Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, has warned that the Federal Government will destroy criminal justice system in various states, if the Executive Order 10 is implemented.
Governor Wike, said Executive Order 10 of the Federal Government, which permits the deduction of funds from each state account to finance the judiciary, is politically motivated and geared towards the 2023 general election.
He made this assertion in his keynote address presented at the third Annual Nigerian Criminal Law Review Conference organised by the Rule of Law Development Foundation in Abuja, yesterday.
He stated that ahead of the 2023 general election, the federal government, which has been hostile to judges, now suddenly wants to lure the judiciary to assume it believes in independence of judiciary, by enacting Executive Order 10.
“Independence is not to take resources and preside over award of contract. If you cannot give judgement according to your conscience; if you cannot give judgement according to the law, then, there is no independence. And this, of course, affects the criminal justice system”, he stated.
Governor Wike also pointed out that politicisation of the issue of security by the Federal Government has continued to negatively affect the criminal justice system in the country.
He said the prevailing cases of kidnapping, banditry and armed robbery, which threaten the very existence and stability of the nation, clearly justifies the establishment of State or Community Police.
He observed that, while establishment of State Police may require amendment of the extant Section 214 (1) of the 1999 Constitution to provide State, the Rivers State Government is of the opinion that community police or Neighbourhood Watch could be established without constitutional amendment.
Wike declared: “The truth of the matter is that with the current strength of the Nigeria Police Force, which stands at about 372,000, the Nigeria Police Force lacks the operational capacity to fulfil its primary or core mandate of crime detection, crime prevention and maintenance of public safety, law and order or protection of lives and property of persons in Nigeria.
“To put it plainly, the Nigeria Police lack the operational capacity to police the nation which is a federation of about 923.768km (356.669 sqm) with an estimated population of 195.9 million.
“It is this stark reality that informs call for establishment of State Police to provide complementary role to the Nigeria Police Force in crime detection, prevention, and maintenance of law and order”, Wike argued.
He explained that it was against this background that Rivers Government enacted the Rivers State Neighbourhood Safety Corps Law, No. 8 of 2018, which establishes the Rivers State Neighbourhood Safety Corps Agency; as a corporate body and vested with power to establish uniformed Neighbourhood Safety Corps in the 23 Local government Areas of the State, and to prescribe regulations guiding the operations of the Safety Corps as well as any other local government vigilance group in the State.
In furtherance of this law, Wike stated that recruitment and training of members of the uninformed Neighbourhood Safety Corps commenced at the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) orientation camp, Nonwa, in Tai LGA, after obtaining all necessary approvals from the Nigerian Army and other relevant security agencies.
The governor said it was unfortunate the exercise was violently disrupted by the Nigerian Army, claiming it was illegal and unconstitutional.
Governor Wike, said despite a competent court of jurisdiction recent ruling that upheld the constitutionality of the Neighbourhood Safety Corps, the Army has refused to allow it carry out its recruitment and training of personnel.
“The point being made here is that as long as the Federal Government continues to politicise issues of security, whether national or local, so long shall our criminal justice system remain seriously jeopardized.
The power exercisable by the Federal Government over matters of security is made manifest by the irregular postings of Commissioners of Police to the Rivers State Police Command”, he said.
The governor emphasized the need for critical stakeholders in the criminal justice sector to rethink the system through reform designed to address current challenges, given that criminal justice system is inextricably linked with the security, peace and order of the State,
Former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Joseph Daudu, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), lauded Governor Wike, for standing out as one of the pillars of rule of law in the country.
Present at the occasion were the Attorney General of Rivers State, Professor Zacchaeus Adangor, the Attorney General of Kogi State and other eminent lawyers.