It is time for us to make the constitution work for us. Time to make the FG less powerful and the state governments more responsible. Time to amend our constitution and devolve power.
How do we have governors who are supposed to be the Chief security officer of their states who hold this title without any powers attached to it? Since 1999, there have been calls for the constitution handed over to us by the military to be reformed, amended to suit democracy and the people themselves.
It is a shame though that this is yet to be achieved. This is why the governor of Zamfara, Abdul-aziz Yari Abubakar in frustration decided to resign as Chief Security Officer a few days ago. Speaking to the press, he said
“We have been facing serious security challenges over the years, but in spite of being governor and Chief Security Officer of the state, I cannot direct security officers on what to do nor sanction them when they err.
As Chief Security Officer, the nomenclature is just a name,”
His words though sad are an indictment of the current arrangement. It also pleads a case for state policing which is being clamored for in some quarters.
What the Constitution says about policing
In the constitution, 215 (4), it states that
(4) Subject to the provisions of this section, the Governor of a state or such Commissioner of the Government 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.
And therein lies the problem. Governors in Nigeria are not empowered to control the policing structure in their states. Any police commissioner can request to get approval from the President first before carrying out the instructions given to him by the governor of the state he was posted to.
While this might have been done to curtail the governors using the police for political gain, it has seen governors handicapped and at the mercy of Mr President. This was and is a dangerous precedent and should have been amended by now. The police should be able to carry out their duties without having recourse to the president before they protect and serve without fear or prejudice.
Also, governors should have inputs into how their states can be secured, without necessarily employing the police to intimidate political opponents.
To resolve this malady before a constitutional reform is carried out, I propose that certain changes be enacted to ensure the police are independent just like INEC. This is key.
Every IGP ever appointed has always sworn loyalty to the president. And by their actions as well, it was obvious and is in the current dispensation the bias of these IGP. This allowed the Presidents to deploy security forces for selfish gains.
Hence appointment of the IGP of police should be subjected to ramification by the Senate. The IGP should be required to provide periodic reports to the Senate. This would provide the much needed checks and balances. The Nigeria Police council as presently constituted is just not working.
Also legislation should be made to ensure that the funding of the police is adequate and goes directly to the police.
Furthermore, state governors should have supervisory control over the police structures within their states. However, directives that are designed for selfish purposes should be brought to the attention of the State House of Assembly who will be require to have such directives nulled.
Additionally, modern international policing practices should be adopted. This would go a long way towards curbing crimes and the ceaseless slaughter going on in the country. Or we could consider privatizing the police.
At the moment, governors are given a security vote that is not accounted for. Reports state that governors receive up to 500 million naira monthly depending on the needs of the state. That translates to roughly 6 billion naira yearly per state.
It is ridiculous that despite the huge amount set aside for security, Nigeria is anything but secured. I recommend that the amount being voted for security should henceforth be accounted for. If the governors are not ready to be held to account, then the security vote should be scrapped.
The lives lost to insecurity were avoidable, the fact that the killings continue unabated and a governor has spoken out in frustration is a sign that now more than ever we need to get things right.