Section 214 (1) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended states, “There shall be a 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”. This section expressly prohibits the establishment of any other police force for any part of Nigeria. We have to note that this section did not infringe on the right of self defence of the citizens which of course is a fundamental human right. Section 33 (1)(2)(a) states, “Every person has a right to life, and no one shall be deprived intentionally of his life … 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”. This means that every citizen has the right to use any force allowed by law to kill another citizen in defence of his own life. This section is always difficult for citizens to enforce because bearing a certain range of firearms is illegal in Nigeria, making the citizens rely solely on the government for the enforcement of their fundamental human right to life, especially in this era of proliferation of heavy duty firearms in the hands of criminals, bandits, kidnappers and terrorists.
The protection of lives and property is the primary constitutional duty of the governments at all levels. Unfortunately, whereas the duty to protect lives and property of citizens is imposed on all tiers of government, the authority to execute such duty resides only in the Federal Government. To worsen the situation, the entire police force is put under the control of one officer, the Inspector-General of Police (IGP). Section 215(2-4) of the 1999 Constitution provides, (2) The Nigeria Police Force shall be under the command of the Inspector-General of Police and contingents of the Nigeria Police Force stationed in a state shall, subject to the authority of the Inspector-General of Police, be under the command of the Commissioner of Police of that state. (3) The President or such other Minister of the Government of the Federation as he may authorise in that behalf may give to the Inspector-General of Police such lawful directions with respect to the maintenance and securing of public safety and public order as he may consider necessary, and the Inspector-General of Police shall comply with those direction or cause them to be compiled with. (4) Subject to the provisions of this section, the Governor of a state or such Commissioner of the Government of the state as he may authorise in that behalf, may give to the Commissioner of Police of that state such lawful directions with respect to the maintenance and securing of public safety and public order within the state as he may consider necessary, and the Commissioner of Police shall comply with those directions or cause them to be complied with: Provided that before carrying out any such directions under the foregoing provisions of this subsection the Commissioner of Police may request that the matter be referred to the President or such minister of the Government of the Federation as may be authorised in that behalf by the President for his directions.
Analysing these provisions vis-a-vis the authority of the Governor to command the Nigeria Police Force in his State, one immediately discovers that the Governors have no powers at all. Designing the line of communication from an order of a Governor to the possible implementation of the order, we can deduce the helplessness of these Governors. The line of communication starts from the Governor – the Commissioner of Police – the IGP – the Minister of Police Affairs – President. On reaching the President, he may wish to consult with some advisers before returning back his orders through same channel to the Commissioner of Police for implementation, by which time the impending security challenge may have been unleashed on the State. This situation leads the Governors to sometimes publicly weep at their helplessness. Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi publicly wept when some murderers killed some of his citizens in Ukpabi-Nimbo, Uzo Uwani LGA, despite sufficient prior notice to appropriate security agencies. Gov Mattawale of Zamfara State almost broke down in tears while making a broadcast on insecurity in his State when about 93 people were killed recently. Gov Masari of Katsina State, the President’s own State, wept openly when bandits kidnapped students in hundreds despite all his initial efforts at placating the bandits. Most of these Governors receive intelligence report of impending attacks early enough and pass over the information immediately to appropriate police authorities but the delayed response to such actionable intelligence leads to the eventual failure to take necessary action to avert the attacks. The bandits, kidnappers, terrorists exploit this lacuna to be expanding and getting stronger and stronger everyday. Even the hallowed Chambers of the National Assembly has been turned to a weeping competition for the members as they continually bring to the notice of the world, the incessant attacks of bandits and kidnappers against their own people. Smart Adeyemi wailed out loudly on the floor against his party, the government and the security situation.
This helpless situation has also led to the unfortunate and dangerous calls from prominent citizens on the populace to defend themselves. General Dajuma called on his people in Jaliingo, Taraba State to defend themselves. Mattawale echoed same sentiments in Zamfara. Other Governors have followed suit. Even Buhari’s Minister of Defence urged the citizens to rise in their defence against the blood thirsty goons. Citizens are making these calls out of frustration. Nobody is happy standing idly by to watch his family and friends helplessly slaughtered in his face. To circumvent this restriction in the Constitution to one Nigeria Police Force, most States and Local Governments have devised means of supporting the Federal Government in their quest to defend their people. Majority of the states have established vigilante groups or neighbourhood watches to assist the police in defending their people, while others have established Hisbah security outfit and civilian JTF in the North West and North East to implement the dictates of sharia and defend people from the rampaging insurgency of boko haram respectively. The South West Governors established the Western Nigeria Security Network, nicknamed Amotekun, to assist the police in the maintenance of law and order in the South West of Nigeria, while the South East established Ebube Agu security outfit to protect the South East.
This appears covered by the constitution of Nigeria. Section 11(1) states that “The National Assembly may make laws for the Federation or any part thereof with respect to the maintenance and securing of public safety and public order and providing, maintaining and securing of such supplies and services as may be designated by the National Assembly as essential supplies and services.” (2) Nothing in this section shall preclude a House of Assembly from making laws with respect to the matters referred to in this section, including the provision for maintenance and securing of such supplies and services as may be designated by the National Assembly as essential supplies and services. This simply means that there is nothing in the establishment of a police force that precludes the State and Local Governments from establishing security outfits for the maintenance and securing of public safety and public order in accordance with Section 11(2). To buttress this point, even the Federal Government has established other security agencies, apart from the police, through the National Assembly, to address specific security challenges and complement the police force. Such security outfits include Federal Road Safety Corps, FRSC, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps NSCDC, NDLEA etc. Private individuals have been permitted to establish private security outfits duly licensed to even carry arms. This stems also from the inherent right of citizens to either individually or collectively defend themselves from being killed.
The snag here is that the outfits cannot act outside the dictates of the law, which limits them from carrying on sophisticated weapons that can match the dangerous weapons of the outlaws across the Federation. They cannot perform the functions of the police force as enunciated in the law. They are expected to arrest and handover to the police and be bogged down by the same bureaucracy that has bedeviled the present force, hence the need to urgently amend the Constitution to decentralise the force and allow the federating units the power to set up their police force.
At independence, Nigeria had a population of about 60m people with fully decentralised police force which empowered each region to establish its own police force with full powers Ironically, in 2021, Nigeria has a population of about 200m and the entire police force is centralised in Nigeria and placed under one officer. This is retrogressive and dangerous. It offends the managerial principle of span of control, meaning that there’s a limit to what a single person can effectively and efficiently supervise no matter his qualification. Even if the IGP is the smartest person on earth, he cannot efficiently supervise the activities of all the police men and criminals in the 36 States and the FCT and 774 Local Governments and Councils, especially in this modern times where criminals are more bold, equipped and daring, hence the need to decentralise.
We share the views of many Nigerians that the Governors might abuse the use of State police as they have abused the State Independent Electoral Commission and State Joint Local Government Account and may use it against political opponents. But there will be no abuse of such police force that can be compared to the abuse Nigerians are currently facing from the rampaging murderous effects of the bandits, kidnappers and terrorists. Moreover, being a governmental institution, the citizens can seek legal redress in court for any excesses embarked on by the state police while such redress is not available against criminals. The option of State Policing is an idea whose time has come and its merits far outweigh its demerits. The alternative is an imminent breakdown of law and order as the security challenges are increasingly metastasizing all over the country. Shortage of food is inevitable as our farmers can no longer easily access their lands for farming. These Governors know who and where these criminals are and are definitely better placed than the Federal Government to take them out when empowered with their own police force and they will.