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Editorial: Federalism is the answer, after all – Part 53

By Guardian Nigeria
28 October 2021   |   4:05 am
Orchestrated ambiguities and impunity even in the face of provisions of the basic law of the land is part of the problems of the Nigerian Federation. They are out of synch with the known notional content of federalism.

[FILES] Nigeria police station. Photo/ AFP

Orchestrated ambiguities and impunity even in the face of provisions of the basic law of the land is part of the problems of the Nigerian Federation. They are out of synch with the known notional content of federalism. They are a product of the logic of domination by a section in a multinational entity, and consequently, the distrust and conflicts bedevilling the country. The controversy-marred 2020 recruitment of 10,000 personnel into the Nigeria Police exemplified the point being made.
 
According to a recent statement by the police spokesman, Frank Mba that controversial exercise is about to be resolved. The matter was that the former Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, usurped the statutory role of the Police Service Commission (PSC), a move that was challenged by the latter through the Appeal Court, which by unanimous decision upheld the statutory role of the PSC to recruit personnel for the NPF. The Police had gone to Supreme Court on the matter but the matter was abandoned following the removal of the then IGP.  
 
In what would appear a dramatic resolution of the matter, the PSC has now made arrangements to conclude the 2020 recruitment of 10,000 constables, which was earlier suspended on account of the controversy and the consequent litigation. It is hoped that police recruitments should be domiciled in its statutory local even as President Muhammadu Buhari pledged yearly recruitment to boost the strength of the Police in the country.

 
The controversy raised a number of questions about federalism and its subversion in practice. Whose responsibility is it to recruit into the police force? Is police recruitment not a federal character issue beyond the repository of the responsibility for recruitment? Has the mode of running the police not deepened ethnic chauvinism in a federation? Might the application of the federal principle not help the cause of unity in diversity?
  
Without ambiguity, the PSC is saddled statutorily with the responsibility of recruitment into the police force. The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) is explicit on this. It was established as an executive body for the Federation of Nigeria under Section 153 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, and the Police Service Commission (Establishment) Act 2001. Specifically, in Section 30, of the Third Schedule of the 1999 Constitution, the Commission has the power to “(a) appoint persons to offices (other than office of the Inspector-General of Police) in the Nigeria Police Force; and (b) dismiss and exercise disciplinary control over persons holding any office…”
  
The former IGP was on an ego-trip as well as politicising the recruitment into the police force in pursuit of ethnic agenda of skewing the process in a federal entity in a multinational country in favour of section of the country with a consequent negative impact on the national trust. This leads us to the second poser on the federal character principle. We are clear that the framers of the extant constitution and those before it, were conscious of the multinational nature of the country, and engrossment of the federal character principle was seen as a cure, of likely ethnic conflicts over allocation of values, in other words, reward within the polity.   
 
However, irrespective of the intentions of the framers of our constitution, in spirit and letter, the security entity called the Police force has been converted into a cauldron of corruption and ethnic chauvinism where patronage, put otherwise, neopatrimonialism is the rule. The PSC was supposed to be the check and balance factor in the complex that the Police Force under a former overbearing IGP wanted to usurp in furtherance of an ethnic agenda. Those enamoured of the cliché, ‘‘Nigeria’s unity is not negotiable’’ barely understand how to sustain the unity of the country or act in vain. The absence of justice in any political community will lead to a rebellion that would either disrupt the existing equilibrium or dissolve the entity. It is this type of contradictions that we aim to remedy with our serial on federalism in its pure form, not in its subversion or corrupt manifestation as it is the case in Nigeria today.
 
We strongly believe that the unity of the country can be assisted by the genuine application of the federal character principle in the governance of the country. Though we have emphasized this in previous parts of these serial, it bears repeating because of its significance: Section 14 (3 states that in “The composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few State or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that Government or in any of its agencies.” In the third Schedule, part 1 (M), it is engrossed that “(1) In giving effect to the provisions of Section 14(3) and (4) of this Constitution, the Commission shall have the power to: (a) work out an equitable formula subject to the approval of the National Assembly for the distribution of all cadres of posts in the public service of the Federation and of the States, the armed forces of the Federation, the Nigeria Police Force and other government security agencies, government owned companies and parastatals of the states; (b) promote, monitor and enforce compliance with the principles of proportional sharing of all bureaucratic, economic, media and political posts at all levels of government; (c) take such legal measures, including the prosecution of the head or staff of any Ministry or government body or agency which fails to comply with any federal character principle or formula prescribed or adopted by the Commission…”
 
In practice, we have hardly instrumentalised these provisions because of the warped political leadership that is rent-seeking in nature. Nevertheless, in the present subject at issue, there has been negligence of the police without proper kitting and task orientation. Addressing the deficiency of the existing structure such as the misapplication of the force by deployment to big men while the primary role of maintenance of law and order suffers as well as take-over of its role by soldiers is imperative. Above all, the decentralisation of the police force by means of state police fits into the federal scaffolding. That is why we are reiterating for the 53rd time that federalism is the answer, after all, to the several national questions confronting our convoluted federation at the moment.