A Report On The North Central Observatory Launch
INAUGURATION OF A CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANISATIONS OBSERVATORY ON THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE POLICE ACT 2020 AND THE POLICE TRUST FUND ACT 2019 AND CAPACITY BUILDING FOR THE NORTH CENTRAL AND THE FCT, JANUARY 27TH, 2022 AT GRAND PELA HOTEL, ABUJA.
The need to entrench democratic policing and accountability in the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) is very important. The is necessitated by the obvious gap in awareness and purposes of the relevant laws governing the country and especially the Police Act 2020 and the Police Trust Fund Act 2019.
In attendance were representatives of the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Police Affairs, the Police Service Commission, the Nigeria Police Force, the management of the Police Trust Fund, CSOs and the media.
The event commenced at 09:45am with the recognition of participants after which the national anthem was sang.
The Executive Director of Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre (RULAAC), Mr. Okechukwu Nwanguma in his remark captured the essence of the day’s event which is to address persistent problem of police brutality and violations of human rights by the police through promotion of the Police Act 2020 and the Police Trust Fund Act 2019 and coordinated effort of Civil Society Organisations carefully selected for the task.
He talked about the global concerns about delivery of police mandate especially as concern extra judicial killings and beyond permissible level use of force by police officers across the globe.
He made reference to the public outcry that greeted the unnecessary killing of Gorge Floyd who is an African-American by the police and the reaction it elicited from the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement calling for a restraint on the powers of the police.
He noted that back home in Nigeria, there has been persistent calls for professionalism on the part of the Nigeria Police Force especially the detestable activities of the defunct F-SARS which received little or no attention from the Police authority and the Nigerian government until the advent of the “ENDSARS” campaign against the police and their high handedness in 2020.
He made known that the consortium is proposing series of actions aimed at facilitating communication on policy formulation and police reform agenda in Nigeria to aid in upholding the tenets of police accountability and human rights so as to protect Nigeria’s fragile democracy. He hinted that the Civil Society Organisations – Police Trust Fund (CSO-PTF) support and oversight group will be the stimuli to encourage public awareness across the geo-political zones on the purpose and existence of the Police Trust Fund (PTF.)
“The CSO-PTF support and oversight group will hold zonal and bi-monthly meetings in order to assess the performance of the PTF across Nigeria and the North Central and FCT zone take the lead.” He said.
He noted that participant organisations present were carefully selected and identified as reliable CSO groups working around police and policing issues in the North Central and the FCT and they will be partners with RULAAC and the consortium members in implementing the programme. He also stated that the objective of the programme is to introduce and intimate CSOs on their roles as members of the support group and to build capacity for them on the Police Act 2020 and the Police Trust Fund Act 2019.
According to him, “when CSOs and the media understand the purpose and provisions of the two Acts they will be better empowered” to facilitate the implementation of the Acts.
He noted that two resource persons were present to enlighten participants on the Police Act and the Police Trust Fund Act and on monitoring effective implementation of both laws.
He thanked MacArthur Foundation support for their generous support for the project and also thanked participants for honouring the event.
The Acting Executive Director of CLEEN Foundation (Consortium Lead), Ms. Ruth Olofin also gave her remark. She recognized dignitaries and welcomed participants and her colleagues from CLEEN Foundation. She also commended RULAAC for the initiative. She acknowledged that the research, programme implementation and activities of CSOs and other stakeholders in Nigeria largely influenced the creation of the Police Act and the Nigeria Police Trust Fund Act (NPTF).
She pointed out that the new Police Act has expanded the duties of the Nigeria Police beyond detection and prevention of crimes, protection of lives and properties, maintenance of public safety, law and order to assistance provision for persons in distress, victims of road accidents, fire disasters, earthquakes, flood victims, facilitation of free passage and movement on the highways, road and streets open to the public and also adoption of community partnerships.
The NPTF Act which was signed into law on June 24, 2019 is to provide legal framework for the management of a special intervention fund for the purposes of training and retraining of the Nigeria Police Force personnel and purchase of equipment and facilities that will enhance policing and police personnel functions.
Challenges in the implementation of the reforms were pointed out and they include::lack of strict adherence to effective implementation of the provisions of the two Acts by persons and institutions charged with the responsibility to so do.
She observed that CSOs roles border on monitoring and strengthening police reform processes
In Nigeria by advocating for a strict adherence, total compliance and effective enforcement of the provisions of the laws by the police and other agencies tasked with oversight functions of the police and the general public where applicable.
Secondly, CSOs must plan and implement programmes designed to train and sensitise citizens on their rights.
She ended her remark by thanking participants and urging CSOs, the media and other stakeholders to contribute their bit in strengthening the reform process.
A representative of the Chairperson of Police Service Commission (PSC) Musiliu Smith was at the event. Mr. Tommy Mom gave the Goodwill message on behalf of the chairman of PSC.
He noted that Nigeria has plenty problems but none is so much as because there is lack of laws but lack of judicious, efficient and effective implementation.
He commended RULAAC and its partners for putting up the observatory because it complements the mandate of the PSC. He made mention of PSC’s oversight of the police but also stated that the PSC has limitations that CSO (advocates) do not have.
