Is Nigeria Police Truly Our FRIEND and HELPER?

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    Tomi Ajayi (Mrs) Legal Practitioner

    There have always been public criticisms over the conduct of the Nigeria Police. Majority of Nigerians are simply infuriated with the Police obviously because of their high-handed and oppressive manner of approach and attitude which most times ‘go against justice’.
    Take it any way you please; the general belief is that the Police are not doing enough to apprehend offenders, preserve law and order and protect life and property.

    It is a known fact that in some police stations,complainants are still expected to pay for logistics and mobilization. A complainant is expected to ‘drop something’ for the officers to get his petition treated and even to arraign suspects in court. So, what is the focus of policing? Should policing be monetised? When are we going to be ripe for a caring police? How well is the Police responding to distress calls, the complaint boxes, emails and text messages? Do they genuinely follow up complaints? Are DPOs having regular meetings with the community representatives devoid of extortion? How effective are the police human rights desks? Is the police institution embracing technology? How effective is the e-policing program? Are subscribers truly receiving police email newsletters, crime trends and other important information as expected? Are there statistics to show Nigerians are responding to the online Police Security Profiling form? How strong is their extent of surveillance, information, and their intelligence tools? Shouldn’t there be CCTV cameras somewhere around the police complaints desk to monitor how policemen relate with complainants and suspects? If the Police most definitely want us to repose confidence in them, they must keep to their mantra which is still ‘the Police is your friend’, or the extension by the authorities: ‘Police is also your helper’.

    General Complaints against the Nigeria Police
    There are almost too many complaints to enumerate but the truth is Nigerians want the following issues to be tackled; surely they have accused the Police of failing to own up to these which has led to perversion of justice:
    1. Poor commitment to duty
    2. The monetisation of Police bail.
    3. Illegal road-blocks and checkpoints
    4. Unlawful, arbitrary and indiscriminate arrests
    5. Controversy over Police methods of search
    6. Cruel treatment of suspects and putting pressure on suspects to confess to crimes, while suspects accuse the police of forcing them into making false confessions after hours of torturous interrogation.
    7. Disregard for the knowledge of the laws and the six attributes of a police officer as provided under Section 340 of the Police Act.
    8. Deliberate dishonesty and corruption allegedly exhibited in various ways. For example, the officers in the Police and RRS patrol vans are known to collect ‘daily allowie’ from the Okada/tricycle/bus drivers in their different parks and these transport operators keep a register of such daily transactions!
    9.Granted, there are times when police officers have to be armed, especially when confronted equally by armed criminals, but is it necessary for them to terrorise and strut around with guns to deal with say, a drunken man who refuses to leave a beer parlour or when they seize commercial bikes from Okada riders?
    10. How Police treat innocent and unarmed protesters.

    These long-standing issues are affecting Nigerians. The attempts to address these problems over the last few years have had insufficient impact. Now, what will bring about the sustained improvement we so desperately need or can a police watchdog step in? The authorities have told us that the Nigeria Police would not only be a friend but more like a helper. It then becomes necessary for the Police to ponder over these questions: What is the public perception of Police? How should the Police conduct themselves? Have they done much in crime-fighting and finally, how can the Police restore trust? If these questions are duly examined, there will be a commitment to duty and enhancement of professionalism in the discharge of their duties. After all, among other things, the IGP has promised to ensure that:

    1. Community policing partnerships and relationships are built with communities and that community becomes an integral component of our policing approach.

    2. Senior Police officers are held accountable for their actions and inactions.

    Duties of the Citizen
    Citizens equally have a responsibility in ensuring that Police become up and doing. Even if we do not want to mount legal challenges to curtail their excesses, there is nothing wrong in raising the alarm and writing petitions against erring officers to the appropriate channels of redress. Of course, citizens can query and the channels of redress must respond. We cannot afford to give up and say because there are corrupt policemen we should keep quiet and leave it for God to help. That is not the spirit. Section 24 (c) and (d) of the 1999 constitution states that it shall be the duty of every citizen of Nigeria to make positive and useful contributions to the advancement, progress and well-being of the community where he resides; AND citizens should equally render assistance to appropriate and lawful agencies in the maintenance of law and order. By positive contribution, you should know it is an offence to entertain, sell, or give any intoxicating liquor to any police constable on duty; and that you can voice out your grievance if a police officer’s interest is in conflict with his public duties.

    However, it is also important for people to treat Police officers of all ranks with due respect and human dignity, not with contempt and disregard. Do we treat them as enemies of Nigeria? Do we treat them as object of ridicule and with the mind-set that ‘every police officer is a thief? If they are operating under the normal parameters of their powers, are we patient with them or do we spread wrong information about them? Do we also make effort to get informed about police activities on radio, television, newspapers and online sources?

    With last year’s launch of the Nigeria Police Force Human Rights Practice Manual, “geared towards the resolve to expose all personnel of the Police to practical and theoretical aspects of human rights based approaches to policing in conformity with global best practices”, it is hoped the police will turn out for the better and deploy technology where necessary. From the desk of the Force Public Relations Office in Abuja available on www.npf.gov.ng, it is stated that “The Police High Command is avowedly resolved to not only protect human rights but also do all that is humanly possible within the confines of established constitutional means to ensure these rights remain inviolable as enshrined in the 1999 constitution and in conformity with the ECOWAS, AU and the UNDHR. The Code of Conduct for Law enforcement officials which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 34/169 of 1979 is also worthy of a second look.

    Citizens will do well to remember the constitutional provision which says that if a person is unlawfully arrested or detained, he is entitled to seek redress in court and demand compensation and public apology from the appropriate authorities. There are, however, exceptions; notwithstanding, the Police should endeavour to earn public trust if they want us to like them. They must not lose sight of Section 338 of the Police Act which says: Every Police officer is required to use his best endeavours to uphold the good name of the Force, and to further good relations with the public.

    ‘Tomi Ajayi (Mrs)
    Legal Practitioner

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