Need for Citizen-focused Policing

0

The Network of Police Reform in Nigeria in conjunction with Youth Alive Foundation has  tasked the federal government to speedily assent to the Police Reform bill so as to provide a legal framework in engendering modern democratic policing that is citizen-focused and service-oriented, Sunday Ehigiator reports

Police brutality is a long standing problem in Nigeria but has in recent times assumed epidemic proportions. It is increasing in both frequency and in the number of citizens killed through torture or reckless misuse of firearms by police officers.

According to a press statement from Network of Police Reform in Nigeria (NOPRIN),  “Between June 4, 2018 when police in Abuja killed Linda Nkechi Igwetu; the female National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) member, just one day to her passing out, and April 13, 2019, when the police in Lagos again killed Ada Ifeanyi in the company of her male friend who was also shot by the same policeman who eventually fled and was declared wanted by the Lagos State Police Command; NOPRIN has documented no less than 27 cases of police extrajudicial killing of citizens. This figure does not include cases that may not have come to public attention.”

The outrage precipitated by the killing of Ada Ifeanyi, just about two weeks after the killing of Kolade Johnson in Lagos on March 31, 2019, prompted the IG, Adamu Mohammed to pay an unscheduled visit to Lagos State during which he addressed police officers in the state and warned them to refrain from abuse of power and misuse of firearms and promised to ensure that the killers are dismissed and charged to court.

The IG also outlined a number of measures, including psychological evaluation of police personnel, reduction in the period of time when officers would be on duty and the introduction of the use of non-lethal weapons during police encounters with citizens as means of checking incidents of police killings. But a lot still needs to be done legislatively if we really intend to curb this issue from the root.

Addressing journalists recently, NOPRIN National Coordinator, Okechukwu Nwanguma said the bill will address many of the challenges and deficits which make the police work force prone to violence and corruption and provide a basis to hold the police accountable. According to him, “the incessant raids on night clubs   and other public places by operatives of the police and some FCT agencies during which over 100 women were arrested, sexually abused, detained and charged before a kangaroo mobile court which imposed fines or prison terms on those who were forced to plead guilty, has elevated police excesses to an intolerable limit.

“Expectedly, public anger has boiled over amidst lack of public trust in the willingness or commitment by police authorities and police oversight agencies to take far reaching measures to ensure accountability, redress and justice and bring an end to police abuses and the corruption that feeds them. Public anger and outrage over the excesses of the police and their predatory approach to law enforcement should be directed towards demanding for genuine police reform. Citizens must mobilise and take actions to push the government to respond concretely and appropriately to end impunity and hold perpetrators to account.

“Many of these excesses continue because the Nigeria Police is still organised and regulated with an outdated colonial Police Act that has seen no comprehensive review since it was promulgated in 1934. Nigeria, at independence, inherited the institutions and culture of colonial police. Nearly two decades of uninterrupted military dictatorship cemented the colonial culture of violence, repression and corruption.

“Successive administrations under the current democratic dispensation have paid mere lip service to police reform by setting up successive committees on police reform but fail to implement the far reaching recommendations in the reports of the various government committees as well as civil society panel on police reform. A lot of the recommendations in the police reform reports form part of the provisions in the Police Bill.

“While we commend the civil society groups who came together and organised a march in Abuja in condemnation of, and protest against, discriminatory practices and violence against women by the police and agents of the FCT Minister, we call for the removal of the FCT Minister for ordering the despicable assault on the rights of women in the FCT. We demand the quick passage of the Police Reform Bill and more importantly, call on the president to demonstrate his oft-expressed commitment to police reform by assenting to the Bill when it is transmitted to him.

“We likewise call on the House of Representatives to fast track consideration of the Police Reform Bill and quickly transmit it to the president for assent, as its passage into law address many of the challenges and deficits which make the police work force prone to violence and corruption and provide a basis to hold the police accountable.”

In the same vein, Coordinator; Youth Alive Foundation (YAF), Mr. Chamberlain Etukudoh, added its voice to support NOPRIN stands through a press statement. According to him, “Youth Alive Foundation salutes the effort of NOPRIN and every other group that has contributed immensely to the Police Reforms campaign which has given birth to the bill. As a member of NOPRIN, our interest on the subject matter rest on the fact that youths are major victims of the atrocities of an unreformed Nigerian Police Force. As a youth organisation that works with and for youths in Nigeria, we know youth deserve better.

“Police corruption and brutality has directly increased youth crime and human right abuse. Youth in Nigeria have suffered from unlawful detention and extortion, Invasion of privacy, and irresponsible conduct by police officers. We still remember Kolade who was killed for committing no crime other than being a sport lover; such an avoidable death, this is a result of Police rascality and incompetence.

“Let’s also remember that to be a woman is not a crime and abuse against any woman is an abuse against society, we hereby condemn the Abuja raid on women. The police must be reformed to reflect the society we live in today, hence the importance of the police reforms bill. The reforms should boost youth confidence in the police force and improve the strained relationship between the police and the Nigerian youth. We fear that police brutality is increasing rather than decreasing by the day.

“Youth Alive Foundation joins her voice with other CSO’s on this coalition/network to call on President Muhammadu Buhari to grant assent to the Police Reforms Bill. We call on our president to save Nigerian youths by signing the bill.

“The police reform bill is positioned to address gender discrimination and human rights abuse, ensure funding for policing and police welfare, and arbitrary arrest/detention. Youth Alive Foundation will continue to work with NOPRIN and other civil society actors to ensure police accountability and ensure increased youth participation in the fight against corruption. Our Noshishi4bribe campaign will support the police reform bill by mobilising for collective youth action to ensure the bill is signed and youths are enlightened enough to be on the right side of the law and not have to offer bribe to police officers on duty. A better Nigeria starts from a reformed police  system.”