Adetutu Folasade-Koyi, Wilfred Eya, Magnus Eze, Enugu, Rose Ejembi, Makurdi, Oluseye Ojo, Ibadan, Fred Itua, Abuja, Chukwudi Nweje, Chinelo Obogo and Sunday Ani
Prominent groups and Nigerians, yesterday, disagreed over giving due consideration to the establishment of state police and devolution of power in the proposed constitution review by the ninth Senate.
Senate President Ahmad Lawan, last Thursday, inaugurated a 56-member Constitution Review Committee, headed by Deputy Senate President Ovie Omo-Agege. The committee consists of all eight principal officers, one senator each from the 36 states and two members from each of the six geo-political zones.
Even as the committee is yet to get down to business, there were strong indications that stakeholders and groups from the North want the status quo to remain with regard to the establishment of state police and devolution of power, unlike in the South where the people are favourably disposed to it. But there are some groups recommending that the National Assembly should adopt the recommendations of the 2014 National Conference as panacea to the country’s constitutional challenges.
Middle Belt Forum
For the spokesperson for the Middle Belt Forum, Isuwa Dogo, their position was that, rather than go through the rigours of a constitution amendment, the National Assembly should implement the recommendations of the 2014 National Conference.
“The recommendations of the 2014 National Conference should be implemented. The issue of devolution of powers, state police and solutions that touch on every aspect of the Nigerian economy were discussed and agreed upon by representatives from all parts of the country,” Dogo said.
Afenifere, NEF react
Spokesman for Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin, described the current attempt as a waste of time and resources, since the lawmakers already have in their possession the reports of the 2014 National Conference, which outlined how to get Nigeria to work.
“Their job is very simple: let them apply federal principles to all the issues confronting Nigeria and we will resolve it. If you look at the issues confronting Nigeria today, if they had taken the 2014 National Conference report where we talked about multi-level policing, we would not be having this debate about Amotekun or Shege Ka Fasa in the North,” Odumakin said.
Backing the idea of state policing, national publicity secretary of Ohanaeze, Chief Uche Opaga-Achi, noted that it took the efforts of local vigilance groups and hunters in the North to make a difference in the war against Boko Haram, which he said indicated that state policing was vital to improving the security situation in the country.
He said: “It is the local people that know the hideouts of these criminals. The police and army are doing their best, but the local people know better and that is why it is beginning to pay; yet when we talk of state police, you begin to politicise it when we can see that the efforts of the local people are paying off. Look at the issue of Amotekun in the South West, it is paying off. So, why are people criticising it? It shows it is political. State police are vital and important, they should stop playing politics with it.”
The Northern Elders’ Forum (NEF) endorsed the idea of improving the policing capacity of the nation, emphasising that all initiatives to improve public safety must be accommodated within the law.
In a statement by the convener, NEF, Prof. Ango Abdullahi, in Zaria, yesterday, the group recommended the adoption of a more vigorous and inclusive process that would result in the creation of acceptable frameworks and confidence among all communities with respect to policing strategy.
He said the forum extended its hand to any group willing to discuss this important matter, with the assurance that it would utilise its assets to collaborate with other groups to achieve an understanding on the way forward: “We advise government to exercise higher levels of restraint and responsibility in the manner they respond to the challenges of improving our security and safety.”
Also, director-general of the group, Prof. Yima Sen, said he was not comfortable with state police because it would be subjected to abuse by state governors.
“If we are talking about community policing, we are talking about the police that is closest to the people; is it the state police or the local government police? As we are right now, the state governors have so much power, even though some people erroneously tell Nigerians that we are running a federal system, it is not true.
“Whatever you see in Nigeria today has been subjected to so many reviews, changes, reforms and restructuring. What the military did, they had almost always consulted the civilians. The problem we have with restructuring is that some people want to impose their own version of restructuring on others,” Sen said.
Oyebode, Maduabuchi, Odiadi react
Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Oba Maduabuchi, said the amendment should include the the issue of restructuring, which, he said, has dominate the political landscape for long.
Maduabuchi said the most stringent call in Nigeria’s politics was restructuring.
