Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN), has made a strong case for state police. In the maiden Memorial Public Lecture in memory of late Prof Olumuyiwa Awe delivered at the Trechard Hall, University of Ibadan, Oyo State, Falana said, “In view of the clear provisions of the constitution on the establishment of one police force for the federation state governors should ensure that the institution is superintended by the NPC.”
According to Falana, “State governments which are not secured under the present political dispensation may wish to set up state security agencies. After all, the National Assembly has made laws for the establishment of other arms-bearing institutions.”
Falana’s paper read, in part, “In a nation where individuals are granted licences to bear arms by the President it is discriminatory and illegal to prevent state governors from acquiring licences for members of state law enforcement agencies for securing the life and property of every citizen residing in the states.
“Our recent experience has proved that the establishment of a single and central police force for the country has not enhanced the maintenance of law and order. Aside the inability of the Nigeria Police Force to guarantee law and order in the entire country the Nigerian people have witnessed the usurpation of police powers and abuse of same by the Federal Government.
“Without any challenge by the state governments, the Nigeria Police Force has since been turned into an organ of brutal coercion by the federal government. Therefore, the call for state police has increased due to incessant armed robbery attacks in the homes of people, abduction of travellers on the roads, reckless killing of unarmed people by terrorist and bandits and extra-judicial killing of criminal suspects by the federal law enforcement agencies.
“Section 214 of the constitution provides that there shall be Police Force for Nigeria which shall be known as the Nigeria Police Force, and subject to the provisions of this Section no other police force shall be established for the Federation or any part thereof. It is further provided that the Nigeria Police Force shall be organised and administered in accordance with such provisions as may be prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly. Furthermore, the members of the Nigeria Police Force shall have such powers and duties as may be conferred upon them by law.
“Accordingly, the National Assembly has enacted the Police Act (Cap P19) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 for the organization and administration of the Nigeria Police Force. The Act has conferred enormous powers on the Police in the maintenance of law and order in the federation. Some laws enacted by state governments have equally tasked the Police with the responsibility of enforcing state laws.
“It is germane to note that 36 out of the 39 members of the Nigeria Police Council are state governors. But the governors have failed to use their numerical strength to insist that the NPC be allowed to discharge its constitutional duties. For reasons best known to the state governors, the President has been allowed to exercise the powers of the NPC with respect to the appointment and removal of the IGP and the general supervision of the NPF.
“The Council has not adduced any reason to justify its failure to hold regular meetings and take decisions in line with the provisions of Section 159 of the constitution.
“Since 1999, the Nigeria Police Force has been converted to the Federal Government Police Force administered by the President, the Inspector-General of Police and the Nigeria Police Commission. While state governments are barred from establishing state police service on the grounds that there shall be only one police force in the country the federal government has created the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps.
“The force was given statutory backing by the national assembly with the enactment of the Nigeria Security and Defence Corps Act, 2003. The Act which was amended in 2007 has enhanced the capacity of the Corps to provide protection, crisis resolution and security in public institutions. Other agencies whose officials have been authorized to bear arms and perform police functions include the State Security Service, Nigeria Customs Service, Nigeria Correctional Service and the anti-graft agencies.
“In recent time, the maintenance of internal security has been taken over by the Nigerian Army in several states of the federation. Military commanders are members of the security councils in all the states of the federation while the anti-robbery squads in each state is constituted by soldiers and police personnel. The armed forces have also engaged in the control of protests and public meetings.
“In spite of the declaration of the federal high court and the Court of Appeal that it is illegal to involve the armed forces in election duties, some state governors have continued to invite the President to deploy armed soldiers to maintain law and order during elections. Such usurpation of police duties by the armed forces has led to reckless killings of unarmed citizens in several parts of the country.
“Whereas the secret agency established by the National Security Agencies Act law is the State Security Service (SSS) the federal government has been allowed to turn it into the Department of State Security Service (DSS) like the Nigeria Police Force. But in Mimiko v. Agagu Agagu v. Mimiko (2010) 32 WRN 16 the Court of Appeal berated both security agencies for supporting the candidate of the ruling party.
“Many citizens are opposed to the creation of state police for the fear that it may be used to haunt political opponents of some state governors. I know a state governor in the south-west who once had a killer squad headed by his chief security officer, a police officer.
“One of the unarmed citizens mowed down by the illegal squad was a world bank expert. All efforts to prosecute the suspects who were indicted in several killings of unarmed citizens by the squad have been frustrated by the state government. The story is the same in in a few other states in the country. To that extent the fear of the possible manipulation of state police is genuine.
“To avoid a situation whereby abuse of police powers is decentralized any security service established by state governments should be democratically controlled. The service will be founded by the state governments and superintended by an independent state police council of five members. The members of the council should be accredited representatives of the state government, labour, women, youths and the business community.
“The service will police the state and see to the enforcement of all the laws enacted by the house of assembly. The success of the civilian Joint Task Force in the counter-insurgency operations in Borno state has proved that the best way to police a country is to recruit, train and equip young men and women to operate in their own communities.
“The colonial practice of posting police personnel to operate outside their states of origin was meant to suppress and intimidate colonial subjects by strangers. It is a practice which has become counter-productive in a post-colonial state. Every police officer should operate in their community, speak the local language and mix freely with the people.
“Without an understanding of the cultural background of a people a police officer cannot successfully gather intelligence which is a sine qua non-conditio for effective police operations.
“In the manifesto of the All Progressive Party (APC), it is expressly stated that there shall be power devolution from the centre to the other federating units. The APC Committee on federalism headed by Governor El Rufai recommended the establishment of state police.
“With respect to internal security the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo has stated that in guaranteeing security, the role of government; the State government, the role of State judiciary are crucial. The Federal Government has the overarching role of ensuring that the Police works, the Army is doing their job, and other security agencies are doing their work.
“Apparently, President Muhammadu Buhari is not totally opposed to state police but he has his reservation. Hence, he has expressed the fear that a number of state governments might endanger national security if state security operatives are owed arrears of salaries like workers.
“It is pertinent to draw the attention of the federal government to Section 33 (1) of the 1999 Constitution has imposed a duty on the State to guarantee and protect the right of every person to life.
“Notwithstanding such duty imposed on the State the right to self-defence is equally guaranteed by Section 33 (2) of the Constitution which provides that a person shall not be regarded as having been deprived of his life in contravention of this section, if he dies as a result of the use, to such extent and in such circumstances as are permitted by law, of such force as is reasonably necessary – (a) for the defence of any person from unlawful violence or for the defence of property.”