A nation battling internal strife
Following the fresh wave of killings in parts of the North, the Senate revisited the debate over the issue of state police. KUNLE ODEREMI writes on other issues begging for answers in the Nigerian federation.
FIRST, it was outgoing Governor Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara State, who, unambiguously, declared he had been overwhelmed by ‘bandits,’ notwithstanding being the Chief Security Officer of his domain. After what has become a regular run to the Presidency to lament the turning of his territory to a graveyard, the governor again said the bandits had more fire power than security personnel deployed to restore sanity.
In the outgoing week, presidential spokesman, Mallam Garba Shehu, also sounded perplexed by the sizzling reports of security challenges in the country. Exacerbated by perceived consistent passing of the buck to his principal, President Muhammadu Buhari, the spokesman raised questions about what others at the other rungs of leadership in the country were doing to tame the hurricane of banditry and other security issues. Appearing on a programme in a local television channel, Shehu said:“We need to task community leaders in those areas to do more. It’s very escapist for many of them to keep looking to Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja to say he will solve all security problems when immediately they are unable to do their own part.”
Apparently, there are numerous signs on the part of the authorities on their helpless in the face of the precarious security situation, especially in the Northern states of Zamfara, Taraba, Kaduna, Benue, Borno, Nasarawa, Sokoto and Yobe, where scores of people have been killed by suspected bandits and insurgents. This is in spite of heavy security deployment and promises consistently made by the Presidency and top echelon of the nation’s security architecture to restore normalcy.
The seeming helplessness of the government, which according to some political analysts and critics, symptomises dire strait, sharply contradicts what the 1999 Constitution declares as the primary function of government in Chapter 2 under the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy. In Section 14 subsection (2) (b), the constitution states that “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.” in the opinion of a number of concerned citizens, the authorities at various levels of government have abdicated their responsibility on that role, particularly based on some recent excuses coming from official quarters on insecurity in the country; one of which is the claim that some traditional rulers are culpable. Being traditional rulers, they fall among the class of sacred cows, who do no wrong.
In the midst of outcry, the upper chamber of the National Assembly has gone back to its vomit. In July 2018, the Senate moved towards re-introduction of state police in the country via a constitutional provision. But the bill was frustrated by the lawmakers who believed the critical segment of the political class lacked the maturity to live in the spirit of such legislation and vital part of a federal state.
The bill had sought to amend Section 214 (1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) by deleting the phrase “and subject to the provisions of this section no other police force shall be established for the Federation or any part thereof” immediately after the word “force.” New sections 215 and 216 are also to be created by amending the existing sections 217 and 218 to spell out the structure and operations of the proposed state police. The details included: “217. (1) “There shall be a police force in each state of the Federation.(2) Subject to the provisions of this Constitution – (a) a state Police Force shall be organised and administered in accordance with such provisions as may be prescribed by an act of the State House of Assembly; (b) members of state police shall have such powers and duties as may be conferred upon them by law.218. (1) “There shall be – (a) a Commissioner of Police who shall be appointed by the Governor on the advice of the State Police Council from among serving members of the State Police Force; (b) a Head of Police for each state of the Local Government Area of the State to be appointed by the State Police Service Commission.
(2) The State Police Force shall be under the command of the State Commissioner of Police. (3) The Governor or such other Commissioner of the Government of the State as he may authorise in that behalf may give to the Commissioner of Police such lawful directions with respect to the maintenance and securing of public safety and public order as he may consider necessary, and the Commissioner of Police shall comply with those directions or cause them to be compiled with. 219. (1) Subject to the provisions of this constitution, the State House of Assembly may make laws for the further regulation and control of the state police.
The bill, however, suffered the setback at a time the nation was witnessing a reign of terror unleashed on citizens in parts of the North. It was ‘killed’ on the arguments by some senators that state police would be abused by state governors, some of whom former President Olusegun Obasanjo once claimed acted like emperors. Those arguments put forward by critics were faulted by another group of critics, who accused the central government of playing the ostrich.
According to such observers, there is ample evidence of the Federal Government using the existing policing system to intimidate and harass other stakeholders, including states that have even lately contributed money and provided other logistics to boost the police and other security agencies. There is hardly any state that does not have a special budget for the police to augment what comes from the centre, just as a number of states have established special security fund to mobilise public and private funds, as well as other forms of logistics to assist the police in their individual domains.
