The House of Representatives has passed for second reading, a bill seeking to amend 1999 Constitution to allow for the creation of state police and legalise regional security outfits.
The bill also provides that the current police system will be decentralised by moving police from the exclusive legislative list to the concurrent list.
Chairman of the House Committee on Judiciary, Hon. Onofiok Luke, who sponsored the bill, said in the explanatory note that the bill sought to alter the constitution “to provide for state police and other state government security services to enhance security and preservation of lives and properties in Nigeria.”
Leading the debate on the bill at the plenary yesterday, Luke said the primary responsibility of every government all over the world is to protect and preserve the lives and property of its citizens and to maintain law and order.
He stated that many years after independence, Nigeria has continually been beset with insecurity ranging from terrorism, kidnapping, armed robbery, and domestic violence.
Luke said though there was no society without crime or manifestation of criminal behaviour, the inability to reduce crimes to the barest minimum crime should be regarded as an indictment of the country’s security structure.
He said: “The federal structure of our security does not encourage community policing or localisation of policing. Recruitment and subsequent deployment of police officers in their local area is one of the major ways of curbing crime. Such officers understand the area, terrain, language, behaviour and attitude of the people he or she is policing.”
The lawmaker lamented that Nigeria, a country with over 201 million people, is grossly under-policed with about 400,000 police personnel, stressing that this number falls far short of the United Nation’s recommendation of one policeman to 400 citizens.
Luke explained that the bill seeks to amend the principal law by removing police and other government security services from the exclusive legislative list and inserting it in the concurrent legislative list so that both the federal and state governments can legislate on the subject.
Contributing, the Deputy Minority Leader, Hon. Toby Okechukwu, said the bill was germane considering the present security challenges facing the country.
Okechukwu stated: “As a matter of fact, the exclusive list needs to shed weight and if it is going to shed weight with regard to making our country more efficient and secure, the better we are for it. As a matter of fact, there is no state in this federation that does not run a security outfit. No state! Whether it is Amotekun or Hisbah or Vigilante or Ebube Agu, whichever name you call it, they all run it. But what character do they possess? What ingredients are they lacking? They are lacking the power to ordinarily bear arms and to arrest and prosecute.”
The lawmaker added that there was a need to bring it to the fore the need to solve the challenges the country is facing.
“We cannot be living and pretending that everything is okay. Nothing is okay. If 13 schools were closed in Kaduna, it is not a joke. We need to address this and address this seriously,” Okechukwu said.
Adedayo Akinwale and Udora Orizu in Abuja