An analysis of the Nigeria Police Force Act 2020 – By Muna Ugochukwu

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SB 181: Police Act (Amendment) Bill, 2019

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By Muna Ugochukwu

SUMMARY

Bill type: Senate Bill

Sponsored by Sen. Haliru Dauda Jika

Explanatory Memorandum

The Bill seeks to repeal the Police Act Cap. P19 Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 2004 and enact the Nigeria Police Act, 2020, to provide for a more effective and well-organized Police Force driven by the principles of transparency and accountability in its operations and management of its resources.

The Bill also seeks to establish an appropriate funding framework for the Police in line with what is obtainable in other Federal Government key institutions in the bid to ensure that all police formations nationwide are appropriately funded for effective policing.

The Bill further seeks to:

  1. Enhance professionalism in the Police Force through the provision of increased training opportunities for police officers and other persons employed by the Police Force; and
  2. Create an enduring cooperation and partnership between the Police Force and communities in maintaining peace and combatting crimes nationwide.

First Reading: 20/11/2019

Second Reading: 13/02/2020

Committee Referred to: Committee of Police Affairs

Date Reported out of Committee: 09/06/2020

Third reading: 07/07/2020

Status: Passed and Enacted on 7th July, 2020 and 24th September, 2020, respectively

 

INTRODUCTION

Despite decades of police assistance and the recent introduction of reform plans, Nigeria’s public police remain notoriously brutal and corrupt. Studies show that based on developments in the Nigeria Police since 2005, reforms can make a normative and organisational difference in the Nigerian police, but in the absence of fundamental socio-political change, its effects tend to be superficial, localised and temporary.

Since Nigeria’s transition to democratic rule in 1999, the police have set and reset different number of reforms in what has become a popular parlance among Nigeria’s policy makers. However, most of these reforms have been alleged to only represent the interests of the government of the day rather than that of the general public. An interrogation of the various reformation initiatives by the various police administrations largely substantiates this, viz: the six-point agenda of IGP Musiliu Smith aimed at redeeming the “lost glory” of the police as well as improving the welfare of the officers; the eight-point agenda of IGP Tafa Balogun, popularized by the slogan “Fire for Fire” in response to the growing police insecurity; the 10-point agenda of ex-IGP Mike Ehindero, “To serve and protect with integrity” with prime attention paid to police accountability and capacity building; Ex-IGP’s Mike Okiro’s nine-point agenda in 2007; and IGP Ogbonna Onovo’s three-point agenda in 2009.

Prior to the enactment of the new Act, the previous Act was plagued with a myriad of problems, including but not limited to: Insufficient articulation of the mission of the Police Force; Scattered provisions in different Acts and no composite legislation like the UK Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE); Too much discretionary powers to the Police; Ineffective and inefficient organizational processes; Insufficient political democratic accountability; and inadequate protection of civil rights and liberties.

The review of the new Nigerian Police Act got support from different quarters, like civil society organisations working on Police Reform, some legislators and the international community. The Law, by its enactment on the 24th of September, repealed the Police Act Cap. P19, 2004, to provide a framework for the police and ensure cooperation and partnership between the Police Force and communities in maintaining peace, protecting liberties, life and property; and for related matters. The Bill as passed, has 143 sections in 17 parts and is primarily aimed at providing for a more efficient and effective police service that is based on the principles of accountability and transparency; and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The Act upholds the promotion of human rights as its core responsibility as provided as the general objectives in Section 1 under which respects for the rights of both criminals and the victims of the crimes are central to operation of Nigeria’s police.

Pros

Section 66(3) however provides that every police division must have at least one police officer, who is a legal practitioner, assigned to it. It envisages that if every police division has a lawyer assigned there, before any Investigative Police Officer (IPO) drops a charge and goes to file it, the lawyer must give his verdict and this increases the chances of success for every charge that goes to court.

The Act promotes transparency and accountability whose primacy is seen in the provisions of section 8 (2) (c) and 8 (3) where the Inspector General of Police is mandated to publish via gazette and submit an audit (which shall show the activities of the police in terms of its professional efficacy and compliance with rule of law) to the Attorney General of the Federation and the National Assembly yearly.

In consonance with public demands, Section 4(h) of the Act adopts community partnership in combating crime, together with sections 113 to 119 which provide for the establishment of community policing. The Act establishes a Community Police Committee to ensure the operation of community partnership in prevention and detection of crime and its objectives include maintaining a partnership between the community and the Police Force. This gives the State Executive Council and members of the Communities a stake and voice in their state security affairs.

While Section 7 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 prohibits arrest in lieu of suspect, it was common practice for the police to arrest a relative or associate in the absence of the wanted person. Commendably, Section 36 (a) of the new Act outrightly prohibits arrest by proxy but its applicability is yet to be tested. Also, the Act prohibits arrest for civil wrongs like breach of contracts and debt recovery.

Towards the promotion of accountability and transparency, the Act mandates the IGP/Commissioners of Police to quarterly report the number of arrests (with or without warrants) made to the Attorney General of the Federation/the Attorneys-General of the States and State Governors. The latter are enjoined to keep electronic and manual database of all arrested persons and further mandated to make available such records of such reports to Civil liberty organizations, National Human Rights Commissions, Legal Aid Council and other NGOs on request.

Section 138(1) of the Act is in consonance with principles of International Policing by granting junior officers grounds to disobey unlawful orders by their superiors. Furthermore, it prohibits gender discrimination of any form.

Cons

A key area of contention in the Act is the power of prosecution. Section 66(2) of the Act provides that, “A police officer may, subject to the provisions of the relevant criminal procedure laws in force at the federal and state level, prosecute before the courts those offences, which non-qualified legal practitioners can prosecute.” It is instructive to firstly note that there are no offences that non-qualified legal practitioners can prosecute. Section 106 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) states clearly that prosecution of all offences in any court shall be undertaken only by the following persons; Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), the law officer in the office of the ministry of justice or department, a legal practitioner authorized by the AGF, a legal practitioner authorized to persecute by this Act or any other Act or National Assembly. The Act, which is subject to the provisions of the relevant criminal procedure laws in force in the FCT, must definitely have recourse to the extant laws that guide prosecution in our courts (ACJA in the federal courts and the ACJL in the state courts as the case may be) and neither grants prosecutorial powers to the police.

Paragraph 30, Part 1 of the Third Schedule to the 1999 Constitution “which empowers the Police Service Commission to appoint persons into offices in the Nigeria Police Force except for the Office of the Inspector-General of Police,” is breached by the Act and the ruling by the Court of Appeal that the Police Act 2020 is unconstitutional, is predicated upon this. This, together with the recent sustained agitations by Nigerian youths for Police reform, may necessitate an urgent amendment of the new Act.

Quite worrisome, the Act lacks an appropriate funding framework for the Police Force in line with what is obtainable in other Federal Government institutions and earnestly requires a mandatory policing plan to be drawn up annually and tied to expenditures in the bid to ensure that all police formations nationwide are appropriately funded for effective policing. Proper keeping of records, and compliance with statutory rules on accounting and audit just as is obtainable with other public institutions is also non-negotiable.

Conclusion

Commendably, this Act largely accommodates the wide opinions and sentiments of the public. It is, however, worthy of note that being an integral part of a nation’s security architecture and the frontline provider of security to citizens, it is pertinent that the Police Act is brought in conformity with best practices and modern-day standards and for a change, ensure it is truly and effectively implemented.

The post AN ANALYSIS OF THE NIGERIA POLICE FORCE ACT 2020 appeared first on CISLAC Nigeria | Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre.

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