However, following the preponderance of negative comments that greeted the initial action of the Senate on the State Police Bill, Senate President, Dr Saraki, had assured of the possibility of the lawmakers revisiting the bill. Again, an upsurge in killings and arson arising from banditry and insurgency has prompted the Senate raising the imperative of state police. For a moment, a good number of the Senators set aside their political affiliations to speak in unison on the state of security in the country and the necessity for state police.
In acknowledging the worries of the senators, Saraki said: “From the contributions we have had, I think it is key that we begin to look at the problem and look for long-term solutions. I think that what we did yesterday (Tuesday) in trying to strengthen the funding of the police and what we have before us, the Police Reform Bill, which would be laid today. The sooner that we can pass that will also help us in addressing the insecurity challenges. But more importantly is that we must go back to what a lot of us had been advocating here that there is need for us to have state or community police. It is the way forward. Otherwise, we will continue to run into these problems. On the area of oversight, there is a lot also that we need to do to ensure that we hold the security agencies accountable. And we need to move very fast in this area.”
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chairman for the South-West zone, Chief Eddy Olufeso, also shares the position of other prominent individuals and groups advocating the re-introduction of state police, as part of a holistic restructuring agenda for the country. When asked if state policing was enough to resolve the quagmire the country has found itself lately, following security challenges, he said: “That is the thrust of the clamouring for restructuring we have been campaigning for. Restructure Nigeria and our security will be guaranteed.”
But should the issue of state police be treated in isolation of other fundamental matters that constitute an impediment to Nigeria’s corporate existence? There are critical questions on devolution of powers; overconcentration of powers at the centre; usurpation of the powers of state by the centre carried out by the military in tandem with its command structure. The 1966 military coup had eroded the powers of the then region and assigned them to the central government. The 1979 Constitution designed by the military only consolidated the defective and wobbled federal structure as all major functions of states were taken over by the Federal government.
There is no significant paradigm shift in the structural imbalance even as contained in the 1999 Constitution, because the exclusive legislative list assigned to the Federal Government largely comprises items that belong to states or should shared between the centre in a coordinate arrangement based on federalism principle. Sadly, the concurrent legislative list is assigned to both federal and state governments with both arms having the authority to legislate on the items. The states only enjoy the powers to legislate on the residual legislative list, which contains merely 12 items, while the Exclusive Legislative list contains 68 items.
The exclusive legislative list includes: accounts of the government of the federation; arms, ammunition, and explosives; aviation (including airports); awards of honours and decoration; bankruptcy and insolvency; banks, banking, bills of exchange, and promissory notes; borrowing monies inside and outside Nigeria for the purposes of the federation or any state; census; citizenship, naturalisation, and aliens; commercial and industrial monopolies; construction and maintenance of trunk A roads; control of capital issues; copyrights; creation of states; currency, coinage, and legal tender; customs and excise duties; defence; diplomatic, consular, and trade representation.
Others are: drugs and poisons; exchange control; export duties; external affairs; extradition; immigration and emigration; implementation of treaties; insurance; incorporation, regulation, labour; maritime shipping and navigation; meteorology; military (army, navy, and air force); mines and minerals; national parks; nuclear energy; passports and visas; patents; trademarks, trade, or business names; pensions and gratuities payable out of the public funds of the federation; police and other government security services established by law; posts, telegraphs and telephones; railways; regulation of political parties; stamp duties; taxation of incomes; profits and capital gains, as provided by the Constitution; trade and commerce; traffic on federal trunk roads;
The concurrent legislative list includes: allocation of revenue; antiquities and monuments; archives; collection of taxes; electoral law; electric power; exhibition of cinematography films; industrial, commercial, or agricultural development; scientific and technological research; statistics; trigonometrical, cadastral, and topographical surveys; universities; technological and postprimary education. Section 4(5) of the Constitution provides that, “if any law enacted by the House of Assembly of a State is inconsistent with law validly made by the National Assembly, the law made by the National Assembly shall prevail, and that other law shall to the extent of inconsistency be void.”