By Emmanuel Uffot
The Nigeria Police Force has been in the news in recent times, not because of bursting high profile armed robbers and criminal gangs, but for mowing down defenseless Nigerians in what has come to be known as extrajudicial killings.
Although cases of extrajudicial killings by personnel of the police force especially, has not been a new phenomenon in Nigeria. But the frequent occurrences in recent times both in Lagos and Abuja created concern among well meaning Nigerians and even the top hierarchy of the police.
Apart from the killing of a personnel of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps by Traffic policemen in Abuja for flouting traffic rules, the ones that really reverberated anger among Nigerians in General and Lagos residence in particular was the killing of 36 year old Kolade Johnson in a football viewing centre in Lagos by Inspector Ogunyemi Olalekan of the Anti-Cultism Unit of Lagos Police Command and 20 year old Ada Ifeanyi in the Apapa area of Lagos a week later by a trigger happy Inspector Dania Ojo now at large. Both incidences occurred after while an enraged officer of the Federal Special Anti Robbery Squad shot to death at point blank range an official of Lagos State Traffic Management Agency, LASTMA Rotimi Adeyemo for daring to accost him while driving one way in Iyana-Ipaja area in Lagos.
Sadly many cases of extrajudicial killings and brutality committed by the police have largely been linked to members of the Special Anti Robbery Squad, SARS and its Federal arm F-SARS. However the latest incidence has now midwife the Police Reform Bill mooted years ago but did not see the light of day until April 17, 2019 when the Senate hasten to passed it into law as part of the parting gift of the 8th Assembly that will wind up next month.
An Insight into the Police Reform Bill, approved single five-year tenure for Inspector General of Police and that the tenure of such an office will be statutory notwithstanding his or her retirement 2- year jail term of imprisonment. According to the Bill the appointment of an officer to the position of Inspector General of Police would be subject to confirmation by the Senate as it is for all service chiefs of the military, Chief Justice of Nigeria, Ambassadors, Heads of Statutory Commissions and Agencies.
The Bill prescribe two year jail term and a fine of one million Naira for a policeman found to have been involved in extrajudicial killings as well as two year jail or five million Naira fine for those impersonating a policeman or police officer. Again in the Bill is a provision approving internal disciplinary mechanisms for erring police officers involving in brutalizing or killing innocent citizens.
Similarly, the senate also passed the Bill for an Act to repeal the Police Act CAP P19 laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 and enact the Nigeria Police Act 2019, to provide for the framework for the Police Service and ensure cooperation and partnership between the Police and Communities in maintaining peace and combating crime and for related matters.
The Bill was sequel to the consideration of the report of the Police Affairs Committee on Police Reform Bill, 2019(SB.683) which was presented by the Chairman, Senator Tijjani Laura, Zamfara North. Under clause 7 of the bill which makes provisions and procedures for appointment and removal of Inspector General of Police ( IGP), the bill in Clause 7(4b) states that the Nigeria Police Council shall nominate three applicants from among the pool of applicants for the position of IGP to the President for appointment Clause 7(4c) of the bill states that the President shall appoint the Inspector – General from recommended applicants subject to the confirmation of the Senate. It said that for the removal of any IGP, clause 7(7c ) of the bill empowers the Nigerian Police Council to make a recommendation to that effect to the President of the country without Senate’s approval. The Nigerian Police Council as stated in clause 6(2) of the bill as the highest policy-making body in matters relating to the Police Force shall consist of the President as the Chairman, the Governor of each state of the federation, the Chairman of the Police Service Commission and the Inspector – General of Police. In the Bill The Name Nigeria Police ( NPF), is also retained in since according to the committee,’ Force’, is captured as part of the name of the crime-fighting agency in the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The Chairman of the Committee, Tijjani Kaura said the passed bill which contain 131 clauses, will change the face of the Police in the Country to be People Friendly one if eventually signed into law by the President. He said, “All the age-long draconian laws in the Police Act of 1943 have been removed to make the Police people friendly, efficient and more effective in crime detection and security service delivery. ”
Also contained in the Bill is a recommendation for constant training and welfare packages for men and officers of the Nigerian Police.: According to him, the area of welfare packages for operatives of the Nigeria Police Force, is captured in the provisions of the Police Trust Fund Bill that was also passed alongside the Police Reform Bill.
