A bill seeking to amend the 1999 Constitution to accommodate the creation of state police has passed the second reading at the House of Representatives.
The bill entitled, ‘A Bill for an Act to Alter the Provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, to Give Legal Backing to State Security Outfit to Complement the Nigeria Police Force,’ was sponsored by Anthony Afe from Delta State.
It seeks to decentralise the current police structure in the country by moving policing from the Exclusive List of the Constitution to the Concurrent List.
According to Punch, the bill proposes an amendment to Section 197(1) by inserting new paragraphs ‘e’ and ‘f’ to provide for state police council and state police service commission respectively.
The Second Schedule of the Constitution will also be altered in Part I by deleting Item 45 from the Exclusive Legislative List. Similarly, Part II will be altered by inserting new items 31 and 32, after Item 30 on the Concurrent Legislative List.
The proposal said, “The National Assembly may make laws for the establishment of the federal police and other federal government security services;
“ A House of Assembly may make laws for the establishment of state police and other state government security services.”
The Third Schedule of the Constitution will also be altered by inserting new paragraphs 9 to 12.
The new paragraphs read that a “State Police Council shall comprise the following members: (a) the governor, who shall be the chairman; (b) the chairman of the State Police Service Commission; and (c) State Commissioner of Police;
“The functions of a State Police Council shall include (a) the organisation and administration of a State Police Force and all other matters relating thereto (not being matters relating to the use and operational control of the Force or the appointment, disciplinary control and dismissal of members of the Force); (b) the general supervision of a State Police Force; and (c) advising the governor on the appointment of State Commissioner of Police.”
Chairman of the House Committee on Judiciary Onofiok Luke, who sponsored the bill, said that it sought to alter the constitution to provide for state police and other state government security services to enhance security and preservation of lives and property in Nigeria.
He noted that the current policing structure in Nigeria could no longer solve the country’s enormous security challenges.
Luke noted that the country, with more than 201 million people, was currently under-policed, adding that granting the opportunity to states to maintain their policing would bring the country to a true federal state.
“The federal structuring of our security does not encourage community policing or localisation of policing. Recruitment and subsequent deployment of police officers in their local area is one of the major ways of curbing crime. Such officers understand the area, terrain, language, behaviour and attitude of the people he or she is policing,” he said.
“The Constitution envisages Nigeria as a federal state. Granting allowance to state governments to establish police force and other security apparatuses will bring Nigeria into original constitutional contemplation of a federal state.”
The Deputy Minority Leader Toby Okechukwu said creation of state police was long overdue with the current security crises across the country.
As the country continues to battle with growing insecurity concerns, there have been persistent calls from Nigerians, security stakeholders and state governors to amend the constitution to make provisions for state policing. The constitutional amendment process is ongoing at the National Assembly.
Faced with the urgency to provide security for their people and arrest the looming crisis of clashes between farmers and herders, governors from the South-West region of the country moved in 2020 to create a regional security outfit codenamed ‘Amotekun.’ The South-East governors also created ‘Ebube Agu.’