He said, “The question of restructuring and devolution of power has assumed a posture of unattainability as if it is extraterrestrial. But restructuring means nothing more than amending the Nigerian Constitution. This is thus an opportunity for the proponents of restructuring to pursue that cause. In my view, states should have more control over their resources to make the governors put their thinking caps on. Relying on the Federal Government for almost everything is very unacceptable.”
The senior lawyer, however, noted that he was not in support of state police until the states were mature enough to handle it.
“I don’t support state police. I think the states should run their own security outfits and when they show maturity they could then be converted to full-fledged police formations.”
Another senior lawyer and professor of law and jurisprudence at the University of Lagos, Prof. Akin Oyebode, said the Nigerian Constitution, or “Decree 24 of 1999,” could be likened to a car whose body had undergone so many panel beatings.
“Not only is it not autochthonous, it does not answer the needs of the age and so should be replaced by a more authentic and worthwhile fundamental law. However, it is neither the place nor function of the National Assembly, being a parliament set up to enact legislation for the peace, order and good government. The rightful body to discharge the duty of fashioning a new fundamental law is a duly convened constituent assembly, otherwise, it would amount to the tail wagging the dog,” he declared.
In his contributions, Tony Odiadi said the review would be a palliative that would not deal with the fundamentals of the country’s national condition.
“If you read the mood well, Nigerians have drifted to regionalism. The federal structure as currently constituted is a burden on component states. Cooperation by states on economic development, security and infrastructure within the noted regions seems clearly where the majority of Nigerians are moving. The seeming failure of governance at the centre, with a sense of alienation by some, pervasive insecurity, economic stagnation, infrastructure gaps here and there are matters, which clearly can be addressed within collective regional mandates. Poor resource management and ownership feed into the frustration experienced in different regional enclaves currently.”
According to him, the Senate ought to know that constitutional amendment is not what Nigerians want at this point but fundamental restructuring.
The Senate should raise a committee to study and develop those matters as restructuring first steps,” he advised.
Decentralise Police – Fagbemi
A legal luminary, Chief Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), has urged the Federal Government and the National Assembly to effect a constitutional change that would allow a decentralised police force to effectively address the insecurity challenges confronting the country.
According to him, the country is in dire need of an upgraded security arrangement because of the recent security breaches by bandits and disgruntled elements in some parts of the country.
He said the primary responsibility of any government was to provide adequate security for its citizenry, adding that it was taken for granted that developmental endeavours would revolve around the security architecture.
He expressed the concern that in spite of the presence of several security agencies, insecurity still prevailed in the country.
Former Senate leader and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Victor Ndoma-Egba, has dismissed devolution of power and state Police in amendment of the 1999 Constitution.
Ndoma-Egba said such proposal negates the essence of true federalism.
“This is a most awkward arrangement and inconsistent with all notions and tenets of federalism. Our security has collapsed under the weight and inefficiency of centralisation…”
Reacting to the proposed review, Elder Statesman and a vocal voice in the North, Alhaji Tanko Yakassai kicked against the devolution of powers and particularly rejected the idea of a state police, saying it would “completely destroy the nation’s democracy”.
He said that having been a victim of local police, he would never support the idea now as politicians would manipulate it to fight their opponents.
Alhaji Yakassai said there was no need for any devolution of powers but the establishment of people-oriented political parties, and ensuring the conduct of free, fair and credible elections.
He said: “For followers of events in Nigeria, members of the NCNC have always been supporters of one strong Nigeria but supporters of Action Group believe in a weak Nigeria.”
Junaid Mohammed, Tsav speak
Also, Second Republic member of the House of Representatives and a leading political leader in the North, Junaid Mohammed, dismissed the planned Constitutional review as a waste of time, political jamboree and is diversionary.
He said the existing Constitution, though imperfect, is good enough to address what the National Assembly attempts to review.
“Those calling for state police and devolution of power are just being political. They know that they won’t succeed, but want to make a political statement to satisfy their masters. I also think that the timing is wrong. Nigeria is facing serious security and economic challenges and I’m surprised that this is what the National Assembly considers as a priority.”
On his part, former Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Alhaji Abubakar Tsav said Nigeria is not yet matured for the establishment of state police. “I still hold the views that establishment of State Police is necessary but we are not yet prepared for it in Nigeria for fear of abuse and misuse against Political opponents. “We are not yet matured for State Police in Nigeria. Maybe in future, Yes,” Tsav stated.