A billtGO to establish state police has passed second reading at the house of representatives.
Sponsored by Onofiok Luke from Akwa Ibom state, the constitution alteration bill also seeks to give legal backing to security outfits established by states.
Currently, the powers to make laws on “police and other government security services established by law” is vested exclusively on the federal government.
But the proposed legislation seeks to move such powers from the exclusive list to the concurrent list, to empower “both the national assembly and houses of assembly of states to legislate on police and other security matters”.
Leading the debate on the bill during plenary session on Tuesday, Luke said there is an urgent need to decentralise the police force to tackle the security challenges in the country.
He said the bill will enable the composition of the state police council and state police service commission.
Luke argued that the current police system needs to be revamped, adding that it falls below the benchmark of the United Nations (UN).
“Granted that there is no society without crime or manifestation of criminal behaviour, our inability to bring to the barest minimum crime is a scathing indictment on the current security architecture and structure in the country,” he said.
“The federal structuring 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.
“Nigeria, a country with over 201 million people, is grossly under-policed with about 400,000 police personnel. This number falls far short of the United Nation’s recommendation of ratio 1 per 400 citizens.”
The lawmaker also noted that the Nigeria police structure does not reflect the federal system being practised in the country.
“The constitution envisages Nigeria as a federal state. Granting allowance to state governments to establish police force and other security apparatuses will bring Nigeria into original constitutional contemplation of federal state,” he added.
Contributing to the debate, Toby Okechukwu from Enugu said the clamour for state police is long overdue.
“Obviously, the issue of state police should have been done with because it is needed. The exclusive list needs to shed weight. There is no state in this country that does not have a security outfit,” he said.
“They are lacking the powers to bear arms; they are lacking the powers to arrest and prosecute. If 13 schools are closed in Kaduna, it is not a joke. I believe we need to address it. We are hurting.”
The lawmakers unanimously voted in support of the bill when it was put to a voice vote by Femi Gbajabiamila, speaker of the house.