John Ameh and Leke Baiyewu
The House of Representatives made progress on its bid to establish state police on Tuesday by passing a bill on the matter for first reading.
The constitution amendment bill seeks to amend the 1999 Constitution by decentralising the Nigeria Police Force to accommodate state police.
The bill is sponsored by the Leader of the House, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila.
Having passed first reading, the House, following established procedure, will set another date for the opening of debate on the general principles and second reading of the bill.
It passed the first reading at Tuesday’s session presided over by the Speaker, Mr. Yakubu Dogara.
The bill’s key provision is to amend Section 214 (1) of the constitution by deleting the phrase “and subject to the provisions of this section no other police force shall be established for the Federation or any part thereof” immediately after the word “force.”
New sections 215 and 216 are also to be created by amending the existing sections 217 and 218 to spell out the structure and operations of the proposed state police.
The details of the bill are as follows: “217. (1) “There shall be a police force in each state of the Federation.
(2) Subject to the provisions of this Constitution – (a) a state Police Force shall be organised and administered in accordance with such provisions as may be prescribed by an act of the State House of Assembly; (b) members of state police shall have such powers and duties as may be conferred upon them by law.”
“218. (1) “There shall be – (a) a Commissioner of Police who shall be appointed by the Governor on the advice of the State Police Council from among serving members of the State Police Force;
(b) a Head of Police for each state of the Local Government Area of the State to be appointed by the State Police Service Commission.
“(2) The State Police Force shall be under the command of the State Commissioner of Police.
“(3) The Governor or such other Commissioner of the Government of the State as he may authorise in that behalf may give to the Commissioner of Police such lawful directions with respect to the maintenance and securing of public safety and public order as he may consider necessary, and the Commissioner of Police shall comply with those directions or cause them to be compiled with.
“219. (1) Subject to the provisions of this constitution, the State House of Assembly may make laws for the further regulation and control of the State Police.
“The Principal Act is hereby amended by rearranging the existing sections 217 to 320 as sections 220 to 323.
“The Principal Act is hereby amended by deleting item 45 from the Exclusive Legislative List in part 1 of the second schedule of the Constitution.
“That the entire items on the Exclusive Legislative List in part 1 of the second schedule of the Constitution are hereby rearranged and renumbered as items 1 to 67 with the exclusion of the deleted item under this Bill.”
The bill also proposes to amend the constitution by creating a new section 21 in part 2 of the Second Schedule to give powers to state Houses of Assembly to create state police commands.
Section 21 reads, “(1) The National Assembly may make laws for the federation or any part thereof with respect to – a. Police Force and other government security services in respect of anything pertaining to internal security and the maintenance of law and order in Nigeria; b. Regulation of ownership and control of Federal Police and other government security services.
“(2) A House of Assembly of a state may make laws with respect to: a. The creation, formation or/and establishment of Police Force and other security services in respect of any matter pertaining to internal security and the maintenance of law and order within that state and with regard to the enforcement of any law validly made by the House of Assembly of that state.
“b. Regulation of ownership and control of State Police and other State Government security services.
“The Principal Act is hereby amended by renumbering the existing sections 21 to 30 of part 2 of the second schedule of the constitution as numbers 22 to 31.
“This Bill may be cited as the Constitution of the Federal Republic on Nigeria (Alteration) Bill, 2018.”
Meanwhile, the House also resolved to investigate last week’s killing of seven policemen in Abuja by unknown gunmen.
The resolution came after a member from Anambra State, Mr. Chris Azubuogu, drew the attention of the House to the security implications of the incident.
Members, who contributed to the debate, said the killing was a “national embarrassment,” which sent the signal that no one was safe in the Federal Capital Territory, hitherto believed to be fairly-secured.
Meanwhile, the Senate Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution met on Tuesday on the preparation of a bill to allow the creation of state and community police.
The Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, who is Chairman of the Committee, disclosed at the plenary earlier on Tuesday that the constitution amendment bill should be ready for presentation on Thursday.
Ekweremadu, who presided over the session, made the disclosure while commenting on a bill seeking to amend the Police Act.
He said, “We in the Senate are committed to (finding) a permanent solution to the policing problem that we have in Nigeria, especially the frustrations we have presently regarding killings, which led to the Senate deciding that we consider the issue of state and community policing.
“I am happy to announce that we have done sufficient work. The Committee on the Constitution Review of the Senate would look at the final draft of the bill, and hopefully, by Thursday, we will take the first reading. But while we are doing that, it is also very necessary to provide first aid to a troubled situation.”
The Senate had on July 3, 2018, begun the process to amend the Nigerian constitution to decentralise the current central policing structure and allow the creation of state police.
The upper chamber of the National Assembly had mandated the Ekweremadu-led committee to present an amendment bill within two weeks.
The lawmakers resolved that the bill would enjoy speedy consideration, setting a target for its passage before they proceed on their annual recess by the end of July.
The President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, had called for the support of state Houses of Assembly in the amendment to the 1999 Constitution to allow creation of state and community police, when he met with speakers of the state legislatures led by the Chairman, States’ Assembly Speakers Conference and Speaker of the Gombe State House of Assembly, Abdulmumin Kamba.
The Senate President had noted that state and community policing had become necessary due to the rising security challenges in the country.
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