My Security, Our Lives: Rivers State Past, Present And Future
The word security is defined in The New Webster’s Dictionary of English Language to mean “freedom from danger or anxiety”. It also means something which guarantees or safeguards, and protective measures against danger and espionage. Now, when we look at the topic, which starts with the clause “MY security, our lives”, we should see the matter for discussion from the point of view that when I am secure, when my security is guaranteed, then we all are secure, and our lives and properties, as citizens of Nigeria residing in Rivers State, are also secured.
Security, as we all understand it, is now mainly the business of Government, as enunciated by the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).Some relevant provisions thereof are:-
(1) The Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be a State based on the principles of democracy and social justice.
(2) It is hereby accordingly declared that:
(a) sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from whom government through this Constitution derives all its powers and authority.
(c) the participation by the people in their government shall be ensured in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.
The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is the supreme law of Nigeria, the GRUDNORM, as those of us in the Learned and Honourable Profession of Law like to call it. It is the law from which every law in Nigeria, whether made by the Federal Legislature or the States’ Legislatures, derivesits validity. The Constitution is also the law from which every institution or authority in Nigeria derives its legitimacy.
Section 1 of the Constitution provides as follows: –
(1) This Constitution is supreme and its provisions shall have binding force on all authorities and persons throughout the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
(2) The Federal Republic of Nigeria shall not be governed, nor shall any person or group of persons take control of the Government of Nigeria or any part thereof, except in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.
(3) If any other law is inconsistent with the provisions of this Constitution, this Constitution shall prevail, and that other law shall to the extent of the inconsistency be void.
The Constitution establishes three arms of Government, namely, the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary. The Legislature is to make laws for the peace, order and good governance of the Federation, the Executive is to execute and maintain the Constitution and Laws of Nigeria, while the Judiciary is to interpret the Laws, and adjudicate in matters between persons and/or between government and authority as to the determination of their civil rights and obligations.
Still speaking of security, we know about external security and internal security. External security relates to the protection of the territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and, pursuant to the provisions of the Constitution, the Armed Forces of the Federation are established. For internal security, which is our focus here today, the same Constitution establishes the Nigeria Police Force. Section 214 of the Constitution provides as follows: –
(1) There shall be a Police Force for Nigeria which shall be known as the Nigeria Police Force, and subject to the provisions of this section, no other police force shall be established for the Federation or any part thereof.
(2) Subject to the provisions of this Constitution –
(a) the Nigeria Police Force shall be organised and administered with such provisions as may be prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly;
(b) the members of the Nigeria Police Force shall have such powers and duties as may be conferned upon them by law; (c) the National Assembly may make provisions for branches of the Nigeria Police Force forming part of the armed forces of the Federation or for the protection of harbours, waterways, railways and airfields.
Pursuant to the provisions of the Constitution, the Police Act has been duly enacted, and it stipulates in section 4 thereof as follows: –
“The police shall be employed for the prevention and detection of crime, the apprehension of offenders, the preservation of law and order, the protection of life and property and the due enforcement of all laws and regulations with which they are directly charged, and shall perform such military duties within and outside Nigeria as may be required of them by or under the authority of this or any other Act”.
In further pursuance of the provisions of the Police Act, the Nigeria Police Revelations have been made, under which the Nigeria Police Force is divided territorially into State Police Commands for the States and the Federal Capital Territory of Abuja, and also into Zonal Commands, all for the purpose of command and administration. And so, Departments, Divisions, Police Stations and Police Posts are created, all to secure and guarantee the safety and security of all.
May I say that in my humble opinion, the past was the glory days of the Police, and the security of our lives and properties was to a great extent well managed by the Police. In those days, from recruitment to training, and then on to service in the Police Force, security matters were all well handled. The average recruit in my father’s time, was reasonably well educated, and at some point in the Pre-Independence days, one needed to have at least the First School Leaving Certificate to be enlisted as a Police Man. Training would start at designated training camps, and there was even a Police College at Ikeja, Lagos. A Police Academy was subsequently to be established where those who had studied up to tertiary level land obtained University Degrees were recruited as Officer Cadets. And then there were opportunities for further training programmes, some even abroad, in specialized areas like forensics, hand-writing, ballistics, computer and information technology, etc.
