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House of Representatives advances bill for state police amendment

The proposed constitutional change aims to Address Nationwide Security Challenges by Empowering Governors to Appoint State Commissioners of Police

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In a pivotal move to decentralize the Nigerian Police Force and confront the escalating security crisis gripping the nation, the House of Representatives has progressed with a bill seeking to amend the 1999 Constitution. The amendment would grant governors the authority to appoint state commissioners of police, marking a significant departure from the current centralized policing system.

Under the proposed alteration, a commissioner of police, selected from serving officers within the state, would helm the envisioned state police force. This initiative aims to enhance local law enforcement capabilities and bolster efforts to combat widespread criminal activities, including banditry, kidnapping, and violence, that continue to threaten communities nationwide.

The bill, titled ‘A Bill for an Act to Alter the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 to Provide for Establishment of State Police and Related Matters,’ spearheaded by Deputy Speaker Benjamin Kalu and 14 co-sponsors, seeks to reposition policing on the concurrent legislative list, empowering states to assume greater control over law enforcement within their jurisdictions.

During the deliberations on the bill’s general principles, Tolani Shagaya, representing Ilorin West/Asa Federal Constituency, emphasized the imperative of ensuring the security and welfare of citizens, as enshrined in the constitution. Against the backdrop of mounting security challenges, Shagaya underscored the urgent need for state police to complement federal efforts in safeguarding the nation.

Key provisions of the proposed amendment include the establishment of state police service commissions, distinct from their federal counterparts, to oversee policing affairs at the state level. Additionally, the bill advocates for a robust framework to uphold accountability, collaboration, and adherence to uniform standards between federal and state police forces.

Crucially, the bill outlines mechanisms to address financial constraints that may impede the effective functioning of state police, mandating the federal government to provide grants or aid, subject to legislative approval, to ensure adequate resourcing for policing activities.

Furthermore, the proposed legislation delineates procedures for the appointment and removal of state commissioners of police, emphasizing transparency, accountability, and the avoidance of unwarranted political interference in policing affairs.

While the bill received widespread support from lawmakers, concerns were raised regarding the financial implications and potential for abuse inherent in the establishment of state police. However, proponents argued that the constitutional amendment would strengthen the judiciary’s oversight role, mitigating the misuse of policing powers by state authorities.

The Rivers State Government expressed solidarity with the bill, asserting that state police would bolster security efforts and improve law enforcement responsiveness at the grassroots level. The state’s endorsement underscores the growing consensus among stakeholders regarding the imperative for decentralized policing structures to address Nigeria’s complex security landscape.

As the legislative process unfolds, the bill holds the promise of reshaping Nigeria’s policing architecture, ushering in a new era of localized security initiatives aimed at safeguarding the nation’s citizens and communities.

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