Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike has cautioned the federal government against the implementation of Executive Order 10, which he says will destroy the criminal justice system in states.
According to the governor, the Executive Order 10 of the federal government, which permits the deduction of funds from each state’s account to finance the judiciary, is politically motivated and geared towards the 2023 general election.
Governor Wike stated this on Monday in his keynote address at the 3rd Annual Nigerian Criminal Law Review Conference noted that ahead of the 2023 general election, the federal government which had hitherto been hostile to judges, suddenly now wants to lure the judiciary into the assumption that he believes in the independence of the judiciary by enacting Executive Order 10.
The governor in a statement issued by his Special Assistant on Media, Kelvin Ebiri noted that “independence is not to take resources and preside over award of contract. If you cannot give judgment according to your conscience; if you cannot give judgment according to the law, then there is no independence. And this, of course, affects the criminal justice system.”
Wike also pointed out that politicisation of the issue of security by the federal government has continued to negatively affect the criminal justice system in the country.
He said the prevailing cases of kidnapping, banditry and armed robbery which threatens the very existence and stability of the nation clearly justifies the establishment of State or Community Police.
Wike remarked as well that while the establishment of state police may require amendment of the extant Section 214(1) of the 1999 Constitution to provide State, the Rivers State Government is of the opinion that community police or Neighbourhood Watch could be established without a constitutional amendment.
“The truth of the matter is that with the current strength of the Nigeria Police Force which stands at about 372,000 (Three Hundred and Seventy-Two Thousand), the Nigeria Police Force lacks the operational capacity to fulfil its primary or core mandate of crime detection, crime prevention and maintenance of public safety, law and order or protection of lives and property of persons in Nigeria.”
In his word, “To put it plainly, the Nigeria Police lacks the operational capacity to police the nation which is a federation of about 923.768km (356.669 sqm) with an estimated population of 195.9 million. It is this stark reality that informs call for the establishment of State Police to provide a complementary role to the Nigeria Police Force in crime detection, prevention, and maintenance of law and order.”
He explained that it was against this background that the Rivers State Government enacted the Rivers State Neighbourhood Safety Corps Law, No. 8of 2018 which establishes the Rivers State Neighbourhood Safety Corps Agency.
In furtherance of this law, he stated that recruitment and training of members of the uninformed Neighbourhood Safety Corps commenced after obtaining all necessary approvals from the Nigerian Army and other relevant security agencies. But, unfortunately, the exercise was violently disrupted by the Nigerian Army, claiming it was illegal and unconstitutional.
Governor Wike lamented that despite a competent court of jurisdiction recent ruling that upheld the constitutionality of the Rivers State Neighbourhood Safety Corps, the army has refused to allow it to carry out its recruitment and training of personnel.
Drilling down his argument, he said, “The point being made here is that as long as the federal government continues to politicise issues of security whether national or local, so long shall our criminal justice system remain seriously jeopardize. The suzerain power exercisable by the federal government over matters of security is made manifest by the irregular postings of Commissioners of Police to the Rivers State Police Command.”