State Police will be inevitable once there is full fiscal federalism in Nigeria. But state police without the fiscal firepower will be a disaster for most states. You don’t want unpaid armed police roaming the states. They will not act as peacefully as the civil servants have done in most states. But , the current centralised police force which has emasculated State Governors and turn them to mere observers in their own states is untenable. So what can we do in the interim? In the meantime; what can we do to create some devolved policing within a centralised command that the NPF has? Given the division caused by the call for state police, I believe I may have a compromise solution.
Section 215 (4) of the 1999 Constitution as Amended states:
“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”
This is the clause commissioners have used to ignore or disobey the instructions of Governors since 1999. The word MAY is the problem. The Governor May give lawful direction to the CP and the CP May refer such direction to Abuja before obeying it. This constitutional May; has become a MUST in relational to CPs having to check with Abuja before obeying any order from the Governors. So an amendment to the constitution will be needed.
A simple constitutional amendment should seek two things:
- Every state must be required to produce a 5yr State Security Strategy. This strategy will be submitted for approval by National Police Council or Police Service Commission. Once approved; this becomes the security blueprint for the state.
- Section 215 should replace the word MAY with the word WILL as long as the instruction from the state Governor is in line with the approved State Security Strategy.
With this small change; the NPF remains a national force and the deployments of Commissioners remains unchanged. But a Governor will gain the right to instruct the commissioner as long as that is in line with the federally approved, State Security Strategy. This will create greater accountability as Governors will now have the legal force to deliver on their security plan with the backing of the police command in their state.
The security priorities of each state will be different. Also the current ad-hoc responses of Governors to security challenges must also stop. They need to have a multi-year security strategy for their states. Once this strategy is approved; the CP can be instructed by the Governor to deliver based on it.
Full State Policing can then be put into the pot of devolved functions as part of a wholesome restructuring that include fiscal devolution. Until then, this small change in the constitution can be a test of the Governor’s capacity to manage security. Some use inability to direct the CP as excuse to hide their incompetence. With this small change in the constitution; the Governors will have no hiding place or be able to blame anyone else for insecurity in their states.
Of course a few other procedural and protocol related issues will need to be fine-tuned; but this is doable and it can be done very quickly. It is also not controversial, hence stands the opportunity to win universal support.
This may not be what some wants, but it will move us closer to Governors taking more responsibilities for their states & a strategy will ensure some forward thinking as well as planning in advance. This can only be good compared to d reactive paralysis we have now. So help us God.