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Decentralised, democratic policing is the way forward

By Edoba Omoregie, SAN
09 January 2022   |   3:30 am
Sir, While we must all worry about the unnecessary centralisation of police powers, the reform being sought must de-emphasise conferring greater police powers on the chief executive at the state level.

Police

Sir, While we must all worry about the unnecessary centralisation of police powers, the reform being sought must de-emphasise conferring greater police powers on the chief executive at the state level. In other words, my humble view is that the police reform we seek must emphasise removing the police from the controlling authority or power of both the President and the Governors.

A reformed police system in Nigeria must bear the fruit of ‘Democratic Policing’, by which the command of the police whether at the federal, state and local government levels must be left to the heads of the police at the various levels, stricto sensus subject only to judicial review.

However, policy formulation and legislation regarding the police can remain the domain of the executive and the legislative branches respectively. No more.

I worry that pro-reformists seem to believe that policing in the country can be better only or simply by conferring the Governors of each state more with greater police powers than currently provided in the Constitution. This is a curious, and I dare say a mistaken impression.

Indeed, the extant Constitution already empowers Governors (and the President) more than it’s desirable, in their control of the police. In fact, by section 215 (5) of the Constitution, the “lawful order” the President and the Governors issue to the police cannot be questioned in any court of law! Strangely, what constitutes “lawful order” is not defined in the Constitution or in the Interpretation Act. Any wonder that the executive branch makes a sport of misusing the police? It’s not a celestial creation. It’s the leeway provided in the Constitution that they exploit.

As for Governors, they are only handicapped when their interests conflict with federal (presidential) power over the police. Otherwise, they’re as reckless as vested federal authorities in the misuse of the police!

We must avoid creating fresh problems in our police system, while seeking to reform it. This will happen if we do not prioritise Democratic Policing above conferring Governors with greater powers to control the police.

• Professor Edoba Omoregie, SAN