Over the years, this unwieldy force—Africa’s largest—has proved difficult to effectively manage and control and has become largely unaccountable to the citizens it is meant to serve. For many Nigerians the police force has utterly failed to fulfill its mandate of providing public security. Even after about 80 years of it’s its creation, members of the force are viewed more as predators than protectors. The Nigeria Police Force has become a symbol in Nigeria of unfettered corruption, mismanagement, and abuse.
Many writers have written about this issue of national and human concern with much passion and sincerity of interest, with suggestive solutions and recommendations on how best to curb or stop this menace. However I’ll be writing on this topic in the light of personal experience, and out of sincere concern and pain or loss, the abuse of power by security personnel has caused humanity.
The Nigeria Police and Abuse of Powers
The Nigerian Police Force is the primary security agency of the state put in place to prevent the commission of crimes, detect committed crimes, and help the society attain efficiency and orderliness to a reasonable extent. They are however not without bounds, extent and the likes. In which case it was created by an Act spelling out it’s functions, powers, nature and duties in line with the principles of humanity and respect for rights clearly spelt out in many legal instrument which include but not limited to ; The UN Convention, The Universal Declaration on Human Rights, African Charter on Humans and Peoples Right, and Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. For instance, The United Nations Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officers provides that:
“Law enforcement officials shall at all times fulfil the duty imposed upon them by the law, by serving the community and by protecting all persons against illegal acts, consistent with the high degree of responsibility required by their profession(United Nations Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officers, 1979).”
Article 2 of the Code further states that;
“In the performance of their duty, law enforcement officials shall respect and protect human dignity and maintain and uphold the rights of all persons” (United Nations Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officers, 1979).
Similarly the Universal Declaration on Humans Rights (UDHR) also makes provision for the respect of modern human rights as it is the foundation of human right binding nation states.
There are a wide range of violations, and wrongs perpetuated by the Nigerian Police force, particularly the Special Anti Robbery Squad ranging from extortions, bribery, politically motivated ills inter alia. However my attention shall be primarily based on the abuse of human rights against lay men or ordinary, citizens of Nigeria and will proffer reasonable working measures that can be successfully utilised in achieving a more worthy security force; Hence regaining the trust of the populace.
The focal point of human right abuse by the Police in Nigeria is embedded in unlawful harassments, arrests and weak investigative measures. Nigerian Police is known widely for it’s unlawful harassments and arrest of innocent persons on the streets, unlawful detention beyond the legal stipulated periods, no allowance of bail and above all an incapable investigation measures.
The shocking and embarrassing thing about all this abuse and uniform oppression by the Police against the citizens is that citizens do not speak up or do not know how to speak up. They rather reside to fate as they say. Hence, the force gets away with this abuse of rights.
Nigeria is a country governed under the rules of law structured in line with the provisions of our constitution, wherein dignity of human person and other fundamental human right are entrenched under part (iv) of the said law. More interesting is, that by virtue of Section 1 of Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (CFRN) (1999) as amended, the constitution claims ‘Supremacy over all authority and persons’ and nullifies every act or authority inconsistent with the constitution. And this includes the Police Act, Police Commissioners, Inspectors, and every other federal Law guiding the conducts of the Force.
The primary problem of prison inmates being too much is largely attributed to the unprofessional flaws of the Nigerian Police Force in that many people are held in detention without proper trial, investigations and do not even know the purpose for which they’ve been arrested in most cases. Many inmates are just handpicked on the road, taken to cell, and by the order of a court lacking jurisdiction landed in prison. A readily instance of this is the case of ‘Alade v State ECW.CC/APP/05/11’ among other plethora of cases.
It was a suit filed by the federal government of Nigeria challenging the unconstitutional detainment of Alade for Nine years without trial. And by facts, Alade was arrested by an officer of the NPF not in uniform, dragged to the station without telling him the reason for his arrest, no warrant and taken to a magistrate court for the offence of armed robbery.. The court lacking in jurisdiction to entertain the matter gave a remand order and since then for 9 years the Plaintiff remained in prison untried. All thanks to the Police officers.
The impunities and flagrant abuse of human rights by the Nigerian Police Force hit a brick with Nigerian youth to such extent that the youth took to the streets in virtually all parts of the country last year October, calling for an end to SARS and it’s demeaning practices. Government took slack responses to the demands of the youth, and violence erupted following the alleged shoot down on Lekki peaceful protesters on 20th of October, 2020. A day the Nigerian youths will forever remember in history; ” The day Nigerian murdered her own youths.”
A quick survey of human right abuse by the force will be outlined!
Random pick ups of easy going citizens in recently crime committed locations not for questioning but for detentions.
Low understanding of the principle of justice which presumes a suspect or an accused innocent until the contrary is proven which culminates in degrading treatments to get confessions from suspects, beating and using of force on suspect to effect arrest as against what obtains under the Administration of Criminal Justice Acts ( 2015) or state laws guiding lawful arrests.
Instances of stray bullets by the SARS, or inflicting injuries and killing uncooperative suspects and innocent citizens in respect of bribes, such that it drew the attention of the National Human Rights Committee in their last review thus declaring the SARS department as guilty of wide spread abuse of human rights. Unlawful detention of citizens and unconstitutional charges on bail.
In the light of all this scenarios and purgative issues affecting the foremost security agency of the country, ‘a supposed people’s friend turned terror, it is imperative to go back to the drawing board, if we don’t want an escalation of conflict. In which case the people will turn against security agencies and we revert back to “the state of nature”. Some steps readily available to be taken by the Government and the directives of security agencies alike include but not limited to:
1. Total revamp and Reformation of the entire force:
The sort of reformation posit here isn’t a mouthy campaign echoed by the government in respect of mere change of names over the years without valid blueprints, but rather such that include viable steps. Steps like taking every police officer in service through a compulsory one year legal course, which entails ; standard rules of international policing, human rights, and the extent and otherwise of people’s rights..
2. Taking every recruit through the same above mentioned procedures before being entrenched fully into the force.
3. Restructuring salary policies and benefits of the entire force. This would help better curb the bribery culture that has eaten neck deep into the force.
4. Create a fast and active disciplinary department inclusive of not just the police but lawyers, activists, and other professionals alike.
5. And very important, reviewing the pension policies of the Police trust fund.
If all this are judiciously adhered to, then we are a step away from the mayhem awaiting the security of this nation.
All Rights Reserved: Daniel Bernard!.