Thursday, 15 December 2016

Nigerian Senate To Prune President’s Control Of Police Force

Nigeria’s Senate is stepping up efforts at saving democracy from executive abuse. It 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.’

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.

A copy of the Bill obtained by The Guardian, specifically deleted the proviso 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.

The Bill also seeks 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.

Greater control of the police by states will douse 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.

There have been loud calls for 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.”

Managing Director of Beacon Security Consulting, Kabir Adamu, expressed worry that the political situation in Nigeria does not favour the decision, as its implementation would help political and self-serving interest prevail.

He said: “But I think it would be better if one sees the checks and balances the Senate intends to introduce in the new law and to ensure that this very vital institution of law enforcement is not used to serve either political party or self interest. If they do not introduce checks and balances, then it is a recipe for national disaster,” Adamu argued.

Aliu Umar Babangida, who manages the Abuja-based Goldwater &Riversand Consult, a defence and national security firm, agreed with Adamu. “It is necessary but not yet the right time to allow governors exercise control over Commissioners of Police,” he told The Guardian .

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 Bill, when successfully passed by the Senate, will face little hurdle in the state legislatures which are required to endorse any amendment of the constitution by the national legislature before it becomes valued. But with the governors already itching to enjoy powers similar to having a state police, the amendment could have a smooth sail in the 36 Houses of Assembly.

Culled from: Guardian Newspaper