New police bills – The Nation

  • An opportunity to complement the community policing initiative

 

In addition to the Community Policing Bill sponsored by Halliru Jika (APC, Bauchi), which has already scaled a second reading, another bill seeking to add state police system to a federal police outfit, sponsored by Ike Ekweremadu (Enugu, PDP), is also on the floor of the Senate.

The new bill seeks, among other things, to establish the Nigerian Federal Police to replace the existing Nigeria Police Force, change the composition of the Federal Police Commission to include representatives of the six geopolitical zones and many non-state actors, such as the Nigeria Union of Journalists, the Nigerian Bar Association. The new bill also seeks to establish State Police and State Police Commission that comprises representatives of each state’s senatorial districts and non-state actors, for inclusiveness.

On the other hand, the Community Policing Bill seeks to provide a five-year tenure for the Inspector-General of Police and give legal backing to plans by the existing Nigeria Police Force to create new police beats in specific communities and hire constables with familiarity with the culture of the community. Operations of community policing will still be under the exclusive control of the existing central police system.

The Senate ought to be commended for responding to citizens’ fears about the lapses in national security and maintenance of public order that have compounded problems of terrorism created by Boko Haram in the last 10 years. Apart from lingering cases of Boko Haram terrorism and the Islamic State in West Africa, other forms of insecurity—kidnapping, banditry, cattle rustling, violent conflicts between herdsmen and farmers—have kept rising despite assurances by the law enforcement agencies that all would soon be well.

Indeed, fears of kidnapping and violence against innocent citizens in different parts of the country have pushed states to seek alternative methods of fighting crime. For example, Southwest states established, a few weeks ago, the Western Nigeria Security Network  (code-named in Yoruba as Amotekun) and other regions have also made moves to establish similar security outfits to make up for the inadequacy of the existing security and law enforcement systems.

It is, therefore, remarkable that the Senate has intervened in the process of creating new structures for law enforcement. But it is curious that the Snate is presenting two separate bills on law enforcement, one by the All Progressives Congress (APC) and another by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), one after the other. Despite this, we urge lawmakers to show bipartisan spirit in their consideration of the two bills by responding more to how to respond to threats to security and safety of citizens and property than to political partisanship. Senators should not allow inter-party bickering to sideline the main goal: restoring security to all corners of the country to nurture peace, progress, and development while promoting national unity.

With two bills on security in the Senate, senators must not sit on their laurels. Two separate bills on the same problem may not solve the security challenges in a properly coordinated manner needed to benefit from the country’s cultural diversity. Debates on the two bills ought to be more rational than partisan. Senators should invest energy in encouraging inter-party cooperation to ensure that the outcome of legislation achieve the goal of creating a law enforcement system that can maintain public order effectively in a country of 200 million people with diverse cultures. Citizens have been calling for such police system since the exit of military rule in 1999.

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