By Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani)
In Port-Harcourt, on the 25th of September 2020:
The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) will like to use this medium to comment on some developments in Nigeria’s criminal justice sector specifically the Nigerian Police, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency and the Federal High Court. Recent happenings have created a mixed feeling for us at CISLAC. While some are positive and we are happy about them, others are regrettably negative and we condemn them in totality.
Ladies and gentlemen, please permit me to highlight these issues:
- The Police Act 2020
CISLAC would like to commend the National Assembly and the President for signing into law the Nigeria Police Bill, 2020. The newly passed Act which repeals the Police Act Cap. P19, Laws of the Federation, 2004, is a step in the right direction as it seeks to provide a more effective and well organized Police Force. The importance of enhancing the effectiveness of the police, especially in current times, cannot be over-emphasized. Over the years, CISLAC, along with other CSO partners, have been advocating for the passing of this police bill and we perceive this development to be in response to persistent calls by citizens to reorganize the police force for efficiency.
Specific features of the Act which we commend include:
- The streamlining ofthe operations of the Nigeria Police with the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015. This specifically highlighted the provisions bordering on respect of human rights when arresting suspects, keeping records of arrest at federal and state levels, clear grounds of arrest.
- The Act further seeks to strengthen the independence of the office of the Inspector General of Police by making provision for a four-year tenure for the occupant of the office.
- By virtue of this Act, the Police Complaint Response Unit (CRU) have been given legal backing as against the Force Order where it previously derived its powers from. It also goes further to ensure the presence of the Unit across the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory while giving them the mandate to handle complaints against police officers and monitor the progress of investigations by the police on these cases.
- The Act clearly makes provision for community policing, a key model that had been advocated for by CISLAC and other key stakeholders. This is further encouraged by the Act through the creation of Community Policing Committees at state and divisional levels. The committees are charged with the duty of maintaining partnership, cooperation between the police and the community, promoting communication, transparencyand accountability.
- This Act also seeks to cater for the welfare of police officers, an area which has been overlooked by policy makers. This is done through the creation of the Police Reward Fund which seeks to reward members of the police who have exhibited acts of exemplary services, payment to widows and children of deceased members of the police force as well as taking care of funeral expenses.
It is our belief that this Act will help to tackle various challenges that we have been experiencing within our criminal justice sector.
- Human Rights Abuses
As you all know, the COVID-19 pandemic forced certain changes to occur within different aspects of life and the government took a variety of measures to control the spread of the COVID-19 virus, including restrictions on movement enforced by law enforcement agencies. Although inter-agency cooperation between the police and other institutions have increased, enforcement of the lockdown also amplified existing challenges around human rights abuses and bureaucratic corruption within these state institutions. A good example of this was displayed in April this year, when the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) stated in its report that security agents had killed 18 people in the first two weeks of the lockdown.
CISLAC strongly condemns the extra judicial killings by security operatives, most recently the killing of twenty-year old Chibuike Dominic Daniel who was allegedly shot by rogue police officers. We find this trend disturbing. For example, in it’s Mass Atrocities report for 2019, Global Rights Nigeria pointed out that there were 27 reported cases of extra judicial killings by state actors in 2019. We understand that four police officers attached to the Rivers State command have been arrested in relation to this and we are fully aware that they are innocent by the law, until proven guilty. We, therefore, strongly call on the Police to thoroughly investigate this sad incident and ensure that justice is timely served because justice delayed is justice denied. We are convinced that if citizens constantly report incidents of misconduct by law enforcement officials through the appropriate channels and these agencies act on these complaints to its final conclusion, cases of misconducts will greatly reduced.
- National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA)
CISLAC would like to commend the government over its approval of N1.1bn for the infrastructural development of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA). Over the years, the NDLEA has had limited access to resources which has served as a serious impediment in carrying out their duties. While we appreciate the government for this approval, we call on the government to ensure transparency and accountability in the implementation. We further call on the government to avail NDLEA with the resources needed to eliminate drug abuse in Nigeria which is an overlooked area that is getting worse by the day. We also call on the NDLEA to ensure transparency and accountability in its recruitment process.
- Judicial Transparency
As the popular saying goes, the judiciary is the hope for the common man. CISLAC would like to call on the judiciary to ensure justice, equity and respect for the rule of law in the discharge of its duties. We would also like the National Judicial Council (NJC) to ensure transparency in its appointment of judges and shun nepotism/favouritism in this process. Earlier this year there was controversy when nine of the 33 judges recommended for appointment by the NJC were either children or relatives of current or retired Justices of the Supreme or Appeal Courts.
In conclusion, while we are not ignorant of the challenges faced by criminal justice institutions, we call on these institutions, other law enforcement agencies and their oversight bodies to ensure that they uphold law and order in the discharge of their mandates, especially as it relates to the fight against drugs and organized crime in Nigeria.
God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria!
Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani)
Executive Director, CISLAC