By Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt
The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) has said the signing into law of the Nigeria Police Bill, 2020 seeks to provide a more effective and well organised police force in the country.
The civil society group also condemned the wave of extrajudicial killings in the country as exemplified by the killing of 20-year-old musician, Chibuike Dominic Daniel, by a policeman in Port Harcourt.
Speaking in Port Harcourt at a one-day stakeholders’ workshop on effective use of criminal justice complaint channels in Nigeria, the Executive Director of CISLAC, Auwal Ibrahim Musa, described the Nigeria Police Bill, 2020 as a step in the right direction as the importance of enhancing the effectiveness of the police, especially in current times, cannot be over-emphasised.
He listed some of the features of the Act that are encouraging to include the streamlining of the operations of the Nigeria Police with the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015, which 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.
Musa said the Act further seeks to strengthen the independence of the office of the Inspector General of Police (IG) by making provision for a four-year tenure for the occupant of the office, and also gives legal backing to the Police Complaint Response Unit (CRU) as against the former situation when the department only derived its existence from Force Order.
He said the Act also goes further to ensure the presence of the Unit across the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) while giving them the mandate to handle complaints against police officers and monitor the progress of investigations by the police on these cases.
He also expressed satisfaction that the law clearly makes provision for community policing, a key model that had been advocated 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, transparency and 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,” he said.
Musa lamented the increase in human rights abuses by security personnel, especially since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions on the populace.
“CISLAC strongly condemns the extrajudicial killings by security operatives, most recently the killing of 20-year-old Chibuike Dominic Daniel, who was allegedly shot by rogue police officers. We find this trend disturbing. For example, in its Mass Atrocities Report for 2019, Global Rights Nigeria pointed out that there were 27 reported cases of extrajudicial 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,” he said.
Musa stated that the workshop was organised as part of activities to implement the CRIMJUST project currently being implemented by CISLAC with support from the European Union and the US Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.
According to him, “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 reduce.”