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, 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to a head when the governor visited the estate and the CSP refused to carry out his directive that policemen should be withdrawn from the area.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 Federation 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 on the issue, 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.