Fred Itua, Abuja
Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, yesterday, said the National Assembly would no longer tolerate the killings of Nigerians by criminals threatening the security of the country.
He demanded the restructuring of security architecture of the Nigeria Police even as he called for improvement in the equipment of police training institutions.
Lawan stated this in his remarks while entertaining a Bill for an Act to Repeal the Police Act and enact the Nigeria Police Bill 2019 to provide for a framework for the police.
“We are in a very unusual time. When Nigeria was at war at one stage, there was rigorous recruitment of soldiers because the situation demanded that. I think we are in a similar situation and it is only fair for us as leaders of this country to take this challenge. This bill should consider the restructuring of the command and structure of the Police.
“The present structure is not working. The Police Trust Fund is already accruing. The last count I was told is that there was about N52 billion or so, but it is not about throwing money to the police. You need to adjust the structure, otherwise that money will just be a sinking fund.
“So, we should not be in a hurry to recruit, to train and retrain. Equipping the police training institutions is supposed to be one vital aspect of getting our security arrangements right, and this is something that we have to do in a hurry. Even if it means going for supplementary budget, so be it. The kind of situation we are in, the lives that are lost on a daily basis is something we cannot tolerate. In fact, we should be on the right side of history,” Lawan said.
Sponsor of the bill, Haliru Jika, in his lead debate, said the legislation sought to provide for the framework for the Police Service and ensure cooperation and partnership between the police and communities in maintaining peace and combating crime and insecurity in Nigeria.
The lawmaker said when passed into law, the bill would address the recurrent challenges and deficiencies in structure, appointments, promotions, discipline, postings, trainings, kitting, weaponry, living condition, pension and retirement benefits of policemen.
“The general welfare of our dear gallant officers, within the police have persisted, largely because of the draconian and outdated statutes that guides policing in Nigeria. The present Police Act is not only fraught with deficiencies, but strangely, the major organisation, duties, and powers of the police as encapsulated in the present Act have largely remained as set out in the 1943 Police Act.
“It is in recognition of the inherent shortcomings in the extant Police Act and the seemingly intractable challenge of insecurity in our country that has necessitated the proposed repeal of the extant Act and the enactment of a new one in its place, in consonance with the dictates of international best practices and realities of present-day, Nigeria,” Jika said.
According to the lawmaker, “the spate of insecurity and criminality in Nigeria has remained not only alarming, but unrelenting.”
He warned that violent crimes such as terrorism, kidnapping, armed robbery and banditry, suicide bombing, ethno-religious killings, suicides, election violence and other forms of nefarious activities, have characterised daily living in Nigeria.
Citing a 2019 report by the Global Peace Index (GPI), the lawmaker who chairs the Committee on Police Affairs said Nigeria ranks 148th among 163 independent states and territories.
The bill also seeks to amend the extant Police Act in respect to the appointment, removal and tenure of the Inspector-General of Police.
Jika disclosed that since 1999, Nigeria has had 10 Inspector-General of Police, which made for an average tenure of two years in service.
He disclosed that the new bill also provides for the establishment of Community Police Forums and Boards by the Commissioner of Police of each state that shall consist of representatives of the Police Force and the local Community.
The lawmaker explained that the introduction of Community police by the bill is a “paradigm shift from the traditional police system to a community-participatory system of policing, uniting ordinary citizens in their respective communities with the police in the prevention, detection and resolving crimes.”
He added that except there is an amendment to the extant Act of the Nigeria Police Force, the new Police Trust Fund Act signed recently into law by President Muhammadu Buhari, may not achieve the level of effectiveness and outcome desired.
Senators in their separate contributions, condemned the spate of killings across the country and called for the speedy consideration and passage of the new Police Bill by the National Assembly.
Abbo Elisha Ishaku, who spoke during the debate on the bill said: “Mr. President, we all know that the Nigeria Police is the lead agency in maintaining internal security. Any other agency will only be supporting the police, but the police takes the front lead.
“South African has 50 million people, yet they have 1.9 million policemen policing them. In Nigeria, over 200 million people is policed by 300,000 policemen and we want security, how do we want to do it?
“If you look at the funding of the police, it is nothing to write about. They attacked trains in Kaduna and it was successful, and their helicopter was shot at with AA-52 rifles.
“Today, the Nigerian police are still bearing AK-47 riffles and Boko Haram are using GPMG.
“I am supporting this bill holistically. We should consider establishing police training school in each command, so that we can put as many men as possible in the Nigerian police.
“If they need special training, they should take them to those premier police colleges, but we need enough manpower now in this country,” he said.
The bill which scaled the second reading during plenary was referred to the Committee on Police Affairs for further legislative work.