There was also at that time proper issuance of arms and ammunition, and records were kept of every Lee Enfield Rifle (the famous MARK 4), which was issued to anyone Police Man. And every Police Man to whom any arm or ammunition was issued had a duty to give a proper account of the usage thereof. The average Police Man was able to read and write, and very knowledgeable, and the Police was then truly our friend. You could ask directions from a Police Man on patrol on the streets, and he would give you directions with pin-point accuracy. And a record was always kept of every person arrested or detained at any Police Station. The Police used to prosecute criminal cases very effectively, and some Police Prosecutors were feared by lawyers defending accused persons with bad cases. And then, came Military Government, which started in 1966 and ended in 1999, and then the Civil War which started in 1967 and ended in 1970. Those periods were the worst for the Nigeria Police Force, as many very well trained Officers and Men of the Force were lost, either by death or compulsory retirement. I hold the belief, that the Military tended to relegate the Police to the background, and that was when things began to go bad. Recruitment was then on a man-know-man basis, and some misfits, even some criminally minded persons, got into the Police. And the Police became deficient in terms of funding, men and equipment.
The past as narrated above has sadly continued to the present day, and the Police is still very poorly funded, grossly under-manned and inadequately equipped to cope with present day challenges. That is obviously why our security, and the maintenance and enforcement of Law and Order in Rivers State, and indeed throughout Nigeria, seem to be at very unsatisfactory levels. I have to say that studies have been made, by the United Nations Organization (UNO), and other Think Tanks, on how many police men you need to adequately secure any particular town, state or country. We need to look at those studies again, and do all that is necessary to properly man our Police Force, at the various State Police Commands, and also fund and equip them as may be required.
The future is all ahead of us, and the current debate is on the question whether or not the States and Local Governments should also be allowed to establish their own Police Forces. In some developed countries of the world, and a ready example is the United States of America, there is a federal police, as personified by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which is under the authority of the United States President and the U.S. Department of Justice. There are States’ Police Forces, City Police Departments and even county and small town law enforcement agencies, all established to secure lives and properties. As we have noted above, section 214 (1) of the Constitution absolutely prohibits the establishment of any other police force in Nigeria or any part thereof. And so the Present debate will have to focus on the need to amend the Constitution, before any talk of State and County or City Police Forces, and even departmental police forces, can be given any credence. This is not to say that there is no merit in the arguments for the creation of State and County and City Police Forces. What we need to do, as we talk about the vexed question of RESTRUCTURING the Federation of Nigeria, is to dispassionately, and in the best interest of all of us as loyal citizens of Nigeria, consider all the pros and cons, all the arguments for and all the arguments against the idea. In the meantime, however, we must appeal to all concerned, particularly the National Assembly, which is charged with budgeting funds for our institutions of government, to make truly adequate financial provisions for the Nigeria Police Force, so that we may have reasonably sufficient men and women to man the Police Force, and also to ensure that the men and women of the Police Force are properly trained and equipped, so that they all may be the better enabled to discharge their duties and functions.
In the presentation made above, I have reviewed the matter of OUR LIVES and OUR SECURITY, especially as now being handled by the Nigeria Police Force. I have looked as the PAST, the PRESENT and the FUTURE. The PAST is now past, but we must focus on the PRESENT and see where the deficiencies exist, and then make proper plans and arrangements for the FUTURE, so that we all, particularly those of us in Rivers State, can be reasonably sure of a safe and secure environment, that reasonably guarantees our security. By so doing, we may all continue to thrive and prosper, as citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria residing and doing business in Rivers State.
I thank you all, for listening, and I pray that the Almighty and Eternal God may bless us all.
O.C.J. OKOCHA, MFR, SAN, JP, DSSRS, Legal Practitioner; Life Bencher, The 19th/millennium President Of The Nigerian Bar Association, Port Harcourt; 23’d Day Of October, 2018.