Insecurity: Governors to appoint Police Commissioners in new Bill

By Ologeh Joseph Chibu

A pivotal bill advocating for the amendment of the 1999 Constitution to grant governors the authority to appoint state commissioners of police successfully passed its second reading on Tuesday in the House of Representatives.

The proposed constitutional amendment aims to empower governors to select commissioners of police from the pool of serving officers within their respective states.

This significant step marks a long-awaited effort to decentralize the Nigeria Police Force, which has struggled to effectively tackle the escalating security challenges across the nation. In this proposed restructuring, a commissioner of police appointed locally will lead the envisioned state police force, offering a potential solution to the persistent security crisis facing the country.

During the discussion on the fundamental principles of the bill, Tolani Shagaya, the co-sponsor and representative of Ilorin West/Asa Federal Constituency, emphasized the core mandate of government outlined in section 14(2)(b) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria: ensuring the security and welfare of the citizens.

Shagaya underscored the significant challenges to national security witnessed in recent years, highlighting the urgent need for state police to complement the Federal Government’s efforts in ensuring the safety of all citizens. He articulated that the establishment of state police forces has become imperative as a proactive measure to address the evolving security landscape and safeguard the well-being of Nigerians.

Pointing out several noteworthy innovations within the proposed alteration bill, he remarked, “The transfer of police from the exclusive legislative list to the concurrent list, a move that effectively empowers states to have state-controlled policing; the introduction of a comprehensive framework to ensure cohesion as well as accountability and uniform standards between the federal police and state police; the provision of prescribed rigorous safeguards preventing unwarranted interference by the federal police in state police affairs, emphasizing collaboration and intervention only under well-defined circumstances.’’

The dismissal of the Commissioner of Police

Nevertheless, the Governor retains the authority to dismiss the Commissioner of Police upon the recommendation of the Federal Police Service Commission, contingent upon the approval of two-thirds of the state assembly.

Section 215(4) of the bill stipulates that, “A state police shall be headed by a commissioner of police who shall be appointed by the governor of the state on the advice of the Federal Police Service Commission from among serving members of the state police subject to confirmation by the state House of Assembly.’’

Section 216(3) states, “A Commissioner of Police of a state shall only be removed by the governor upon the recommendation of the Federal Police Service Commission praying that he be so removed on the grounds of (a) misconduct in the performance of his official duties (b) breach of policing standards, law, regulation, and code of conduct (c) conviction of any offence involving fraud or dishonesty by a court of law or tribunal and (d) bankruptcy and mental incapacity.’’

It was clarified that the governor or a commissioner acting on his behalf can issue lawful directives to the Commissioner of Police. However, if such directives are deemed unlawful, the Commissioner of Police has the authority to escalate the matter to the state service commission. The state service commission is vested with the power to make the ultimate decision regarding the legality of the directive.

“The governor or such other commissioner of the government of the state as he may authorise on that behalf may give to the commissioner of police such lawful directions concerning the maintenance and securing of public safety and order as he may consider necessary, and the commissioner of police shall comply with those directions or cause them to be complied with.”

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