Section 214 of the 1999 Constitution needs to be amended to decentralise policing, says Olatunbosun
Adeniyi Olatunbosun, a professor of law, is the Vice Chancellor of Kola Daisi University, Ibadan. He was recently conferred with the title of the Senior Advocate of Nigeria. In this interview with ROTIMI AGBOLUAJE, he says a single policing system cannot meet up with the security situation in the country. He, therefore, called for the amendment of Section 214 of the Constitution to introduce decentralisation of the policing system.
Recently, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State called for empowerment of the South West Security Network popularly called Amotekun corps. But the Federal Government seems not favourably disposed to such a call. What would you advise the governor to do to ensure that Amotekun is empowered?
The governor is a well-respected and foremost senior lawyer. He is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), who has also been president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA). Incidentally, he was also a chairman of the Ibadan Branch of NBA, of which I am also a member. He is a foremost legal practitioner and advocate and has all it takes when it comes to providing leadership and direction in the legal profession. So, having been a foremost lawyer and now a politician, a governor of a state, he is open to much information that many of us don’t have access to. So, when people of that status give an opinion, it is not an opinion anybody can just whittle down. He’s talking from a highly confidential point of view. As a senior lawyer, he knows what to do.
But in the federal setting, there is also the need to have a synergy with the Federal Government through the office of the Attorney General and the Minister of Justice who is the number one law officer of the country. I believe both of them being learned, they will be able to look into the enabling structure of our legal system and see how things can be accommodated.
I think one of the things in the federal structure is the possibility of undermining the existing structure and the fear that there are times that power may be abused, there may be a form of action that may negate the overall public interest because whatever we do, we must do it and ensure that the public interest is retained and strengthened. But from the backdrop of insecurity, violent crimes, and all forms of criminality that we are witnessing in the nation in the recent past, it behooves those who are in a position of authority to ensure that life and property of Nigerians or citizens wherever they may be are protected. I think that must have propelled the Executive Governor of Ondo State in trying to come up with that. Also, as a chief executive and chief security officer of the state coupled with the recent experience witnessed in Owo with the merciless and brutal killing of people in the church of God, we can’t but expect the Governor to be passionate and worried about this development. So, I have this belief that whatever he comes up with, he will be able to meet up and dialogue with those who are in it together to ensure that the sanctity of lives is complied with.
Many have called for amendment of Section 214 of the Constitution to decentralise the nation’s security and policing system. What is your take on this?
It is the right time for us to review it because when the drafters of the constitution made the provision, they had the thought of a unitary system at the back of their minds. This is because we had been ruled by the military for a substantial number of years. From 1983, there was a short break and up to 1999 before we brought in the new constitution, which is currently, being altered and we are still using it.
I, as a person, most of my research have been into Criminal Justice and the Administration of Criminal Law. As far back as 18 to 20 years ago, I had written some papers, clamouring for the need to have state police. Some of them are even published outside Nigeria. The fact is that the enormity of crimes is a worrisome issue. It is all over society but the dimensions depend on the peculiarity of the nation. So, we are experiencing a high level of criminal activities. Having a single policing system may not be able to meet up given the dimension of the Nigerian nation and the configuration of the polity as well as the structure of governance in Nigeria. Hence, having a local policing system will strengthen the overall security configuration. It’s a new addition to the effort of the existing policing to combat crimes. It is not a threat to the federal policing system, because, in any organisation, there are layers and hierarchies in terms of structure and administration. The beauty of the federal system is that the states are allowed to work at their own pace. I believe that it can be worked out. So, what Ondo State needs may not be what Bayelsa State needs. I think our leaders and the Federal Government should realise that.
If a state says what it needs is this, that is its desire. I think they should allow them to do that rather than deny them because other states are not doing it. The peculiarity of a state will determine what it needs at any time. We must ensure, at any given point in time, that our society is safe for people.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said candidates must not receive donations from outside the country. Is that the correct interpretation of the law?
INEC as an institution has been doing appreciable work over the years. Just like the concept of the Criminal Justice System, when you have a system in place, those who have a penchant for criminality would want to see how that system would not work. They will find a way of circumventing the functionality of such a system. So, criminals always put those who are in positions of authority on their toes. The INEC has always been at the vanguard of ensuring that our electoral system and process are credible. Year by year, the body always makes efforts to resolve issues about elections.
But in reality, it is one thing to have a law and another thing for the law to function and the law would function when the society at large imbibes the principles of law, complying with the terms and conditions of the law and also the culture of obedience to the law.
I think that is also important for the generality of the stakeholders, the politicians. Criminals always think ahead of the law. They are smarter. So, those who are in charge of the law must also be abreast and try to block the act. That’s what the INEC is trying to do.
But there is a need to have the spirit of constitutionalism in our system by every stakeholder and all the paraphernalia of the structure must be put in place in ensuring that is done.
Is preventing politicians from collecting diaspora donations the best way to go?
The law forbids that. The reason is to ensure that foreigners who may not have the good of Nigeria at heart do not overrun the country. Also, the idea is to promote the sanctity of the system, maintain security and self-esteem as well as ensure that sovereignty is maintained. He who pays the piper calls the tune. Otherwise, those who are financers may begin to dictate to the person they financed to win an election. That’s why it is forbidden. It is in line with the constitution because under the canons of interpretation, it is under the mischief rule. The mischief is what the law wants to correct. That is what the INEC is trying to ensure.
Congratulations on the award of the most coveted title of the Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN). How do you feel being given the highest honour in your field?
We thank God for the grace that He bestowed on us and me, in particular. I also want to thank the body set up at various times to review, evaluate and confer the recognition.
First and foremost, I’m a lawyer. As a lawyer, it is an aspiration that everyone looks forward to but when it will come and how it will come depends on the appropriate time that one is actually ripe for it. I’m overwhelmed and humbled by the recognition of the little effort I have put into the system – the legal profession and education and the development of human resources in the field of law. I also want to say that over the last 33 years of being called to the bar, in that short time, I have had access to all the aspects of the legal profession. I started my career after my service at the Military Police as a Legal Adviser at the Nigerian Military Police, First Mechanised Division, Kaduna. I started my work as a prosecutor in the Department of Public Prosecution of the old Oyo State, before the creation of Osun State. I was privileged to be the prosecutor of the second Armed Robbery Tribunal. At that time and in the couple of years that I worked there, I was able to put in my best in ensuring that the Ministry of Justice had a formidable team of prosecutors. I have also, over time, transferred my service to the university system. And I have also got a golden award, having worked meritoriously for 25 years in academia. I was also at the Obafemi Awolowo University as a lecturer for almost 20 years, before I was appointed as a Professor at the University of Ibadan. When I was at the University of Ibadan, to God be the glory, we were able to contribute to ensuring that our products recorded high success. Many of them had first-class degrees from the university. There was appreciable and significant growth at that time. We were also privileged to have produced university graduates who also went to the Nigerian Law School and they excelled as first-class candidates.
This is a significant achievement and testimonial to the quality of the students that we were training. So, it is a mark of honour and distinction and I appreciate the Legal Practitioners’ Privileges Committee (LPPC) for the honour bestowed on me.