Plans are underway by the Senate to decentralize the police force, and cut down the powers of the President over commissioners of police by giving state governors the power of the ‘last command.’
In the bid to save democracy from executive abuse, the Senate through a gazetted Bill 346 sponsored by Solomon Olamilekan (APC) from Lagos East Senatorial District, has given full powers to governors to issue unconditional directives to the Police in their states.
Greater control of the police force by states is believed will douse tension between the presidency and state governments over local policing, bolster efforts at fighting crime and ease governance. Effective policing at that level would also help states build the required infrastructure to create jobs.
Section 215 (4) of the 1999 Constitution which empowered the President to overrule any orders given to a Police Commissioner by the state governor, has been amended as that proviso has been specifically deleted, reports the Guardian.
The specific amendment reads: “The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (in this Bill referred to as “the Principal Act”) is altered as set out in this Bill. Section 215 of the Principal Act is altered by deleting the provision to subsection 4.”
The same section 215 is also altered by deleting immediately after the word “shall” in line 3, the word “not” in subsection 5. 3.
The Bill also seeks to nullify the provision in section 215(5) which had prevented any court from entertaining cases arising from such orders issued by the President to the police.
In reaction, the Police force has said it would simply enforce any law made by the Legislature and signed by the Executive arm of government.
There have been loud calls for a political restructuring of the country for effective policing at the state and local government levels in response to rising spate of crime, including insurgency, armed robbery and kidnapping.
The idea of state policing has received increasing support despite Federal Government’s insistence on total control of the force. It was also part of the recommendations of the 2014 National Conference convened by former President Goodluck Jonathan which the current government has refused to implement.
Security experts have however warned that without appropriate checks and balances in place, governors’ control of Police Commissioners in their states would be a “recipe for disaster.”