State Police From Eyes Of LASTMA | Independent Newspapers Limited
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State Police From Eyes Of LASTMA

LASTMA officials
Posted: Apr 11, 2016 at 3:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Chukwudi Nweje


The Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA), despite some of its perceived excesses, has become the yardstick to measure the workability of state police, whose agitation is growing by the day.

Both Section 215 (2) of the 1999 Constitution as amended and Section 6 of the Nigerian Police Act 2010, state that: the Nigeria Police Force “shall be under the command of the Inspector-General of Police and contingents of the Nigeria Police Force stationed in a state shall, subject to the authority of the Inspector-General of Police, be under the command of the Commissioner of Police of that state.”

The implication is that the governor of a state has no control over the police, which is the primary security and law enforcement agency in the country.

Advocates of state police, argue that one of the major challenges to policing and crime prevention in Nigeria is the central command of the police from the federal level.

They advocate establishment of state police that will give state governors, who are the chief security officers of their respective states command of the police.

However, those opposed to State Police believe that such outfits would be susceptible to abuses by the state governors.

But, speaking recently at the 6th Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) Annual Lecture with the theme ‘State Road Traffic Management Efforts: the LASTMA’s Experience’, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode, Governor of Lagos State, said that Lagos state’s experience and success with LASTMA, is a sign that state police would succeed.

LASTMA is an agency under the ministry of transport, established in the year 2000 to transform the state’s transport system to ensure free flow of traffic in the state and also reduce road accidents.

However, the agency has done more than traffic management. It has done well in curbing the menace of reckless drivers and punishment for traffic offenders.

Indeed, LASTMA has in some cases exhibited courage in instances where the police may have been cowed.  For instance, in October 2015 during the agency’s ‘Operation Stand Strong’, aimed at sanitising the roads, LASTMA officers arrested and cautioned 10 military drivers for using the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) lane. However, the agency is also known to have physically assaulted motorists who resisted arrest after allegedly committed traffic offences.

According to Governor Ambode, who was represented at the event by Mr Tunji Bello, the Secretary to the State Government noted: “Our LASTMA experience in Lagos has demonstrated one thing, the need to extend it to the creation of State Police. What Lagos State has demonstrated with LASTMA is that we should have no fear if the police is locally domesticated. We will only promote efficient enforcement machinery,” he said.

In 2013, Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State had described the state governors’ chief security officer apparel as ‘merely honorary’ at a lecture entitled: ‘The Police Issue in Federal Nigeria: A Shoe-wearer’s Perspective’, which he delivered at the Department of Political Science, University of Ibadan.

He had noted that; “They merely wear that title like an honorary chieftaincy title. Yet, the governors, who have been deemed, fit to be entrusted with securing their states by the electorate, deserve to have the powers and facilities to meet the expectations of the electorate on the security of lives and property.”

Mr. Okechukwu Nwanguma, National Coordinator, Network on Police Reforms in Nigeria (NOPRIN) supports the establishment of State Police and advocated the establishment of mechanisms that would ensure effective oversight and democratic control of the state police, even as they will exist side by side with the federal police.

“State Police is inevitable in Nigeria. With state agencies like LASTMA, it is obvious that state police is already operational but not officially adopted at the national level. Of course, state police can and should exist side by side with federal police.

“What is crucial in both is to put in place mechanisms to ensure effective oversight and democratic control. The police should be insulated from partisan control and abuse by federal or state authorities, but should function with reasonable levels of autonomy, impartiality, professionalism and accountability.

“The police in a democratic society should be accountable to multiple constituencies, including the law, the executive and to the people through elected representatives” he said.

Mr. Debo Adeniran, Executive Director of Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL) also supports establishment of state police.

He noted that state police will enhance crime fighting because the personnel of the outfit will be indigenous to the state and therefore know the terrain.

He however pointed out that just as these personnel will know the terrain, the criminal elements will know them and could target their families.