In the Police Trust Fund Bill, provisions like .05% from Nigeria’s gross income, .005% all profits made by companies in Nigeria is to be deployed to helping government to fund the Police very adequately for improved security services to Nigerians.
According to review by Abdul Mamud and Okey Nwanguma public affairs analysts
One of the key omissions from the current Act is a Code of Conduct that includes the prohibition of torture. The Bill contains a full Code of Conduct in line with the United Nation’s Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials. Article 5 of the Code of Conduct states that, “No law enforcement official may inflict, instigate or tolerate any act of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, nor may any law enforcement official invoke superior orders or exceptional circumstances such as a state of war or a threat of war, a threat to national security, internal political instability or any other public emergency as a justification of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
. The Bill incorporates the human rights provisions in the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), which were basically drawn from the Nigerian Constitution. In recognition of the demonstrable link between unlawful and arbitrary arrest and the torture and ill-treatment of detainees, the sections of the Bill relating to arrest are drafted to incorporate safeguards, including strict guidelines on what constitutes a warrant for arrest and judicial review that will prevent the misuse of this provision.
A Police Officer is not expected in a democratic nation-state to pull his gun while apprehending defenceless offenders of law, nor is he expected to push citizens into custodial black holes, without proper procedures or without entering records of arrest or detention of an apprehended offender.
The Nigerian Police Force is governed by a colonial law, which has seen no comprehensive review since its initial promulgation in 1943. Since 1999, following the return to democratic practices in Nigeria, several efforts have been undertaken to review the Police Act to provide a legal framework for the ongoing reform initiatives. The review started in November 2004 and was undertaken by an interagency committee comprised of police, government and civil society representatives.
The duo underscored the fact that the draft bill on Police Act and Reform had since been presented to the House of Representatives in 2005 and had been there till 2018.
They also noted the positive policy initiatives of the Bill having to do with community policing to guarantee the long-term sustainability of such programs and insulate them from the whimsical and capricious political leaders. “Perhaps the thorniest issue of the review is that of the political accountability of the police. Under the current Act, the Inspector General of Police is appointed and accountable to the President who has overall operational control of the force”.
“This is in line with existing constitutional provisions, but clearly compromises the independence of the police force, leaving it open to political manipulation by the executive arm. The new bill amends sections to grant the Police Council an advisory role in the appointment of an IGP by the President, set out procedure for removing an IGP and the grounds for such removal as well as give security of tenure to the IGP, this is necessary to extend accountability and promote accountable policing in Nigeria”.
Indeed aside the Bill what analysts and Nigerians are asking is how far the bill go restoring public confidence in the police.
Mahmud and Nwanguma proffers a way out “One manner of ensuring change of perception and imbuing public confidence in the operations of the Police Force is by ensuring proper and lawful arrests generally, without unnecessary restraints, conducting lawful searches of criminal suspects, examination of suspects, and detention of suspect in humane holding facilities, with their rights to bail secured. Second, modern policing cannot be complete without recourse to risk-averse strategies for reducing crime, understanding the re-offending records of ex-offenders and exposing potential risk re-offenders. All of this can only be possible in a legal framework that recognizes the place of Criminal Record Registry in law enforcement and in combating crimes”.
Amidst the recent cases of extrajudicial killings committed by police in Lagos, it could be recalled that the Lagoa State Commissioner of Police Zubairu Muazu took far reaching measures to curb the activities of tactical units like SARS, Ant-Kidnapping and Ant-Cultism Units in the State Command.
One of the measures was the return of these units to base and they were only to be deployed during distress calls which regular policemen could not handle. Members of SARS are also to undergo screening to fish out those who are fit and those found not fit are to be redeployed back to regular police duties. Similarly SARS operatives in the Command are to undergo fresh reorientation training on rules of engagements so also the regular police with a directive to all Area Commanders and Divisional Police Officer, DPO to paste police guidelines on use of fire arms on notice boards for the personnel to read.
The Acting Inspector General of Police Mohammed Adamu in a move to stem the tide of police excesses which is giving the Force a very bad name at a period he mounted the saddle as IGP, is equally upbeat about the ugly situation. Hence he read a riot Act to Commissioners of Police, Area Commanders and DPOs that they would henceforth be held accountable for any extrajudicial killings and brutality leveled against officers under their command
For now Nigerians are anxiously awaiting the assent of the Police Reform Bill and its accompanying Police Trust Fund to see how far its implementation would on one hand change the excesses of personnel of the police, give them a good image and restore public confidence in them.