By Eric Teniola
The non-inclusion of State Police in the Constitution was an error. It was a grave omission. The lapse occurred in 1976.
No one could have imagined 46 years ago that our security challenges would become so grave, that we now live at the mercy of terrorists, kidnappers, Boko Haram, ISWAP, political thugs, armed robbers, and the rest.
Who could have imagined that our country will be so mismanaged, to the extent that we are experiencing depression and crippling fear, like a nagging hound of hell pursuing our every footstep?
Instead of emotional lamentation, wailing or grieving, if we really wanted State Police, we could have had it. No need crying over spilled milk.
But if we have really wanted State Police, that blunder should have been corrected by now. And perhaps our security apparatus would have improved. For some of us who grew up in this country before independence and even during the first Republic, we experienced the services of regional police and local government native police called AKODA.
If you look at Section 106(4) of the 1963 Constitution, the establishment of regional police was recognized. The Section states that “Subject to the provisions of subsection (3) of this section, the Commissioner of Police of a Region shall comply with the directions of the Premier of the Region or such other Minister of the Government of the Region as may be authorized in that behalf by the Premier with respect to the maintaining and securing of public safety and public order within the Region or cause them to be complied with:”
When we have issues like the creation of State Police, we have no choice than to trace how the Presidential Constitution was made with particular reference to the founding fathers no matter how often we make that reference. They are the framers of our constitution. Moreso, when our Presidential Constitution did not pass through a referendum, plebiscite, initiative or mandate.
General Johnson Thomas Umunnakwe Aguiyi-Ironsi, the first Military Head of State of Nigeria, on assuming power on January 1, 1966, suspended the 1963 Constitution and with it, the Regional Police. General Ironsi promulgated the Constitution (Suspension and Modification Decree 1966) , Decree 1 dated January 17, 1966 but not published in the official gazette until March 4, 1966. The decree pronounced the death of Regional Police.
Even in his speech at the Lugard Hall in Kaduna on April 19, 1967, at a meeting with Emirs and Chiefs, the then Military Governor of the Northern Region, Lt-Colonel Hassan Usman Katsina emphasized that Regional Police and native authority had become a thing of the past. He said on that day that “one of the main features of the Panel’s recommendations was a closer control of the native courts of the government. The taking over of the native courts by the government was in fact accepted in principle by the civilian government and judging from some of the legislation it had passed since 1958 there is no doubt that it was working towards the goal,” he declared. Throughout the tenure of General Yakubu Gowon, there was no mention on the need to create State Police.
It was against this background that the Constitutional Drafting Committee was announced by the then Head of State in 1975, General Ramat Murtala Mohammed on October 1, 1975 in his broadcast. The committee was headed by Chief Frederick Rotimi Alade Williams. The committee then established seven sub committees. The subcommittee on Public Services including the Armed forces and the Police was headed by Dr. Obi Wali. Other members of the subcommittee were Alhaji Ahmed Talib, Colonel M. Pedro Martins, Dr. O. Idris, Mr. A. Makele, Alhaji Mamman Daura and Chief Ekanem Ita.
Dr Obi Wali’s Committee did not recommend the creation of a State Police. The sub-Committee in discussing the structure of the police for the country raised the question whether the unified Police system, now in operation, accords with the spirit of federalism. The preponderance of sentiments however was for the continuation of a unified structure.
However, while the sub-Committee favours the continuation of a unified Police Structure for the country, it believes that a different arrangement from what now obtains should be made in the operation of the Police. This is because each level of government, central, state and local has responsibility for the maintenance of law and order and each should share in the operational control of the Police commensurate with the level of its responsibilities. The sub-Committee recommends that the Police force that operates at the local authority area should be under the operational direction of the local authorities, where such local authorities have been entrusted with the responsibility for maintenance of law and order.
