THE Conference of Speakers of State Legislatures of Nigeria has expressed disappointment over the rejection of calls for state policing by the Ahmad Lawan-led National Assembly in the ongoing constitutional amendment.
The two chambers of the National Assembly had in January rejected a bill proposing state police in the country.
The bill, which was sponsored by Onofiok Luke, lawmaker from Akwa Ibom, had passed second reading at the lower legislative chamber in July 2021.
Currently, the federal government is considered the central authority on “the police and other government security services established by law.”
But the legislation sought to move such powers in section 214 (c) from the exclusive list to the concurrent list, to empower “both the national assembly and houses of assembly of states to legislate on police and other security matters”.
The lawmakers cited the fear of abuse by the state governors as one of the reasons why it rejected the bill.
However, in an interview published by the Punch newspapers on Sunday, the Chairman, Conference of Speakers of State Legislatures of Nigeria, Abubakar Suleiman, said the Conference was disappointed that the bill was rejected despite its many advantages in tackling the growing insecurity in various parts of the country.
Suleiman said, “This is one of the items that we singled out during our meeting in Ibadan. The conference frowned on the issue of state police, which is a very serious issue. I don’t know why the National Assembly and the Federal Government are kind of playing with it.
“You are aware of the issue of insecurity bedevilling every part of the country. I don’t think there is any state in the country that is not affected by this issue of insecurity. We only have the police and the Army, and they are both agencies of the Federal Government. State governors have no control over these security agencies.”
Suleiman, who is also the Speaker of the Bauchi State House of Assembly, said state governments should be allowed to have their own policing structure in order to improve security in their various states.
He said state assemblies would request the National Assembly to reconsider the bill in the second phase of the constitutional amendment.
When asked if the abuse of state police by state governors was enough reason for rejecting the bill by the National Assembly, Sulieman said no.
He stressed, “That is not a good enough reason. You can’t throw away the baby with the bath water. State policing will help in addressing the problems of insecurity in the country. You don’t say because some governors will use it for political reasons then you won’t grant it to them. To me, this is unfair. State policing should be allowed for the security of our people.
“We actually feel bad and we also believe that the alteration of the constitution is a progressive issue. If these issues didn’t go through in this fifth alteration, there will definitely be sixth and subsequent alterations. We will keep on pushing, we will keep on pressurising until we see that these issues are addressed.”
As the country continues to battle with growing insecurity concerns, there have been persistent calls from Nigerians, including former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, security stakeholders and state governors, to amend the constitution to make provisions for state policing.
Faced with the urgency to provide security for their people and stem the lingering 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.’