The South-West governors and some senior lawyers on Wednesday condemned the exchange of words between the Lagos State Governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu and a police officer at Magodo Phase II on Tuesday.
The governors, in a statement by their Chairman and Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN, particularly took a swipe at the Inspector General of Police, Usman Baba and the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, SAN, over the deployment of police in Magodo.
The senior advocates of Nigeria and security experts in separate interviews with The PUNCH, berated the police, adding that the incident had further exposed Nigeria’s weak federalism.
But in a statement on Wednesday evening, the Office of the AGF faulted the allegation of impunity levelled against Malami by the South-West governors.
Many Nigerians were on Tuesday surprised when policemen led by a chief superintendent of police defied the directive of Sanwo-Olu to vacate Magodo estate.
The policemen had on December 21 accompanied some people who planned to demolish some houses in the estate as part of moves to execute a Supreme Court judgement.
Despite the intervention of Sanwo-Olu on December 21, the policemen refused to leave the estate.
On Tuesday, the matter came to a head when the governor visited the estate and the CSP refused to carry out his directive that policemen should be withdrawn from the area.
On Wednesday, the South-West governors, in the statement by Akeredolu, berated the Attorney General of the Federatio and the IGP over what they called “utter disrespect and gross moral turpitude.”
The governors, in the statement titled ‘Southwest Governors: Police officer’s disrespect to Sanwo-Olu an unacceptable intrusion,’ stated that they had received, with disdain, videos of a “disgraceful exchange between a police officer, a CSP, and the Governor of Lagos State, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the supposed chief security officer of the state at the Magodo Residential Estate.”
It said the utter disrespect, which underlined the response of the officer to the governor, established, beyond doubt, the impracticability of the current system, “dubiously christened federalism.
“An arrangement, which compels the governor of a state to seek clarifications on security issues in his jurisdiction from totally extraneous bodies or persons, is a sure recipe for anarchy.
“We condemn, in very clear terms, the role of the Attorney General of the Federation, Mr Abubakar Malami SAN, in this act of gross moral turpitude.”
The governors noted the political system in the country treated elected representatives of the people as “mere prefects while appointed office holders ride roughshod over them as lords of the Manor. ”
“If the purported chief security officers of the states of the federation require clearance from the office of the IG on matters within their areas of jurisdictions, only hypocrites will wonder why the current security crisis deepens and there appears to be no solution in the foreseeable future. ”
Defiance of Sanwo-Olu by policemen exposes Nigeria’s weak federalism – SANs
Also, SANs argued that the standoff between Sanwo-Olu, and the senior police officer was a clear evidence that Nigeria only practices federalism in theory.
Human rights activist, Mr Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa (SAN), said the incident was evidence that Nigeria was not practising true federalism.
He said, “It has thrown up the challenge on the pretence called the Federal Republic of Nigeria. We are not running a federation because matters like the command structure of police and other security agencies shows that we are running a unitary system of government as forced on us by the military.
“The reason the country is not developing is because of the centralisation of that benefit by the elite. When a governor of a state being elected by over 20 million people is totally castrated on security matters, it shows we are not running a federation. It also means his security detail can be withdrawn anytime.”
Adegboruwa added that the incident was a wakeup call to the National Assembly that had been claiming to be amending the constitution for the past one year.
Also speaking with The Punch, Yusuf Ali (SAN) said what transpired in Lagos had brought to the fore the need for devolution of power.
Ali said,” This is part of the reason people are asking for the devolution of power. The chief security title of the governor is absolutely theoretical because the police is a federal agency, this is part of federalism that needs to be addressed.
“The governors being security officers of their state should have total control of the security architecture of the state. This an area that must be looked into, it is like saying you have given me a space as the chief executive and I do not possess executive powers in certain areas.”
Another senior advocate, Robert Clark, said neither the Appeal nor the Supreme court could enforce judgment because they did not have Sheriffs, adding that sending police to the place was wrong.
He said what the Federal Government did was wrong, adding that it gave way to the question of powers of governors over police in his state.
“This makes everything meaningless, this should be looked into by the National assembly,” Clark said.
In his contribution, Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN) said the Nigeria Police Force belong to the federation and not the Federal government.
He said, “The police are created for the federation and not for the Federal Government whosoever contingent sent to a state should be responsible to the governor of that state. It is wrong and a misinterpretation of the constitution for the police to see themselves as exclusive to the Federal Government.
“That policeman was wrong to act like that towards the governor and he acted unlawfully. However, it is high time we questioned the kind of arrangement of policing we have in the country.”
He, however, said he was not surprised that Buhari was against state police.
Adedipe said,” I am not surprised if he rejects the idea of state policing, which is one of the ways out of insecurity. Even a committee headed by Governor Nasir El-rufai also recommended state policing. Unfortunately we do not have an active National Assembly.”
But Chief Yomi Aliyu (SAN) described the action of the Lagos State governor as contempt of court.
Aliyu said, “What the governor did is contemptuous of the court. He should not have been at the scene. He is a defendant and there is a Supreme Court order. Yes, there are arguments about restructuring and federalism but let us address the main issue. ”
A security expert, Chief Olalekan Ojo in a separate interview with one of our correspondents added that governors should not be addressed as Chief Security Officers of state as they have no control over security operatives.
Ojo, who is a certified golden member of the International Security Association Switzerland, said no security agency reports to any state government in Nigeria and wondered why governors should be described as chief security officers.
Another security expert, Nnamdi Chife, said the police officer was not answerable to the governor and should not be blamed for his actions.
Chife, however, maintained that such a state of affairs could be detrimental to the security of anay state.
He said, “The police officer was simply acting on behalf of the Inspector General of Police. He is not answerable to the governor, as the governor does not have the constitutional right to give instructions to the police. Of course it undermines security within the sub-national units of the country.
“It clearly suggests they (governors) are not in control. They are not in control of the security architecture of the state except on a collaborative basis,” Chife argued.
On its part, the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo described the action of policemen who disobeyed Sanwo-Olu as rude and unethical.
Ohanaeze spokesman, Chief Alex Ogbonnia, told The PUNCH said Nigerians needed to be schooled in the spirit of federalism.
He said Ohanaeze called for State Security formations to complement the federal police.
Ogbonnia stated, “For the avoidance of doubt, Ohanaeze Ndigbo condemns in its entirety the rudeness, unethical behaviour and erosion on jurisdictional authority displayed by the Nigeria police towards the Lagos State governor.”