FG’s Executive Order 10 will destroy criminal justice – Wike

By Mike Odiegwu, Port Harcourt

Rivers Governor Nyesom Wike has warned move by the Federal Government to implement its Executive Order 10 will destroy the criminal justice system in states.

Wike said the order, which allows the deduction of funds from each state’s account to finance the judiciary, was politically motivated and geared towards the 2023 general election.

A statement by Wike’s Special Assistant, Media, Kelvin Ebiri, said Wike spoke at the 3rd Annual Nigerian Criminal Law Review Conference organised by the Rule of Law Development Foundation in Abuja on Monday.

The Governor said ahead of the 2023 general elections, the Federal Government, which he said had been hostile to judges, wanted to lure the judiciary by presenting a body language it believed in independence of judiciary.

He said: “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 said the politicisation of security by the Federal Government had continued to negatively affect the criminal justice system in the country.

He said the prevailing cases of kidnapping, banditry and armed robbery threatening the existence and stability of the nation clearly justified the establishment of state or community police.

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He noted while establishment of state police might require amendment of the extant Section 214(1) of the 1999 Constitution, the Rivers State Government was of the opinion that community police or neighbourhood watch could be established without constitutional amendment.

Wike said: “The truth of the matter is that with the current strength of the Nigeria Police Force which stands at about 372,000 the Nigeria Police Force lacks the operational capacity to fulfill 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.

“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 establishment of State Police to provide complementary role to the Nigeria Police Force in crime detection, prevention, and maintenance of law and order.”

The Governor explained it was against the backdrop that Rivers enacted the Rivers State Neighbourhood Safety Corps Law, No. 8 of 2018 which established the Rivers state Neighbourhood Safety Corps Agency as a corporate body.

He said the agency was vested with powers to set up uniformed Neighbourhood Safety Corps in the 23 Local government Areas of the State and prescribe regulations guiding the operations of the corps and any other local government vigilant groups in the state.

He said following the law, his government began recruitment and training of members of the uninformed Neighbourhood Safety Corps at the NYSC orientation camp , Nonwa in Tai LGA, after obtaining all necessary approvals from the Nigerian Army and other relevant security agencies.

But he said the exercise was violently disrupted by the Nigerian Army, claiming it was illegal and unconstitutional.

Wike noted despite the recent ruling of a competent court of jurisdiction upholding the constitutionality of the Rivers state Neighbourhood Safety Corps, the Army had refused to allow it carry out its recruitment and training of personnel.

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 jeopardise.

“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”.

Wike emphasised the need for critical stakeholders in the criminal justice sector to rethink the system through reform designed to address current challenges.