From Oluseye Ojo, Ibadan
In a bid for Nigeria to overcome security challenges besetting its progress, the present policing system in the country should be unbundled in the interest of corporate existence of the nation.
A member of the House of Representatives, Bamidele Salam, representing Ede North/South-Egbedore/Ejigbo Federal Constituency of Osun State in the National Assembly, made the disclosure on the sidelines of a town hall meeting, tagged: ‘Open Square’, which featured legislators and their constituents, at the Jogor Event Centre, Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, at the weekend.
The programme, organised by Paria Media, in collaboration with MacArthur Foundation, Radio Now and Channels, had in attendance some federal lawmakers from Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Osun and Ekiti States in attendance.
The federal lawmakers include Senators Kola Balogun (Oyo South), Olubunmi Adetunbi (Ekiti North), Tolulope Odebiyi (Ogun West), and Tokunbo Abiru (Lagos East). Members of the House of Representatives in attendance also include Bamidele Salam, Ibrahim Ayokunle (Ifo/Ewekoro federal constituency of Ogun State),
and Babajide Obanikoro (Eti-Osa Federal Constituency of Lagos State).
According to Salam, who said the ongoing amendment to the 1999 Constitution would take care of state police, “We should unbundle the present policing system in Nigeria. It is in our own interest. I get baffled at times when I see those who are afraid of that. I don’t know what anybody has to fear in unbundling the police to ensure that we have a more decentralised control system, a more decentralised operational system and a more decentralised funding system.
“I was a local government chairman and it’ll interest you to know that as a local government chairman, we were buying tyres for police vehicles, buying batteries for their vehicles, paying them allowances, though we do not have control over them as a local government. As a member of the National Assembly today, the police in my federal constituency are still writing letters to me to repair their vehicles.
“So, if we have a system that wants to derive resources from local and state governments, but they have no power and have no say in their operations and recruitment, how does that work? So, I am very hopeful that the amended constitution will take very good care of this area.”
Salam, however, assured Nigerians that the Ninth National Assembly is committed to the amendment of the 1999 Constitution and that the mission would be accomplished this year, saying: “Now, we have to understand something that amending a document, such as the constitution of the country, is a very serious business. It is an assignment that requires very wide range of engagements of critical stakeholders, opinion moulders and institutions.”
He added that a lot of engagement is currently ongoing on the review of the constitution and that Nigerians sent memoranda in hundreds of thousands. He stated that public hearings were conducted at the zonal and state levels, saying: “There were submissions made by members of the National Assembly themselves, who brought up bills to amend certain sections of the constitution.
“All these will be aggregated together into a sizeable portion so that we’ll not have an unwiedy set of clauses being forwarded for amendment. I am sure that very soon, you will start to see more activities in that regard. Before the end of this year, I am sure we would have been done. In fact, some of those provisions will even be sent to the Houses of Assembly soon. Those ones that we have already formed like consensus on, will be passed and sent to Houses of Assembly , and others will also follow suit in the life of this Ninth Assembly.”
Asked to comment on the most important requests made by each geo-political zone in Nigeria for refraction in the proposed amenent to the constitution,, he explained that the most important desire of the South West is “devolution of powers. Our people want this federalism indeed. They want greater control of resources, powers and responsibilities in the hands of local and state governments. Our people want a government, where the centre will be bothered with less of the issues it currently has to bother with in the 1999 Constitution.”
Salam stated further that the people of South East want creation of more states, apart from other issues that bother the zone, including devolution of power. He added that the people of South South would talk more on the need for them to have a greater percentage of derivation fund. Though he was silent on the desires of the three zones in the North, he noted that “it depends on where we are looking at it.”
Ibrahim Ayokunle, representing Ifo/Ewekoro federal constituency of Ogun State, also told journalists that for the amendment of the constitution to sail through, two-third of the 36 states of the federation must agree, adding that 240 among the 360 members of the House of Representatives must also okay the proposed amendment.
Babajide Obanikoro, representing Eti-Osa Federal Constituency of Lagos State, also noted that lawmakers have been facing challenges, but have nothing to do with their core mandate of lawmaking and oversight functions. He noted that the challenges bordered on the demands from their constituencies that they should fix roads, build schools, as well as personal financial demands.