The Nigeria Police Force (Establishment) Act 2020 was signed into law by President Buhari in September 2020 as a replacement for the antiquated 1943 Legislation we have been using since Independence.
While the Act contains many provisions that relate to the operations of the Police; there are a few interesting clauses in the Act that should be of special interest to Nigerians. This simply highlights very few of the many provisions.
1.The IGP must make provision for the mental & psychological wellbeing of officers
Mental health is a big problem in Nigeria as a whole; but Section 9(e) of the Act makes it mandatory for the IGP to make sure the mental & psychological needs of police officers are catered for.
2.Retired officers can be re-engaged
The IGP can according to Section 9(6) re-engage retired police officers for up to four years of additional service. This could help plug the shortfall in some specialist areas where there is chronic shortage of skilled manpower.
3. Specialised unit for private guard duties now possible.
Sections 21-25 of the Act relates to the recruitment and management of Supernumerary police officers. These are officers recruited (employed in excess of normal police manpower count) to guard private or public buildings or individuals. They will not be part of the normal headcount as they are employed solely for the purpose of providing security for a place or persons who will pay their full salaries and entitlements as well as related specified costs. This should free up regular police officers.
4.Ban on use of stereotypes to create reasonable suspicion
Section 54 makes it unlawful for police officers to create reasonable suspicion to search or detain individuals on the basis of manner of dress, hairstyle, tattoos etc.
5.Every police division must have a lawyer
Section 68(3) of the Act makes it mandatory that every police division must have at least one police officer who is qualified to practice Law and who will also be responsible for the promotion of human rights compliance amongst officers.
6.Citizens can be instructed to execute a warrant of arrest
Section 76 of the Act says that if a police officer is not available and a warrant needs to be executed immediately; a court can direct any person to execute the warrant. The practicality of this is however not clear because the Act did not say what will happen if a member of the public refuses.
7.Officers not allowed to be financially indebted to anyone
According to Section 93; It is now unlawful for a serving police officer to be in any financial debt. Creditors can now apply for attachment of earnings that will make the debt to be deducted directly from the monthly salary of such officer (up to 30% of total salary) until the debt if paid in full.
8.Officers not allowed any private business
Serving officers are not allowed to engage in any form of business other than farming according to Section 95 of the Act.
9.It is now an offence to fail to help a police officer
If a police officer after being assaulted asked for your help and you fail to provide it; it is now an offence under Section 99 of the Act. This is punishable by three months Jail or N100K fine. There is need for public education and sensitisation about this provision.
10.It is an offence to give drugs, alcohol to police officers whilst on duty.
Section 100 makes it unlawful for anyone to give any intoxicating substance to a police officer or even allow such an officer to remain in your house after taking such substance. This is punishable by a minimum fine of N50k. A major public enlightenment is needed to inform Nigerians of this provision.
11.Police are now able to disobey unlawful orders from superior officers
Section 138 of the Act gives an officer the right to refuse to obey an order from a senior officer if he has a reasonable ground to believe the order in unlawful. This is a welcome development as police officers can no longer say “I was simply obeying orders” to perpetrate illegalities.
There are many other innovative provisions in this Act but these are some of my interesting takeaways.
I will advise Nigerians to familiarise themselves with this new Act as there are provisions that affect us all. I hope you have learned something new about this new Act. There are many innovative provisions in the Act that relate to the internal operations of the police.
I have merely focused on a few of the provisions that are more public –centric but there are plenty more in the Act.
Eternal vigilance is the price we must all pay for our democracy to progress.