Juliana Francis

The Rule of Law And Accountability Advocacy Centre (RULAAC) and over 30 other Civil Society Organisation groups operating in the Southwest zone, gathered in Ibadan, Oyo State on June 23, 2022, for the inauguration of a Civil Society Organisations Observatory on the implementation of the Police Act 2020 and the Police Trust Fund Act 2019 for the South West Zone.

Others at the inauguration are media representatives as well as representatives of the Assistant Inspector General (AIG) of Police Zone 11, Oshogbo, Osun State (Makun Joseph Gobun); the Commissioner of Police, Oyo State (Ngozi Onadeko); the Hon. Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Oyo State (Prof. Oyelowo Oyewo), and the Oyo State Coordinator of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Mr. Ojo Babatunde Williams.

The Observatory was inaugurated in Abuja on the 27th of January 2022 for the North Central Zone and Abuja; on the 3rd of March in Abia State for the Southeast Zone, and on the 7th of April in Asaba, Delta State, for the South-South zone.

The event also featured the inception meeting and capacity building for selected CSOs in the Southwest Zone.

Critical issues noticed and discussed in the Police Act, are; “the Police Act contains innovative and laudable provisions capable of enhancing democratic policing, but is not being implemented.

“The Police hierarchy has not demonstrated sufficient commitment to implement the Police Act and other laws that can improve policing practices such as the Anti Torture Act, 2017; the Violence Against Persons Act, 2017, and the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015. The level of awareness by police officers and the citizens of the Police Act 2020 is very low and this necessitates the urgency to create increased awareness of the existence and purpose of the Police Act 2020 among police officers and citizens.”

It was also noticed that the impact of police training and retraining at Police colleges and training schools needed to reflect positively on the conduct and operations of officers in their various places of posting and assignment. This necessitated the adoption of an improved police training curriculum for police training institutions.

Other observations are that the higher echelon of the NPF should serve as good examples to the lower cadre with regard to human rights observance and acting with integrity. Similarly, Police training and retraining should focus on strategic deconstruction of the prevalent colonial mentality in the NPF, as this mentality partly informed the conduct of members of the NPF which led to the #ENDSARS protests as well as the excessive force that was deployed to quell the peaceful protests.

In the Nigeria Police Trust Fund (NPTF) Act 2019, participants noted that: Although the NPTF Act was inspired by the Lagos State Security Trust Fund (LSSTF), there are major differences between the LSSTF and the NPTF which make the effective implementation of the NPTF difficult thereby hampering the achievement of its purpose.

Whereas the LSSTF is private sector driven, and devoid of unnecessary bureaucracy in decision-making processes, which largely account for its success, the NPTF Board of Trustees and management have a preponderance of government agencies which creates too much bureaucracy.

In particular, the inclusion of the Inspector General of Police as a member of the Board of Trustees creates a conflict of interest as the NPF as a beneficiary of the Trust Fund is not supposed to be a member of the Board of Trustees

Participants observed the need to change the Police Trust Fund to Security Trust Fund so that other security agencies can also benefit from the fund instead of each security agency clamouring for its own separate trust fund.

Moreover, corporate organisations are already complaining about being overtaxed through previous Trust Funds such as Tetfund, etc. Creating more Trust Funds means more taxes from them.

The Police Trust Fund should be insulated from bureaucracy by shedding its Board of too many government agencies. It should be private sector driven to avoid the corruption and unnecessary bureaucracies as is the case with the Board and management of the Police Trust Fund

The prevalence of police abuse of human rights despite the EndSARS uprising in 2020 and especially, the abuse of due process safeguards provided under the Police Act 2020 with regards to arrest, search, and detention, and the notorious practice of extorting money for bail from citizens at police stations even when they are told that bail is free are deepening negative public perception and affecting police-community relations. This is a disincentive for citizens to feel they own the police and to freely support the Trust Fund.

Negative public perception of the police and poor community-police relations because of police misconduct may affect citizens’ willingness to support and contribute to the Police Trust Fund.

Police annual budget allocations remain grossly inadequate and unaccounted for despite the provisions of a funding framework for the police and a national policing plan in the Police Act 2020.

Another point noticed and discussed was the NPF’s continual dependence on state governments and corporate donations to perform their constitutional duties, and this has a way of swaying or influencing police actions in favour of the individuals or organisations who make donations to the police.

