel on Police Reform noted that previous government committees on police reform rejected calls for State police, the Presidential Commission on the Reform of the Administration of Justice in Nigeria (Ejiwunmi Report, 2006) and Presidential Committee on the Reorganization of the Nigeria Police Force (Parry Osayande Report, 2012) quite notably recommended Community Policing and Police public partnership.
Section 13 (3) of the bill recommends that Federal Police shall maintain provision of State policing in any state that is unable to operate a State Police until such a time that a State Police is established by the House of Assembly of that state; and where a State Police is unable to function owing to administrative, financial or other problems which render it inoperative at a given time. This somewhat addresses one of the State Police-antagonist arguments that financing the police is a very capital intensive project and given the inability of some states to pay their civil servants, they would be unable to fund the state police force.
Laudably, Section 14 (7) of the bill suggests (not demands) assessment procedures in the form of an Act prescribing a bi-annual certification review of the activities of State Police by the NPSC to ensure compliance with approved national standards and guidelines and that their operations do not undermine national security, promote ethnic, tribal or sectional agenda or marginalize any segment of the society within the state. This quite adequately speaks to fears conceived by antagonists that a State Police may be “premature” in a country as heterogeneous as Nigeria with so many political, religious and ethnic divides as it proposes that the operational standards should be periodically assessed to be within the ambits of political, religious and ethnic neutrality amongst other expectations.
Also, just like the Police Reform Bill (2019) that was “negatived” on 22nd May, 2019, Section 15 of this bill which seeks to alter Section 216 of the Constitution with respect to the Removal of the Inspector General of Police and the Commissioner of Police of the State, prescribes that the Inspector General can ONLY be relieved of his duty upon the recommendation of the National Police Council thus not subjecting the tenure of the office to the whims of the President.
There are no clear provisions for restricting the roles of the President/Governor or Minister-in-charge to policy directives and not operational control. There are rational concerns by antagonists over state governors, who claim that if the police are under their control, they would be used as instruments of political oppression.
The prevalence of security challenges in Nigeria undoubtedly questions the efficacy of our current policing system and highlights deficiencies in its structure. However, it does not pin-point the root cause to Federal Policing or beg the need for State policing as the panacea to the security crises in the country.
Multifarious approaches are required to reform the police. The call for State Police via Constitutional amendment must be weighed carefully in light of realities and its practicability. Going by the above, the greatest gains expected from the establishment of a State Police could be assumed to be achievable by simply seeking assignment of officers to their states of origin. In 1989 a Quick Intervention Force was created by the Nigeria Police Force in each state, separate from the mobile police units, specifically to monitor political events and to quell unrest during the transition to civil rule. Policemen from the ranks of a Deputy Superintendent of Police, down to a Constable, were to return to their states of origin. It was however regarded as a failed experiment. Quite notably, despite constituting about 2.5% of the total federal capital expenditure that year, an NPF study in late 1990 concluded that the force required twice its budget to meet its needs. This suggests that adequate funding which is presently a problem, is imperative and even with Federal intervention as suggested by the Bill where necessary, this may present an issue of handing back “the proverbial reins” to the Federal Government.
As mentioned earlier, the lack of provisions for limitations to the President/Governor or Minister-in-charge with regards to operational control of the Force discredits the agenda the bill pushes for. Likewise, while the Nigeria Police Trust Fund (NPTF) which was recently granted assent may address part of the funding challenges associated with state policing, a more comprehensive approach like the provisions within the Nigeria Police Reform Bill which still awaits passage would be more adequate towards repositioning the Police Force to uphold and safeguard the fundamental rights of every person in Nigeria in its operations and bring about a positive change in the public perception of the Police Force by ensuring that its functions are carried out in a manner sensitive to the needs and well-being of the general public.
As mentioned earlier, the bill could be improved by clearly articulating provisions for limitations to the President/Governor or Minister-in-charge with regards to operational control of the Force.
In all, the Nigeria Police Trust Fund (NPTF) which has been granted assent is commendable. Moving forward, there may be a need to unbundle the more comprehensive Nigeria Police Reform Bill or intensify advocacy demanding its passage towards repositioning the Police Force to uphold and safeguard the fundamental rights of every person in Nigeria in its operations and bring about a positive change in the welfare and public perception of the Police Force by ensuring that it is run in a manner that is sensitive their needs and its functions are carried out in a manner sensitive to the needs and well-being of the general public.