Nigerian Heading To True Fiscal Federalism

By Stephen Ubanna

After several years of behind the scene maneuvering , President Muhammadu Buhari, who was initially opposed to state  police Force as obtained in the United States of America, USA,  appears to have bowed  to pressure  to  allow the  establishment of state and Local government Police.

 This is an indication that the country is heading  towards practice of real fiscal Federal Federalism as being  canvassed by  Yemi Osibanjo, a Professor of Law and the Vice president  as well  the south-south and north central  Political leaders in the recent time. This  is an indication that each state would be made to manage its resources and only pay taxes to the Federal government to main its services for the good governance of the country.

The Katsina state  born Nigerian President may have opposed state and local  government   because of the financial implication. He believes that the states may not be able to shoulder such additional  financial burden   because of their financial insolvency.  According to him  the Federal government had on several occasions   released money   to the states in the name of bailout to pay salaries and wondered how they could cope with the state police which requires  proper funding. He believes that it would be wrong to train someone on the use of arms and eventually arm  and at the end of the month, he is not paid as that may cause security  in the state s they decide to turn the weapon against the innocent citizens to eke a living.

People may not have seen it in that light as they inst on state policing. The Vice   President may not have helped matters as he had lent his voice to the call for state and local government policing  attributing  it to the increasing  security  Challenges in the country . He had cited  the  increasing activities of the Islamic Fundamentalists , popular BokoHaram, in the north east , armed banditry  and Kidnapping in different indifferent parts of the country, particular the north western states of Zamfara and Katsina, the President home state.

 Osinbajo , who may have  spoken  his mind  on Thursday at the 9th National Assembly organised  Security meeting, insists that it  would help tighten  security across  the country.  ”The state policing  system  is the way to go because   a centralised  system, as is currently  practiced, cannot effectively  secure the nation”, he had said.

Recall that the governors under the auspices of the Nigerian Governors Forum, NGF, had informed  the President  in 2018,  that the country could not be  policed effectively  from Abuja, because of the poor maintenance of law and order across the country  by the regular police. This includes  patrolling the  Highways, Land Borders, enforcing state laws and maintaining peace. They were optimistic that the state and local government police officers  would be and assisting  Principal law  enforcement  agencies  when necessary including maintenance f peace and order in their respective states.

 Abdullaziz Yari, then governor of Zamfara state and Chairman of the NGF, at the instance of the governors , had piled up pressure on the President including meetings with him on the need for him see reason  on state policing and give approval to it. The NGF, had the backing  of Bukola Saraki, then Senate President and Yakubu Dogara, former  Speaker of House of Representatives.  

Anthony Ojukwu: Headed A presidential Committee On Reforms Of SARS

The President remained hesitant  as he insists that” there will be no state  police”.  In an interview with the VOA, he repeated his stand on state policing . The Statement may have  strengthened the resolve of those championing the establishment of state and  local government police including the state governors  to continue the Campaign.  The President has no option but to cave in.

As a prelude to the establishment of state and local government policing  , he had set up a Committee, headed by Antony Ojukwu,  a  retired  Inspector General of Police, AIG, and now, Executive Secretary, National  Human Rights Commission. The  eight-man Committee members , were said to toured round the country where they had interactions with the people to know their feeling about state and local government policing. They were surprised  at the  general response  of the people in favor of state policing.   The Committee were said to have received  113 Complaints  on alleged Human Rights  violations across the country  and suggestions on how to restructure  the  Force in general to be more responsive.

Armed with their findings  and the overwhelming support for state policing, the Committee has no option but to adopt it in its report which was submitted to the government last August.  Recall that the President gave  his words to implement the report.

Barely nine months after receiving the Ojukwu led  Committee report on state and local government  policing , the matter came up again  on Monday June 3, 2019, when he had a closed door  meeting with the Committee at the Presidential villa to receive   the report  on the reform of  the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS .   The Committee which  had exposed much  abuse of Human Rights across the country by members of SARS, had made far reaching recommendations .

Note that the Committee  had recommended that it should called Anti-Robbery section ,ARS,  which was the original operational name across the country . They suggested that it should be  operate under  the Intelligence  arm of the police of the police  from the Divisional,  Area,  to the Headquarters level.

This is evident going by the recommendation that  37 police  officers be dismissed from the Force while 24 others  were recommended for prosecution. They were said to have directed the Mohammed Abubakar Adamu, the Inspector General of Police, IGP,  to unravel the identity of 22 other police officers allegedly involved in  Human Rights violation in the recent time.

The President may have been touched by the remarks of Ojukwu, the Committee Chairman, while presenting the report to him as he has promised that it would be studied  by another Committee and a white Paper issued  to give it legal backing.  He may have gladdened the heart of  many Nigerians when he finally gave his words there would be state and local government policing.

 Despite throwing his weight behind state policing after several years of foot-dragging,  there are fears on both official and unofficial circles that the states and the local governments may not cope with the funding of their own Force.

 But  Saraki , a former Senate President, had said that there was  no basis for such fears.  The  former Senate President  had said that proper funding  of the Nigerian police and the state police  are the solutions to the BokoHaram activities in the north east, armed Banditry and  napping in the north west and other parts of the country. The 8th National Assembly  may have taken advantage of the  Police Reform Bill,  to look at the level of insecurity in the country  and proffer a long -term solutions which bothers on state and local government  policing and proper funding of  the nation’s police Force.

The Lawmakers may have made  it clear to the President who was undecided on the matter , that   unless the country ”go back  to state and Community policing, as was the case in the past, the nation will continue to grapple with these insecurity  problems which had wasted millions lives over the last decade.

Appealing to him to act fast on the  matter to save the security situation of the country from degenerating,  they maintained that  state and Community policing  remained the solutions  in tackling the alarming security situation in the country, which the President agreed had  reached ”grave dimension”.  

Political watchers believe that  there is nothing to celebrate yet about the planned  state and local government  policing  as the Ojukwu’s Committee’s report may still  have to be studied where it  may be watered down to suit the interest of those opposed to state policing.

 The Statement by Garba  Shehu, a  senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity speaks volume. ”Until a White Paper  on the  is produced, it will be premature and pre-emptive  to suggest  that  the recommendations  in the Ojukwu Committee’s report on state and local government policing have been approved by the President in part or whole”,  he had said.  

Shehu,  may have cleared the air when he said  that the President  requested that the report  be studied  and a White Paper produced  within three months. He disclosed  that the President  had given a directive  that a three-man  panel  be set up to produce the White Paper.

 He however opined  that  the  Committee’s report  will still form  the basis of the recommendation  on setting  up  state and  local government police  across the country.  His assurance  may have gladdened the heart of Nigerians who feared that   the president  may  back out in supporting state policing  due to pressure from the Cabal in the Presidency.

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