The popular belief held by many – (perhaps Governors themselves) that State Governors have no authority over the Nigerian Police Force (NPF), has been discarded by Human Rights Activist and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Femi Falana, who holds the opinion that it’s not the President’s duty to maintain law and order in States.
Speaking in a colloquium, “A Brighter Future for Nigeria and how to get there” in honour of The News/PM News Executive Director, Kunle Ajibade on his 60th birthday, Falana said the Supreme Court has upheld in the past that Governors can give instructions to the NPF.
He further asserted that the only time such instructions can be nonvalid is if the President’s permission is needed.
“I am not saying anything radical; this is in line with section 220 of the Nigerian Constitution. It is not the duty of the Federal Government to maintain law and order in your State.”
He queried why a State Governor would cry on television that his people are being killed when he can order the Police to fish out the evil perpetrators.
Citing Section 214 of the 1999 Constitution, Falana revealed that the Police Force ought to be controlled, organised and supervised by the Nigeria Police Council, which has as members the 36 State Governors, the President as the Chairman, the Inspector General of Police and the Chairman of the Police Service Commission.
“So we have a body where the Governor continues to determine the fate of the Police.
“The President cannot appoint the Inspector General of Police without seeking your consent or remove one but what has happened since 1999, the Governors have totally abdicated the responsibility of managing the Nigerian Police Force to the President.”
He asserted that the Federal Government is only responsible for paying the salaries of the Force as the operational allowance and equipment is the responsibility of the State Governors.
What the Constitution says
According to Section 215 (4)
Subject to the provisions of this Section, the Governor of a State or such Commissioner of the Government State as he may authorise in that behalf, may give to the Commissioner of Police of that State such lawful directions with respect to the maintenance and securing of public safety and public order within the state as he may consider necessary, and the Commissioner of Police shall comply with those directions or cause them to be complied with.
However, the Section provides that before carrying out its obligation, the President must have authorised it.
Also, Third Schedule Section L 27, corroborates Falana’s assertion on the membership of the Nigeria Police Council.
One of the functions of the Police Commission as stated in Section M 28(a) is
“the organisation and administration of the Nigeria Police Force and all other matters relating thereto (not being matters relating to the use and operational control of the Force or the appointment, disciplinary control and dismissal of members of the Force).”
It can be argued that the above function makes the State Governors handicap, as they cannot interfere in the use and operational control of the Force.