Senate moves to unbundle police

State police advocates seem set to  win their age-long battle.

Senators yesterday took steps to unbundle the police as a Bill aimed at amending Section 214 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), which deals with the Force’s establishment, scaled the first reading.

The Bill was listed against the name of the Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, who is also chairman, Senate Ad-hoc Committee on Review of the Constitution.

The proposed constitutional amendment is entitled: “Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (Alteration) Bill, 2018 (SB.694) First Reading.”

After the adoption of the first reading of the Bill, Ekweremadu said: “The Committee on Review of the 1999 Constitution has fulfilled its mandate. Now the Bill has been taken for the first time. I am sure that as soon as possible, we will take the Second Reading and probably send it to public hearing through the committee so that we fast-track it as directed by the Senate.”

The plan to amend Section 214 of the Constitution to accommodate State Police and Community policing was proposed last week by Ekweremadu.

The amendment is essentially aimed at creating state and community police to complement the efforts of the Nigeria Police.

It is generally believed that the Police as presently constituted have proven to be ineffective, especially in the face of daunting security challenges in parts of the country.

Senator Solomon Adeola (Lagos State) formally moved the motion last week, when the Senate considered a motion on recent killings in Plateau and other states.

The Constitution Review Committee was mandated to submit a copy of the bill within two weeks.

Senate President Bukola Saraki promised that the bill will be given speedy consideration to enable President Muhammadu Buhari assent it before the expiration of his administration.

The Bill seeks to establish The Federal Police and State Police while also creating National Police Service Commission, National Police Council and State Police Service Commission for the states.

The Federal Police, according to the Bill, shall “be responsible for the maintenance of public security, preservation of public order and security of persons and property throughout the federation”, and “provide state policing for any state that is unable to operate a State Police until such a time that a State Police is established by the House of Assembly of that state”.

The Bill proposes the appointment of the Commissioner of Police of a state by the governor on the advice of the National Police Service Commission and subject to confirmation of the House of Assembly. The term of office of the Commissioner of Police shall be five years only or until he attains a retirement age prescribed by law, whichever is earlier.

“The governor or such other Commissioner of the Government of the State as he may authorise in that behalf may give to the Commissioner 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 Commissioner of Police shall comply with those directions or cause them to be complied with.

“Provided that where the Commissioner of Police feels that any order given under this subsection is unlawful or contradicts general policing standards or practice, he may request that the matter be referred to the State Police Service Commission for review and the decision of the State Police Service Commission shall be final, the Bill proposes.

Also, whereas a Commissioner of Police of a state may be removed on the grounds of misconduct, serious breach of policing standards, conviction by a court of law or tribunal, indictment by a judicial body or tribunal for corruption, participation in political activities, among others, such removal must be approved by two-thirds majority of the House of Assembly.

It goes on to propose that an “Act of the National Assembly may prescribe a bi-annual certification review of the activities of State Police by the National Police Service Commission to ensure they meet up with approved national standards and guidelines of policing and their operations do not undermine national integrity, promote ethnic, tribal or sectional agenda or marginalise any segment of the society within the state”.

Also, the National Police Service Commission shall comprise representatives of the National Human Rights Commission, Public Complaints Commission, Labour, Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), and the Attorney-General of each state, in addition to six retired police officers not below the rank of Assistant Inspector-General of Police as well as Chairman to be confirmed by the Senate.

The State Police Service Commission shall comprise a representative of the Federal Government appointed by the National Police Service Commission, two members to be appointed by the National Human Rights Commission who must be indigenes of the respective states, a representative of the Public Complaints Commission, one representative of the Labour appointed by the Chairman of the state chapter, a representative of the NBA, and a representative of the NUJ. Others are three retired police officers to be appointed by the Governor from each senatorial district and the Commission Chairman whom must all be confirmed by the State House of Assembly.

The Bill provides that the State Police Service Commission shall be responsible for, among others, recommending the appointment of a Commissioner of Police, Deputy Commissioner of Police, and Assistant Commissioner of Police to the National Police Service Commission in addition to appointment, discipline, and removal of members of the state police below the rank of the Assistant Commissioner of Police.

The National Police Service Commission shall be responsible for the appointment of persons to offices (other than the office of the Inspector-General of Police) in the Federal Police Service; and exercising disciplinary control over members of the Federal Police; recommending to the Governor of a State the appointment of the Commissioner of Police, Deputy Commissioner of Police and Assistant Commissioners of Police of State Police.

It will also be responsible for recommending to the governor the discipline and removal of the Commissioner of Police, Deputy Commissioner of Police and Assistant Commissioner of Police of State Police as well as supervising the activities of Federal and State Police and prescribing standards for all police forces in the country in training, criminal intelligence data bases, forensic laboratories and render assistance to the State Police as may be requested by such State Police.

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Author: Onyedi Ojiabor