FORMER deputy senate president Senator Ike Ekweremadu has reacted to the recent formation of the regional outfit Amotekun by planning to reintroduce a bill introducing state police forces in the National Assembly.
Over recent years, heavily-armed herdsmen have been running riot across Nigeria, engaging in kidnapping, armed robbery and banditry. To address the problem, the governors from across the southwest geo-political zone decided to launch a regional security outfit named Amotekun, which translates to leopard in the local Yoruba language.
Backing up their plans with an official launch in Ibadan, the six governors have supplied Operation Amotekun with vehicles and equipment. However, the development has been opposed by some critics who have described Amotekun as an ethnic militia but over the last week, the governors and the federal governors have met and decided to draw up a legal framework to govern the operation.
Nigeria’s Police Force (NPF) has made it clear that it is overwhelmed by the security challenges it faces and by and large accepts the creation of security groups to assist it. In the past, there have been calls for the creation of state police forces to help the NPF and now Senator Ekweremadu intends to introduce a bill to facilitate this.
Uche Anichukwu, Senator Ekweremadu’s spokesman, said that the former deputy senate president had originally sponsored the bill along with about 74 other members of the Senate Committee on Constitution Review in the last senate but it was not passed. He added that then, the bill did not go beyond the first reading in the eighth senate but there have since calls for it to be reintroduced in the ninth senate.
Mr Anichukwu said: “The senator has been receiving calls from across the country on the need to reintroduce the State Police Bill. I think the security realities in the country now are very clear and even among his colleagues, the popular opinion is that the bill should be reintroduced immediately.
“As a matter of fact, I just spoke with the distinguished senator this morning and he said plans were underway to reintroduce the bill along with his colleagues. It is an idea whose time has come.”
On how the bill would address the concerns over funding, possible abuse, among others, Mr Anichukwu explained that it would likely place funding for each state police service on the first line charge. He added that the funds could be channelled directly to them through the National Police Service Commission so as to make them financially independent of the state governors.
“Regarding the worry that some states may not have the resources to pay state police personnel, it is important to note that it shall not be compulsory on any state to establish a state police. Just as the case of state universities, those who have the resources can start, while others who can’t, will continue to rely on federal universities, in this case, the federal police.
“First, the idea is to model the issue of policing after what we have in the National Judicial Council. The federal police will be responsible for the maintenance of public security, preservation of public order and security of persons and property throughout the federation.
“The governor may give lawful directive to the commissioner of police with respect to the maintenance and securing of public safety and public order as he may consider necessary. The commissioner is also empowered by the bill to request that matter be referred to the state police service commission for review if he feels that the directive is unlawful or contradicts general policing standards or practice.
“In such circumstances, the decision of the state police service commission shall be final and shall not be inquired into by any court. Again, a governor cannot just wake and sack a commissioner of police of his or her state as the commissioner shall only be removed by the governor upon the recommendation of the National Police Service Commission praying that he be so removed on grounds of misconduct in the performance of his official duties, serious breach of policing standards, among others.”