By Udora Orizu
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, has said the House will collaborate with the national leadership of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) on the proposed law it is working on to address police brutality and other issues.
The House had last week passed some resolutions to address the issue of police brutality against Nigerians, one of which is to amend the constitution and come up with other legislation to curb the excesses of the police.
Speaking during a courtesy call by the NBA leadership in his office yesterday, Gbajabiamila said the provision of Section 215 (5) almost gives the police absolute immunity against their excesses, hence the need to amend that section.
The Speaker, who said the House could not do it alone, sought the support of the NBA to achieve its set goal on addressing police brutality.
He said: ‘’I want to use this opportunity to congratulate Nigerians out there, who have been part of this struggle, and I want to appeal at the same time that we should apply the brake, perhaps, a little and see what will be done. In the House, before the protest, we made a statement; I made a statement on the floor of the House. We made far-reaching resolutions. We’ve been very proactive on this issue.”
“We’re determined to pursue the resolutions of the House forcefully.
“Our resolutions included that we discovered that Section 215 (5) almost gives absolute immunity to the police over what they do. So, for a start, we feel we should begin with amending the constitution and deleting that offensive section. I believe it was well-intended, but now that it’s obnoxious. From that, we can raise any other reforms to look at the complaints from the public, from the NBA, the civil societies among others.
“We’re waiting for the IG to send us the list of policemen that had complaints against them in the last five years. We’re also waiting for the list of the victims so that they can be compensated. We’re beginning the budget process, and we want to make sure that there’s a line item that would ensure they’re compensated. The resolutions also talked about police reform. We have already passed the Police Reform Act, but we need to do more. We need to look at the conditions of service among others too.’’
Earlier, the NBA President, Olumide Akpatta, told the Speaker that the visit was to discuss the issue of police brutality, and see how the contentious issues could be addressed.
He expressed delight that the House was already doing a lot on the matter, saying Nigerians were eager to see how the matter would be resolved.
“We at the NBA are resolute to collaborate with you on the issues,” he said.
The Speaker also announced that the House would raise an ad-hoc panel that would interface with the NBA on the issue of police brutality and others.
Akpatta also raised the issue of some Nigerians being detained at different police stations unnecessarily, calling on the Speaker to intervene.
In his response, Gbajabiamila asked the NBA president to identify all the police stations where the people were detained for the House to raise a delegation that would meet with the NBA and get them released.
Meanwhile, the Speaker also hosted the leadership of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) led by the Executive Secretary, Tony Ojukwu, where he raised the same issues relating to police brutality and what the House is doing about it. The Speaker also sought a partnership with the commission as part of efforts to find lasting solutions to human right abuses.
On his part, Ojukwu informed the Speaker that it was important to come up with an investigative panel that would consider the cases of human rights violations by the police and listen to victims of police brutality.