There is a very high level of corruption in the management of the Trust Fund and this affects its effective functionality. CSOs should actively monitor the implementation of the Police Trust Fund Act including the use of the Freedom of Information Act to seek information and promote transparency and accountability.

The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Offenses Commission (ICPC) has unduly delayed its investigation – since 2021- of the allegations of mismanagement of the NPTF funds by the management of the Trust Fund.

The group agreed: “It is therefore safe at this stage to conclude that there may be an attempt to cover up the sabotage of the efforts to improve police funding, to enhance police effectiveness in providing safety and security for Nigerians. CSOs call on the ICPC to make the outcome of its investigation public.”

The so-called CSO representative in the Board of the NPTF is unknown to CSOs in Nigeria. In the future government should consult with genuine and well-known civil society leaders in selecting CSO representatives in any government agency to ensure that CSOs have credible representation in any body or agency.

In line with Nigeria’s federal structure, State governments should set up their own Security Trust Funds modelled after Lagos to complement the Nigeria Police Trust Fund since State Governors have been providing financial and equipment support to the police in their various states as the chief security officers of their various states.

There is a need for a midterm review of the NPTF to assess its performance in the past three years of its existence out of its six years life span. This will inform the necessity or otherwise of the National Assembly to extend the Fund after its six years life span.

The gathering also agreed that President Buhari, in constituting the Board of the NPTF, violated the Federal character principle, enshrined in the Constitution, by appointing people from the same section of the country as both Chairman and Executive Secretary. The President should comply with the Constitution and other laws of the land.

On policing and human rights, participants noted that: the police hierarchy should enforce its repeated ban on roadblocks which are usually no more than avenues for extortion and extrajudicial killings, and should emphasise more foot and vehicular patrols which are more in tandem with the Community Policing strategy of the federal government and the NPF.

The police continue to arrest persons in lieu of actual persons wanted for an alleged crime or other reasons. They also continue to torture crime suspects or accused persons at police stations and force them to confess to crimes and then extort bribe from them or their relatives for bail.

These practices violate both the Police Act 2020 and the Anti-Torture Act of 2017 and continue to give the NPF a very bad image denying them the much-needed citizens support and cooperation.

It was supported that the media should continue to expose unprofessional conduct by the police and help to use their media to popularise the Police Act, the Anti Torture Act, and the Administration of Criminal Justice Act which if effectively implemented and adhered to, will improve police conduct

Another issue talked about is that the Nigeria Police Force lacks adequate manpower to police a country as vast as Nigeria. There is a need for the recruitment of more personnel to make up for the manpower shortfall.

The police hierarchy should stop assigning police officers to private individuals who use them as bodyguards or errand boys. This is demeaning to the police and reduces the manpower available to provide security to the public.

The tussle between the Police Service Commission and the NPF over the power to recruit and appoint police officers is a needless distraction as the Appeal Court has resolved it and the President should ensure that each of the agencies limits itself to its statutory mandates

The practice of selling and buying police uniforms and other accouterments in the public market compromises the integrity of the police as an institution and is dangerous to public safety and security

The Federal Government should ensure adequate resourcing of the NPF including properly kitting and motivating police officers for effective performance.

The police should embrace community policing which emphasises partnership with, and accountability to, the communities where they serve and aids them in intelligence and information gathering which makes their work easier

Police recruitment should follow the prescribed guidelines and politicians and government officials should stop sending lists of their loyalists as recruits who are mainly misfits without the minimum educational qualification.

This, it was opinioned, will check reduction of the police into a dumping ground for the scum of society and affects professional standards. The process of police recruitment and the quality of recruited personnel have grave implications for police professionalism and effectiveness.

Officers to be appointed as police image-makers i.e. Police Public Relations Officers should be qualified persons with required education and training in public relations, capable of engaging in civilised social interaction and dispute/conflict management, not cantankerous officers who are hostile to the public and the media and tell unintelligent lies that rather ridicule the police.

Participants welcomed the inauguration of the CSOs Observatory and committed to using it as a platform to monitor the implementation of the Police Act and the NPTF Act in the Southwest Zone.  Participants commended RULAAC and other consortium members for facilitating the launch of the Observatory.

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