By Emmanuel Ado
For three good years the National leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC), deliberately and absolutely refused to lift a finger to get the Report of the Nasir El-Rufai True Federalism Committee, which addressed several fundamental challenges confronting Nigeria,with very far reaching recommendations,that would hopefully help birth a truly Federal Republic of Nigeria and drastically reduce regional agitations, implemented. Why the APC which in the build up to the 2015 elections, canvassed for power on a reform and change agenda, as part of the solution to the deep structural crisis confronting the country and stands to profit politically from its implementation, is treating the Report with utmost contempt, remains a matter of conjectures.
The only explanation ever proffered by the party for the lack of movement, was the need to guide against the politicization of the report,which was submitted close to the 2019 elections. In spite of the lack of action, the APC must be commended for setting up the Nasir El-Rufai True Federalism Committee in 2017,a game changer that would undoubtedly douse regional tensions and drive developments which the Unitary style federation bequeathed by the military has more or less stifled. There is absolutely no doubt that the overstretched federal government and very removed from local reality, has encroached on several state functions, part of the reasons for poor policies and haphazard implementation, which have had devastating consequences on every sector.
The failure of the APC to get the National Assembly do the needful, has become inconsequential,as some members of the National Assembly, have gallantly picked up the implementation of the El-Rufai report. Coincidentally the members are from Kaduna State, and not from the South-West,where agitation for true federalism had been loudest. Senator Uba Sani’s understanding of the urgency and the impact of the amendment, in unleashing bottled up capacity and strengthening of the system to work for Nigerians,is spot on.
At the heart of the true federalism debate,is the fact that some fundamental issues are best handled by the federating states, while the federal government concentrates in defending the territorial integrity of the country,in conducting foreign relationships etc. An argument the APC True Federalism Committee powerfully made in its report that “a major issue with the Nigerian federation is the enormous exclusive legislative powers of the federal government with resultant over-centralisation of power and authority. It is generally believed that a further decentralisation of some of these powers by devolving more powers, autonomy, and resources to the federating units will foster efficiency and sub-national responsiveness and local accountability.”
Senator Uba Sani, (Kaduna Central Senatorial District), Chairman of the powerful Senate Banking,Insurance and other Financial Institutions has introduced four(4) consequential bills, that will usher in the long over due community policing, and forever change the defective structure of the Nigerian Police Force, in existence since its establishment in 1820. El-Rufai, in his moving public tribute of Senator Uba Sani, for spearheading the decentralisation of policing in Nigeria, appropriately described the Bills as “a significant moment in removing the anomaly of a unitary police force in a federal republic”.
The first bill “Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (Alteration) Bill 2020 entails a constitutional amendment of Cap C23 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004. The net effect of the 15 amendments to the Principal Act, the Second and Third Schedules of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,1999 as amended, will be the establishment of State Police in the 36 states of the Federation,the change of the Police Service Commission to the Federal Police Service Commission,and the establishment of State Police Service Commission.
The Bill which is incredibly foresighted, has provisions for states that might lack the “resources” to establish theirs, or which due to “administrative or other challenges” is at certain points are unable to operate. In the event of such situations,upon the express request of the state governor,the Federal Police will provide security,until such a time it’s able to carry out the functions. Other key provisions are clear boundaries that prohibits the Federal Police Force from “interfering in the internal security of a state”, except for the investigation of crimes not exclusively assigned to another law enforcement agency, and the investigation of threats to National Security.
The other Bills are the Nigeria Police Service Commission Repeal and Reenactment) Bill,2020,which seeks to repeal the Police Service Commission Act 2001,and enact in its place the Nigeria Police Service Commission,that will exercise disciplinary control over “any person holding office in the Nigeria Police Force”, “formulate and implement policies aimed at the efficiency and discipline to the Nigeria Police Force”. There is also the State Police Service Commission (Establishment) Bill,2020,with very similar functions as those of the federal service commission. And lastly, is the Act To Alter The Nigeria Police Act 2020 To Amongst Other Provisions Establish An Operational Structure For The State Police Force In The 36 States Of The Federation And For Related Matters. The Bill essentially addresses issues not covered under the Nigeria Police Act 2020.
The fears of misuse of the community police, which has largely informed vehement opposition to its establishment, has been adequately addressed by the rigid regulatory standards and other safeguards to guide against abuse. Thankfully the #EndSARS protest against police brutality, though badly organized, and the subsequent institution of panels to investigate police brutality, are wake up calls that will further help check abuses.
Senator Uba Sani, has sufficiently demonstrated that the National Assembly is the critical institution, with the capacity for midwifing the restructuring Nigeria,with its legislative actions, that will devolve powers to the federating units,and not none state actors,who have been attempting to exercise powers that they don’t have, by sponsoring these Bills. It’s hoped that the four(4) bills, which have scaled the First Reading, would be expeditiously legislated by the National Assembly, and supported by at least 24 State Houses of Assembly, to become laws.
For other members of the National Assembly,who desire to write their names in gold, there are several other critical amendments,like the decentralization of the judiciary, Mines and Minerals, Registration of Business Names, Prisons, Stamp Duties, Railways, Fingerprints and Identification and Foods and Drugs, which the APC True Federalism Committee has done extensive work on for them to sponsor with little or no amendments.