Amotekun and the call for state police

It is a fact universally acknowledged that security is the fulcrum upon which the entire architecture of a community,state or country revolves,and without security,no state can carry out its constitutional responsibilities to the citizens,which include protection of life,enjoyment of peace and pursuit of daily activities that bring dignity and add values to the lives of the citizens. Nigeria’s security architecture is centralized and concerned with government protection rather than citizen’s security.It’s the outcome of a centralized government structure,with concentrated power,created by an extended period of military regimes.The preoccupation with state security and the neglect of the economic as well as the social security of the individual,over the years,clearly manifest a distortion in our priorities at all levels of government. Little is said or done about how to secure the individual from kidnappings,banditry,senseless killings,herdsmen attacks, rape,by armed gunmen who,often than not,were never arrested,talk less of being prosecuted. Operating a unitary command structure of government in a supposedly federal system has contributed so much to the cause of insecurity in the country.It is a known fact that we never heard of armed robberies in Nigeria when the Regions had their own Police,that is,before the coming of the Military in 1966.

At independence what was negotiated and agreed upon,as the basis for our remaining together as one nation,was that each of the federating three regions would have its own police force.Infact the 1963 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria provides in Section 105(7)that each region shall have its own Police Force on provincial basis.Inexercise of this power the Northern Region and the Western Region established their own local/native authority police. However the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999(as amended),in Section 214(1)abrogated this power of the States to establish their own police.The section provides that no other Police Force,other than the Nigeria Police Force shall be established for the federation or any part thereof.This simply means that our laws recognize only one Police Force A pertinent principle of federalism is the division of powers between the Federal Government at the centre,and the federating units,that is,Regions or State Governments,in such a way that would best preserve the independence and autonomy of each government in the performance of its duties of maintaining law and order,and securing lives and properties within their respective states. The unification by the military regimes,of the main security apparatus of the whole 36 states,774 local governments and the FCT has proved grossly inefficient in a country of almost 200 million people,with a diversity of nations,with different cultural patterns,historical realities,sociopolitical and economic identities.This centralized policing system is abhorent to the whole concept of federalism,and it must be changed,through a process of restructuring of the policing system in Nigeria. Nigeria is the only country in the world that is practising federalism but using unitary policing system.Policing is a primary responsibility of the federating units,that is the States or Regions.This is what obtains in Federations like Germany, USA,Canada,India and even UK,with unitary form of government.It is strange why we have chosen to have a centralized and single Nigeria Police Force in Nigeria,because this is a negation of the principle of federalism. The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria(as amended) clearly proclaims in Section 14(2)b that “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government”.Yet in relation to security issues,a State Commissioner of Police has overriding powers over the Governor of the State,who is the Chief Security Officer.

It is sad to note that any State Government that lacks control of the coercive powers to enforce its existence,to maintain law and order,to secure lives and properties and enforce its laws,is not a state government,but an administrative authority and an appendage to the Federal Government. That is why it may be difficult for Governor Akeredolu of Ondo State to enforce the order for the Fulani herdsmen to vacate the forests of the State The argument against restructuring is that the individual states are too small and weak to challenge the Federal Government, and that to devolve more powers on them is to put on them loads that they cannot carry.This obstacle was surmounted when six States came together to form a Regional Block that could dare the Federal government.This development was a frightening dimension to the struggle for restructuring,and the beneficiaries of the lopsided governance structure were caught unawares and thrown into panic! They quickly came up with the idea of Community Policing.

Non-renumerative Community Policing is a ruse,and a distraction.It is part of the centralizing trends in the present policing system.The sudden frenzy about Community Policing is a preemptive strategy,to pacify the restless natives in the Southern part of the country who are yearning for restructuring. As long as the leadership of the Community Police will be answerable to the Inspector General of Police through the Commissioner of Police,then the status of the State Governor as the Chief Security Officer of the State remains undermined. A State Governor should have greater control over the Commissioner of Police deployed to his state than is the case now,when a State Commissioner of Police will refer any directive given to him by a State Governor to the IG of Police first, rather than comply. This is why Operation Amotekun,a new people-centred approach to security is welcome.We operate a form of Federalism in Nigeria,so State Governments are entitled to set up security outfits,not a Police Force,to enable them discharge their constitutioal responsibilities as Chief Security Officer in a Federation. Unless and until we agree to restructure this country,to restructure the security apparatus,to decentralize the policing system,Nigeria will continue to face real threats of danger to its existence and security.The country will remain a dysfunctional state,without a shared vision nor a shared project,in which each individual takes care of himself and his family;each ethnic group distrusts the other,communities war against their neighbours;and people kill others in the name of religion. On Amotekun we stand. Nigerians should stand up and say YES to State Police and NO to non-renumerative Community Police.

 

  • Barrister Akintewe is a former Director of Public Prosecution of the Federation, Federal Ministry of Justice, Abuja.

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