Conflicts between the local authority and local police command could be resolved through a system of appeals, the police appealing through the State Command and local authority through the State Ministry of Local Government. It is also suggested that an advisory committee established at the local level could be used in discussing issues concerning the local authority/local Police relations.
The sub-Committee discussed Section 106(4) of the 1963 Constitution which requires the Commissioner of Police of a region to comply with the direction of the Premier of a Region and that in case of disagreement with such direction, the Commissioner may request that the matter be referred to the Prime Minister of the Federation.
It was argued that the recourse directly to the Prime Minister rather than through the intermediary of the Inspector-General of Police undermines his authority as the Inspector-General has the constitutional responsibility for the operational control of the Police. However, it was agreed that it is not proper that any disagreement involving the Governor of a state be passed through the Inspector-General who is a public official.
The issue of possible conflict between the State and Central government on the control of police operations, especially where the state government concerned is from a party which is not the same as the party in control of the central government was raised. It was thought that this issue is not limited to control of police only and that it is a question of state/federal relations to be dealt with by the appropriate sub-Committee”.
”There shall be a Police Force for Nigeria, which shall be styled the Nigeria Police Force. Two, Subject to the provision 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 the legislature. Three, 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. Four, no police forces other than the Nigeria Police Force shall be established for Nigeria or any part thereof. Five, 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. Six, 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. Seven, the Nigeria Police Force shall be under the command of the Inspector-General of the Nigeria Police. Eight, the President or such other Minister of the Government of the Federation as may be authorised 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.
Nine, subject to (three) 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 authorised 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 Commissioner of the Government of the Federation as may be authorised in that behalf by the President for his directions. Ten, subject to (three) and (four) above the Police Command at the local authority area shall comply with the directions of the local authority of the area with respect to the maintaining and securing of public safety and public order within the local authority area. Provided that before carrying out such directions the local police command may request that the matter should be referred to the Governor of the state or other Commissioner of the State Government as may be authorised in that behalf by the Governor for his directions. Eleven, there shall be a Nigeria Police Council, which shall consist of: (a) The President (b) State Governors (c) The Inspector-General of Police (d) The Attorney-General of the Federation (e) The Chairman of the Police Service Commission of the Federation.
The Inspector-General of the Nigeria Police shall attend the meetings of the Nigeria Police Council and, save for the purpose of voting, may take part in the proceedings of the Council.
Twelve, 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 of 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. Thirteen, 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. Fourteen, 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 recommendation to be laid before the National Assembly”.
And that is why Chief Rotimi Williams in his speech on November 1, 1977, did not include State Police creation when he presented his bill to the Constituent Assembly presided over by Justice Egbert Udo Udoma, who was the Chief Justice of Uganda from 1963-1969. The administrations of President Shehu Usman Aliyu Shagari,Turakin Sokoto, Major General Muhammadu Buhari, General Ibrahim Babangida, Chief Chief Ernest Adegunle Oladeinde Shonekan, General Sani Abacha and General Abdusalam Abubakar did not create state Police.
After his inauguration as President on May 29,1999, President Olusegun Obasanjo then set up a Presidential Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution. The Committee was inaugurated on behalf of President Obasanjo by his then Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Chief Kanu Agabi. The Committee which was later headed by Chief Clement David Ebri, former Governor Cross River State, submitted its reports to President Obasanjo on February 28, 2001. Unfortunately the committee did not recommend the creation of State Police.
Prominent members of the Committee were Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Chief Ayo Opadokun, Chief Barnabas Gemade, Chief A.K. Horsfall, Alhaji Iro Abubakar Dan Musa, Chief Arthur Nwankwo, Barrister Adeniyi Akintola, Chief Solomon Asemota (SAN), Mrs. Ayoka Lawani and others.
What the committee recommend was this: 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. The handling 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.
Another example mentioned for the failure or weaknesses 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.
The question now is, do we need State Police and is it desirable? Of course we do and it is urgently desirable.
Eric Teniola was a Director in the Presidency