Insecurity: Tinubu keeps mum on state police

Insecurity: Tinubu keeps mum on state police

Amid rising insecurity across the country, many Nigerians have intensified the call for the creation of state police.

However, President Bola Tinubu, whose opinion on the issue matters, has kept his cards very close to his chest.

Demand for state police has in the last couple of years become a political landmine. Because of the fear of abuse by governors, members of the National Assembly have consistently rejected any bill seeking to amend the constitution to allow state police.

In 2022, the National Assembly and Governors had a standstill over the state police bill. During the last constitution alteration exercise, the National Assembly rejected the state police bill.

However, the bill was reintroduced by Uba Sani, who was representing Kaduna Central in the Senate.

The governors had insisted that they would reject all other bills if the National Assembly did not reconsider the state police bill. But the lawmakers stood their ground.

The Nigerian Labour Congress and Nigerian Union of Teachers also backed the lawmakers, stating that governors who are unable to pay the salaries of civil servants cannot be trusted with state police. Hence, the last Assembly did not pass the bill.

The recent insecurity is driving a new conversation on state police. Nigerians across the country are living under uncertainty caused by general insecurity. Less than four weeks into the new year, Nigeria has experienced mass killings, mass abductions, and other vices that have left the people in a state of panic and confusion.

While President Tinubu is currently in France for a personal visit, Plateau State is burning despite the curfew declared by Governor Caleb Muftang, and the FCT is currently being ravaged by kidnappers.

According to a recent online poll conducted by Joe Abah, a former Director General of Bureau of Public Service Reforms, 45 per cent of the 1,593 respondents opposed the creation of state police for the fear of abuse but 54 per cent supported the creation for personal safety.

Mr Abah had posted on his X: “When we mostly agree that something is not working (like unitary policing), we should not be afraid to try something new (like state police) for fear of abuse, particularly as the current system is similarly being abused. Instead, let’s think of how to constrain any future abuse.”

Amid the ongoing conversation, governors have been creating security outfits. The Southwest created Amotekun, and the Southeast governors also created Ebubeagu. While the former has gotten commendations in the Southwest, Ebubeagu is facing allegations of abuse.

Mr Tinubu’s vague position on state police

Passing the state police bill will require the amendment of the constitution by removing police from the exclusive legislative list to the concurrent list.

The process of the amendment is a long one that starts at the two chambers of the National Assembly, then to the state assemblies (24 out of 36) and finally to the president for assent. Because of the history of this bill and the fear of the lawmakers, the bill may require the support of the President to scale through.

However, President Tinubu, who abstained from all presidential debates during the campaign, does not have a clear position on the issue of state police.

As a candidate, Mr Tinubu did not grant interviews except an 8-minute interview with the BBC and a less than 5-minute interview with Channels TV. Therefore, Nigerians did not get the opportunity to see Tinubu’s ideas interrogated.

During a dialogue series organized by the Arewa Elders Forum in 2022, Mr Tinubu was asked about his position on state police, he said he would work with the National Assembly on state police.

“If you give me the mandate, my administration will give it all the attention necessary to consolidate the recent investment in our security by President Muhammadu Buhari.

“Security is the foundation of resources. I am committed to mobilising all assets within our national power to secure Nigeria. We will mobilise resources to enhance the welfare of personnel and provide the right equipment and training required for them to secure us all,” he said then.

Months later, he released his manifesto, the Renewed Hope Agenda, but the document did not contain a clear position on state police.

On page 9 of the manifesto, Mr Tinubu stated that the establishment of local enforcement will be on a state-to-state basis.

He stated that some places may only get neighbourhood watch.

“These measures will be flexible and adaptive in order to fit local realities and challenges. Some instances may call for the establishment or enhancement of civilian neighbourhood watch groups. Others may require the establishment of more formal locally-based law enforcement institutions,” he said.

Despite all the insecurity in the country, DAILY POST reports that Mr Tinubu is yet to send an executive bill on security to the National Assembly.

Other reforms promised by the president on police are yet to be carried out. For instance, President Tinubu promised that police personnel will be freed from “VIP security and guard duties”.

Yet, policemen are still attached to VIPs and are doing guard work.

Governors without control over police

Constitutionally, Governors are expected to be the chief security officers of their respective states but the 1999 constitution gave them little or no power on security.

Section 215 of the 1999 Constitution gives governors the power to give directives to the commissioners of police in their states, however, the commissioners are not obligated to comply.

“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,” section 215(4) reads.

Bello El-Rufai introduces State Police bill

Meanwhile, Bello El-Rufai, the lawmaker representing Kaduna North, has introduced the State Police Bill to amend the 1999 constitution.

The young El-Rufai had stated that the bill, if it “becomes law, will establish State Police Forces in all 36 states, thereby decentralizing policing and enabling more effective and responsive law enforcement that caters to local needs.”

In the wake of the Plateau Massacre, El-Rufai posted that state police remain the only viable means to address insecurity.

“We are failing. All of us. We must do more. Tired of the tragedy. State Police is the only option left and even that guarantees nothing. Another very dark day,” he posted on X.

It’s unclear how Mr El-Rufai hopes to convince his colleagues in the National Assembly, particularly when his party leader, Tinubu seems to prioritize Marine Police and Forest Guards to the detriment of state police which he once promised Northern leaders.

Among experts, concerns remain over potential abuse and inability to pay salaries of state police personnel.

Hassan Nurudeen, Programs Manager at Hope Behind Bars Africa, identified the “slippery slope” but argued that the government must take a tough decision.

He said, “The issue around state police is a slippery slope. For me, it is a step towards the realization of the Nigerian dream towards federalism.

“However, I am also sceptical about the police being a tool in the hands of state governors.

“Also, there is the salary part. Nigerian governors are notorious for owing workers’ salaries running into years, and the police structure is currently weak as we speak, what if they are now owed salaries?”

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