There has been deep seated misunderstanding in the minds of State Governors in Nigeria who spare no time to address themselves as THE CHIEF SECURITY OFFICER OF THE STATE. The recent faceoff between Governor Sanwo Olu of Lagos State and a CSP of Police has further brought this to the fore. The question is; are the Governors right to adorning themselves in such garb? Or are they wallowing in misunderstanding and self deception? To properly understand the extent of the powers of the Governor in line with who is actually the CHIEF SECURITY OFFICER OF THE STATE, we need to take a closer look at the grund norm, the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 ( as amended).
Note, the focus of this piece is not to discuss the propriety/legality or otherwise of the judgment enforcement procedure adopted by the judgment creditors at Magodo Estate( I will discuss that in my next write up).
Section 5 Subsection (2), (3) and (4) of the Constitution provides for the executive powers of the Governor. For emphasis, same shall be reproduced anon. It states;
“ Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, the executive powers of a State-
(a) shall be vested in the Governor of that State and may, subject as aforesaid and to the provisions of any Law made by a House of Assembly, be exercised by him either directly or through the Deputy Governor and Commissioners of the Government of that State or officers in the public service o the State; and
(b) shall extend to the execution and maintenance of this Constitution, all laws made by the House of Assembly of the State and to all matters with respect to which the House of Assembly has for the time being power to make laws.
(3) The executive powers vested in a State under subsection (2) of this section shall be so exercised as not to-
(a) impede or prejudice the exercise of the executive powers of the Federation;
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(b) endanger any asset or investment of the Government of the Federation in that State; or
(c) endanger the continuance of a Federal Government in Nigeria.”
From the clear unambiguous wordings of the law, the Governor is to exercise EXECUTIVE Powers of the State, . He is nowhere designated as a CHIEF SECURITY OFFICER. The law is settled beyond peradventure that where the wordings of the law is clear, direct and unambiguous, it should be given the ordinary meaning. See COTENA INTERNATIONAL LTD VS IVORY MERCHANT BANK LTD.
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Now, one may ask, if the Governor is not the CHIEF SECURITY OFFICER, who then is? The answer to this can also be sourced from the Constitution itself. Section 15( 1) to 5 created the office of the Inspector General of Police, Commissioners of Police and their command structure. The law provides thus:
“ There shall be –
(a) an Inspector-General of Police who, subject to section 216(2) of this Constitution shall be appointed by the President on the advice of the Nigeria Police Council from among serving members of the Nigeria Police Force;
(b) a Commissioner of Police for each state of the Federation who shall be appointed by the Police Service Commission.
(2) 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.
(3) The President or such other Minister of the Government of the Federation as he may authorise in that behalf may give to the Inspector-General of Police such lawful directions with respect to the maintenance and securing of public safety and public order as he may consider necessary, and the Inspector-General of Police shall comply with those direction or cause them to be compiled with.
(4) Subject to the provisions of this section, the Governor of a State or such Commissioner of the Government of the 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: Provided that before carrying out any such directions under the foregoing provisions of this subsection the Commissioner of Police may request that the matter be referred to the President or such Minister of the Government of the Federation as may be authorised in that behalf by the President for his directions.
(5) The question whether any, and if so what, directions have been given under this section shall not be inquired into in any court.”
The proviso in subsection 4 above, goes to strip the Governor of security powers. It is my submission from the tenor of the above Constitutional provision that the Commissioner of Police in charge of the State Command is the CHIEF SECURITY OFFICER of the State. He is not controlled by the Governor, rather by the Inspector General of Police, The President either directly or through the relevant Minister of Government. It is therefore a mere illusion or imaginary thought for a Governor to refer himself as CHIEF SECURITY OFFICER of the State. He is not. It’s the Commissioner of Police.
It is to be borne in mind that the Commissioner of Police is not an appointee of the Governor. The Commissioner of Police is deployed in the state to maintain the security architecture of the State. He does not report to the Governor. It was this knowledge that boosted the confidence of the CSP who challenged Governor Sanwo Olu of Lagos State recently. The gallant officer who rightly refused to disclose the details of his security operations at that material time to the Governor. (The CSP may have had a good lagh in his mind when the Governor said he is the Chief Security Officer of the State).
My take is that rather than crave for bogus titles, the Governors should focus on utilizing their executive powers to deliver good governance to the people and allow those designated and trained in security matters to do their job. The situation was deliberately made so by the organic law. It will remain so till the Constitution is amended in that behalf.