A Peep Into the New Police Reform Bill

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Udora Orizu writes that the House of Representatives has presented a draft of the much awaited police reform bill to stakeholders for their inputs

As part of efforts to reform the Nigeria Police Force, the House of Representatives on November 18 presented a draft copy of the Police Service Commission (Reform) Bill to stakeholders at a public dialogue for their input before the Bill is presented on the floor of the House.

The proposed legislation was sequel to the public outcry for the disbandment of the now defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) unit of the Nigeria police and a total reform of the police. The members of the House on October 7 resolved to work with the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) to draft new legislation within 30 days that will ensure erring officers of the police are accountable for their actions.

Titled, ‘A Bill for an Act to Repeal the Police Service Commission (establishment) Act, 2001 and to enact the Police Service Commission (reform) Act 2020, to make further provisions for the composition and management of the police service commission; its functions and powers; and for related matters’, the legislation among other things is seeking to establish a body to be known as the Police Service Commission (in this Act referred to as “the Commission”), headquartered in FCT and as well creation of state offices to take public complaints and investigate allegations against the police.

Section 6(1)(I) and 7(c) will give Nigerians power to make complaints against erring police officers, and the commission will be empowered to set up panels to investigate policemen and recommend sanctions or prosecution for them.

The Speaker of the House, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila addressing stakeholders at the public dialogue, themed ‘Policing and Human Rights in Nigeria’, said the House intends to carry out a wholesale reform of the Police from recruitment to training and welfare of officers.

The Speaker said the Police cannot be effective when the mechanisms for accountability and discipline are too weak to identify, remove and prosecute rogue officers.

He said that the country does not have an effective system of policing as the relationships between communities and the police are defined by fear and mistrust.

The Speaker while calling on all well-meaning Nigerians to make their inputs toward the enactment of the Bill, opined that effective policing is only possible when the policing institutions are grounded in the rule of law.

Also the President of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Olumide Akpata, whose organization is one of the bodies working with the House on the Bill, said they were doing a lot to re-energize relevant bodies of the NBA to face issues of human rights violations squarely.

Akpata said, ”This is one collaboration that we’re proud of. The issues that confront our country and the Nigeria Police are issues that predate most of us. With regards to human rights violations, I think it’s a matter of orientation. In the proposed law, the issue of orientation is being addressed.”

In a remark, the Chairman of the House Committee on Implementation and Monitoring of the Legislative Agenda, Hon. Henry Nwawuba, said the 9th House has committed itself to seeking collective and holistic ways to find lasting solutions to our national needs.

Nwawuba said the dialogue was an innovative step in the Bill process to get stakeholders buy-in even before the presentation of the Bill on the floor of the House.

Also, the Chairman of the House Committee on Police Affairs, Hon. Bello Kumo said his committee would provide an enabling environment for people to cross-fertilize ideas when the Bill gets to them.

Some Provisions in the Proposed Legislation

When passed into law, the Police Service Commission which will be established, shall comprise a Chairman, who shall be the Chief Executive Officer, and eight (8) members, appointed in line with the principles of Federal Character and in accordance with Section 156 of the Constitution.

The Chairman shall be a person who is not more than the age of 55 at the time of the appointment and not a card-carrying member of any political party at the time of his appointment or for the five years preceding the appointment;

According to the Bill’s draft, those eligible for the position of Chairman are as follows; ‘A woman who has experience working in the area of sexual harassment and gender-based violence. A youth, being a person who is not more than thirty five years of age at the time of appointment, and a member in good standing of a recognized profession. A retired Police Officer not below the rank of Commissioner of Police. A retired Justice of either the Court of Appeal or Supreme Court of Nigeria; and a representative each of National Human Rights Commission; Nigerian Bar Association, Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission; and CiviI Society Organisations.

The Chairman and other members of the Commission shall be appointed by the President subject to confirmation by the Senate.

On tenure of office and salaries for members of the commission, each member of the shall each hold office for a single term five years and no more and shall be paid salaries and allowances as prescribed by the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission. The Bill also empowers the President to remove a member of the Commission, in accordance with the provisions of Section 157 of the Constitution, if he is satisfied that it is not in the interest of the Commission or the interest of the public that the member should continue in Office.

Some of the functions of the commission includes appointment and promotion of persons to offices (other than the office of the Inspector-General of Police) in the Nigeria Police Force, dismiss and exercise disciplinary control over persons (other than the Inspector-General of Police) in the Nigeria Police Force; develop guidelines and procedures for investigating allegations and complaints of misconduct against police officers and employ, train, and deploy persons to serve as investigators in all the State Offices of the Commission.

On complaints against police officers, a person may make a complaint of professional misconduct against any member of the Nigeria Police Force to the nearest state office of the Commission, from where the incident took place or any designated office of the Commission.

The complaint may be made orally, in writing, or by any electronic means and shall contain the nature and particulars of the misconduct, the name of the police officer involved, the force number of the officer involved, date and time estimates of when the incident took place and any other relevant information to aid easy identification of the officer involved.

