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Why State Police is imperative for Nigeria to tackle insecurity – Bamidele

Vice Chairman, Senate Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution, Michael Opeyemi Bamidele, at the yearly Distinguished Personality Lecture Series of the University of Ilorin (UNILORIN), underscored the urgent need for Nigeria to tinker with the policing system in the face of pervasive insecurity, stressing that the creation State Police rather than the vigilante groups that dot virtually all states of the federation would be a better option for the country, writes MANSUR ARAMIDE from Ilorin.

The recent declaration by the chairman, Senate Committee on Agriculture, Senator Saliu Mustapha from Kwara Central that a Bill on state policing was on the floor of the Senate for deliberations was in tandem with the lecture delivered by the Vice Chairman, Senate Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution, Michael Opeyemi Bamidele, at the yearly Distinguished Personality Lecture Series of the University of Ilorin (UNILORIN) during the week.

Jointly organised by the Department of Political Science and the National Institute of Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS), the event was chaired by the Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Barau Jibrin, who was represented by Deputy Leader of the Senate, Senator Oyelola Ashiru. It was also attended by the Chairman, Senate Chairman on Agriculture, Mustapha; Chairman, Senate Committee on Trade and Investment, Senator Sadiq Umar and the Vice Chairman, Senate Committee on Police Affairs, Senator Akintunde Yunus.

Bamidele, who was the guest lecturer, spoke on the topic, ‘Constitutional Amendment and Political Dynamics of State Policing in Nigeria’ where he did not only delve into the historical set-up of the faulty policing structure in the country but also threw his weight behind the calls for the review of the present policing system that leaves all operations and maintenance of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) in the hands of the Federal Government.

Noting that the constant deployment of armed forces to maintain internal law and order was at variance with their mandate in the 1999 Constitution, Bamidele left no one in doubt that the present policing system was not only poorly arranged, but would continue to be a conduit pipe through which funds would be siphoned into the purse of private individuals.

He maintained that the Nigeria Police wasn’t established to succeed, saying the antidote to insecurity in the country is the adoption of a decentralised policing model. “As currently constituted, the police was not properly established to succeed in the country,” he stressed.

He warned against regular deployment of armed forces to address internal security challenges even as he faulted the multiplicity of vigilante groups and security outfits that operate without a legal framework.

He stressed that the constant deployment of armed forces to maintain internal law and order in the country was at variance with its mandate in the 1999 Constitution, adding that it doesn’t portray Nigeria as a truly democratic and internally stable democracy. He further stated that the regular deployment of the armed forces across the federation was, no doubt, an indication that the present police structure could no longer address the insecurity ravaging the country.

The lawmaker observed that the challenges facing the Nigeria Police were numerous, stating that, “how the police are organised, managed, governed and funded can determine its ability to deliver on its constitutional mandate of protecting the life and property of Nigerians.”

He added that understanding the dynamics would help in appreciating what needs to be done to improve security in the country. 

Bamidele observed that Nigerians do not fully appreciate the depth and scale of the challenges facing the police.

“I maintain that the police have not been set up properly to succeed in this nation. Effective policing in Nigeria is almost impossible unless there are fundamental changes. Indeed, the constraints faced by the police are used as excuses for various misconducts and unprofessional behaviours by many officers of the force.

“Despite many attempts by the leadership of the Nigeria Police to enforce discipline and even sack bad eggs, operational misconduct is still prevalent in the ranks of police operatives and this undermines their capacity to decisively respond to pervasive insecurity nationwide,” he said.

To correct these anomalies, Bamidele canvassed the “adoption of decentralised police model to address a myriad of security challenges currently undermining the country’s internal cohesion and disincentivising investors from coming into the federation.”

He stressed that it was self-evident that the establishment of state police would go a long way in mitigating Nigeria’s current security challenges, especially if the proper control mechanisms are applied.

Admitting that one of the primary concerns about the creation of state police is the potential for abuse of power by the political elite, he suggested different measures that would prevent the elites from using the state instrument against dissenting voices if the state police is eventually adopted.

“The much sought decentralised police model is not without its political complexities. Its critics fear that the political elites may use state police to suppress opposition parties, critical social actors or perceived enemies. An Independent Police Service Commission must be established to guarantee the autonomy, independence and non-partisanship of the state police at federal and state levels in matters of appointment, discipline, promotions and accountability. Such an independent police commission should be patterned after the National Judicial Council and utterly be insulated from the undue interference of the political elites at all levels,” he said.

Reflecting on the 1999 Constitution, Bamidele regretted that the vigilante groups across the country were gradually usurping the powers that could be wielded by state police, stating that most governments latched on the provision of Section 4(7) of the constitution to create such security outfits.

“This provision expressly empowers the State House of Assembly to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the State or any part thereof.

“But Section 214 of the 1999 Constitution explicitly grants the federal absolute policing powers. It is therefore improper for the state governments to exercise policing powers without clearly constitutional provisions or nationally defined legal framework in order to avoid undue descent into anarchy,” he noted.

On how to ensure that state police forces operate within the bounds of the law and respect citizens’ rights, Bamidele called for the institution of robust mechanisms for oversight, accountability and transparency.

He said: “Federal oversight, independent review boards and clear legislative frameworks are essential to prevent misuse of power. Another critical aspect to consider is the economic feasibility of state policing. 

“Establishing and maintaining state police requires significant financial investment. States must be prepared to allocate adequate resources for training, equipping and remunerating their police personnel. On its part, the Federal Government can support this transition through grants and technical assistance, ensuring that no state is left behind due to financial constraints.

“The path to constitutional amendment and the establishment of state policing in Nigeria must be carefully navigated. It requires broad consensus and collaboration among federal, state and local governments.”

At the end of the 64-page lecture that took Bamidele one hour 16 minutes to deliver, the thunderous seven-minute clap that followed left no one in doubt that he did justice to the topic.

Earlier in his welcome address, the Acting Head of Department of Political Science of UNILORIN, Dr. Adebola Bakare, described the guest lecturer as “a teacher of teacher,” referring to the fact that Bamidele once taught the national chairman of the Institute for Legislative Studies, Prof. Ibrahim Imam, who was his teacher.

“To me as a mentee, no one is better for the task (lecture) ahead than my mentor’s mentor, Michael Opeyemi Bamidele. Today, we have successfully brought the National Assembly to our university to bridge the gap between the policymakers and the theorists on how best to police in Nigeria,” he remarked.

Other dignitaries at the event included the Vice Chancellor of UNILORIN, Prof. Wahab Egbewole (SAN); Director General, National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies, Prof. Abubakar Suleiman and the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Yakubu Danladi Saliu, who in his remarks, dissected diverse socio-economic and political forces responsible for the dysfunctionality of the policing system in the country.

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  • Mansur Aramide

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