A bill seeking to amend the 1999 Constitution to allow creation of state police and legalise regional security outfits has passed the second reading at the House of Representatives.
The bill, which is sponsored by Onofiok Luke, Chairman of the House Committee on Judiciary, passed second reading during plenary on Tuesday.
According to the sponsor, the bill seeks to alter the Constitution “to provide for state police and other state government security services to enhance security and preservation of lives and properties in Nigeria”.
The bill especially 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 to the Constitution will also be altered in Part I by deleting Item 45 from the Exclusive Legislative List; and in Part II by inserting after Item 30 on the Concurrent Legislative List, new Items 31 and 32.
The proposal read: “(31) The National Assembly may make laws for the establishment of the federal police and other federal government security services;
“(32) A House of Assembly may make laws for the establishment of state police and other state government security services.”
The Third Schedule to the Constitution will also be altered by inserting new Paragraphs 9 to 12.
The new paragraphs read, “(9) 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.
“(10) 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.”
Luke, who led the debate on the floor of the House, insisted that the current system of policing does not encourage local policing and also negates the principle of federalism in which the federating units (state governments) have a higher degree of control of their affairs.
The federal lawmaker said the amendments would rectify the lacunas in the present structure and enable Nigeria to become a much safer country.
He said: “Many years after independence, Nigeria has continually been beset with insecurity ranging from terrorism, kidnapping, armed robbery and domestic violence. Granted that there is no society without crime or manifestation of criminal behaviour, our inability to bring to the barest minimum crime is a scathing indictment on the current security architecture and structure in the country.
“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.
“Nigeria, a country with over 201 million people, is grossly under policed with about 400, 000 police personnel. This number falls far short of the United Nation’s recommendation of ratio 1 per 400 citizens.
“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.”
\Lending his voice to the bill, Toby Okechukwu, the House Deputy Minority Leader, said the creation of state police is long overdue with the current security crises across the country.
The bill will now be subjected to a public hearing for input from Nigerians.
Already, several states and geopolitical zones have established vigilante groups and security outfits with various codenames.