After a complaint has been made to the Commission, the State coordinator in the state where the alleged misconduct occurred shall take immediate steps to identify the officer(s) against whom the complaint has been made; and necessary steps to confirm the basic facts supplied by the complainant. Also based on the complaint and any supporting facts, the State coordinator shall decide whether to proceed with an investigation.

On investigation duration, witness protection and disciplinary action, the legislation proposes that investigation into complaints made against police officers shall be concluded within six months of the original complaint and a final report submitted to the Secretariat of the Police Service Commission for action.

It read in part, ”The Police Service Commission shall take all reasonable steps to protect the identity of witnesses and protect them from retaliation, victimisation or any risk arising from their witness testimony or other evidence provided. Upon the conclusion of an investigation into a complaint against a police officer, the Coordinator of the State Office and the lead Investigator assigned to the complaint, shall sign the report of the investigation, and submit same to the Secretariat of the Police Service Commission; and the relevant police command where the indicted officer is attached.

”At the conclusion of investigation of a complaint by a State Office, an independent Investigator or Monitor, a Committee or any other body saddled with investigative responsibility by the Commission, the Commission shall enter a verdict and issue a report detailing one, or a combination of the following disciplinary actions; Further training of the officer involved for low-level matters of misconduct; Final written warning where the officer is not a first offender; Temporary suspension without pay; Reduction in Rank; and Dismissal from the Nigeria Police Force.

”The decision of the Commission in respect of an Investigation Report by a State Office, an independent Investigator or Monitor, 3 Committee or any other body saddled with investigative responsibility by the Commission shall be final.”

Stakeholders Input

Speaking on the proposed Bill, the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Mohammed Adamu, who was represented at the event by the DIG research and planning, Adeleye Olusola, urged the House to allow the NPF to study the draft bill and before making inputs.

He said, ”The police service commission, going by the draft as presented, I listened very carefully when you mentioned some areas of interventions to be made. In the first instance, police are supposed to be accountable and there’s no doubt about it. So police reform act 2020, the Nigerian Police will go back and look at all of this. We just got this draft of the Bill. I don’t think the police has made some input at this stage, so I am requesting your permission to allow us to go back and take a very critical look at it. What is worth doing at all is worth doing well, we are talking about policing, and we all know with what we’ve seen today, that a lot has to be done. I know that he has given it some of our legal people to look at it, and bring a document that can be meaningful to what we’re doing right now. I want to seek your permission to give us some time to look at it and come back. But we are so much grateful and honored.”

Also speaking, the Chairman of Police Service Commission, (PSC) Musiliu Smith, represented by retired Justice Clara Ogunbiyi, commended the House for coming up with the Bill, saying it would enhance the operations of the commission, requesting for more time to study the draft law.

His said, ”On our part, we were served the proposed amendment only on Friday and we quickly went through and we also made observations. I must say that the proposed bill is a very good bill with some observations which we intend to forward to the proposing body. We should appreciate that the workings of the police is very significant for our nation. I’m sure we have seen what happened with the #EndSARS issue that erupted; we saw that really we cannot do without the police. The police are the binding factor to our nation. In all honesty, I think with this bill, with what we saw that happened in the last few days, I will want us to appreciate that truly we need a working document, a working law and legislation that will keep our police on the guard. And to make sure that whatever is happening in the country, without security we cannot forge ahead. So, the bill is very important.”

On his part, the Executive Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Anthony Ojukwu said majority of Nigerian police personnel were ready and qualified to do their job, but that the environment they operate on does not allow them to.

He said, ”The way they are presently constituted, are they (police) able to do that (protect human rights)? If you want to give someone an assignment, it is another thing to equip and predispose that person to be able to carry out the assignment. I think majority of police officers are very willing to do their job. Even if I have no local example, I have international examples. It is well known in this country that whenever our police officers go outside this country for international operations, they excel. So, what is the missing gap?

”The missing gap is just that the climate of operation; the condition under which they operate over there predisposes them to excellence but the condition under which they operate here creates the challenge they have. So, there is not doubt that the police officers are willing and able to protect the rights of people but the challenge is the environment under which they operate. I want to cite an example: the Constitution of Nigeria says that every citizen of this country is innocent until proven guilty but that is not how a police officer is operating; he is actually guilty and he now has to prove himself innocent. So, he (the policeman) is not predisposed to protecting the rights of people even if he wants to. That is a challenge.”

QUOTE

The Police Service Commission shall take all reasonable steps to protect the identity of witnesses and protect them from retaliation, victimisation or any risk arising from their witness testimony or other evidence provided. Upon the conclusion of an investigation into a complaint against a police officer, the Coordinator of the State Office and the lead Investigator assigned to the complaint, shall sign the report of the investigation, and submit same to the Secretariat of the Police Service Commission; and the relevant police command where the indicted officer is attached