“If the mandate of the observatory group is realized, the professionalism of police officers would have been raised by notches and if this happens, the most vulnerable in the society will be positively impacted because those are the most affected.” He said
He went further to state that a look at the data of human rights infractions shows that the Judiciary and the Police are the violators of most human rights in Nigeria. Hence, if the police is made to act a bit more professionally, the job of the PSC would be a lot easier.
According to him, observatory group should not be just another CSO initiative that will “wind up after a year or two”. He wants CSOs to note how they drive home policing that takes into account human rights and that does not treat citizens as objects to be taken advantage of.
Lastly, he noted that the bane of the police is funding which the PTF largely takes care of. Hence, if monies are not misappropriated but judiciously used, then the police will be better funded for effective performance and make Nigeria and the citizens safer.
The Executive Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) made known that the NHRC and the Nigeria Police are partners in enhancing police performance and the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) in Nigeria.
He stated that the NHRC is in support of any action taken to enhance the rights of citizens. “The new Police Act seeks accountability, human rights enhancement and cooperation with other existing agencies.”
The NHRC is in total support of RULAAC’s role in raising an observatory on the implementation of the Police Act and the Police Trust Fund Act. She wished RULAAC, the consortium, funders and the CSOs present well.
Ms. Kemi Okonyedo of PWAN and chairperson of RULAAC’s Board of Trustees was represented by Hadiza Usman.
She narrated the origin of the Police Act. According to her, the new Act ended the clamour for a repeal of the old Act of 1943 which saw to many waves of human rights abuses by the Nigeria Police Force. The old Act had no major review until 2004 and 2019 when the 9th Assembly of the Senate aggressively called for reviews in conjunction with CSOs and other stakeholders. The process was completed when the president assented to the bill in 2020.
Earlier in 2019, “the president had signed into law the PTF Act which is the legal framework for the administration and control of a special intervention fund for training and retraining of police officers and provision of equipment. The Act created a Board of Trustees that is to oversee the implementation of the PTF Act” she said.
The new Police Act identified grey areas in the old Act and provides framework for its implementation in a democratic setting.
The new Act granted the Police independence in its recruitment exercises. Removal of the IGP was redefine to only be possible by a two-thirds majority vote of the senate. The duties of the Police Council were also expanded.
The CSO-PTF support and oversight group would act as catalysts to spur the PTF to deliver on its mandate which will be done by sensitising CSOs across the six geo-political zones of Nigeria. The group would conduct periodic performance assessment of the Police Act and the Police Trust Fund Act across the country and ensure a bridge in communication gap between the PTF and the citizens. This will ensure accountability which is one of the core mandate of the PTF, which will eventually positively rub off on the Police Act.
In time, some areas of the Act will be fine-tuned. One of such area is the feminisation of security forces to capture the needs of female personnel and their opinion on peace building and security.
There is also need to address community policing needs so as to improve relations between the police and communities where they perform their duties.
Training is needed for operational efficiency therefore training curriculum should be updated at intervals of five years. She suggested that beyond welfare, cutting edge technologies should be employed in crime fighting.
The introduction of the Police Act and the Police Trust Fund Act has laid the groundwork for a true democratic dispensation of the Police Force and partnership between the police force and the communities she opined.
PRESENTATION OF THE POLICE ACT
Ms. Nkeiru Uzodi gave a summary of key provisions in the 2020 Nigeria Police Act. She reiterated that the Act was signed by President Muhammadu Buhari on 15th September after a long advocacy. “It has 142 sections and 17 parts. The Act is the first ever comprehensive revision of the original Act of 1943 by the 8th Senate.”
It has Section 1 stating the objectives of the Act. “Section 2 provides specific objectives of the Act which majorly promotes a people friendly Nigeria Police, embodying the values of accountability, fairness, justice and equity, responsiveness, respect for the dignity of all persons, safeguard of the fundamental rights in the constitution, fostering of cooperation and partnership between the police and the communities it serves, respect for victims of crime and an understanding of their needs by police in the discharge of their operations.”
She noted that the former Act had many gaps as it did not adequately articulate the mission of the police, their functions, excess discretional powers, tenure security for the IGP, police accountability, protection of civil rights and liberties.
Ms. Uzodi noted that in the old Act, “there was no prescribed funding framework, and gender sensitivity, adding that the Act was generally old and outdated law, 77 years down the line.”
She equally highlighted some of the innovations in the new Police Act which included provision of a 4-year tenure for the Inspector General of Police (IGP) in Section 7(6). “The longest serving IGP before the new Act served for 3 years only. The new Act stated criteria for the IGP and minimum qualification which is first degree and Professional and Management experience.
“The Act also captures command and operational control of the police which is now vested in the IGP as against the old order which vested operational command to the president. Although Section 215 (3) of the constitution still allows the president to give directions to the IGP, same for the state governors who takes orders from the Commissioners of Police.
“The IGP is also to develop Annual Policing Plan (APP), bottom up budget hence budgets from the Command HQ is obtained from various Commands and divisions. He (IGP) in the new Act is mandated to facilitate legal support for suspects and detainees in police custody,” She stated.
Noting that there was provision for mandatory training of police, she said that police officers were not to earn salaries lower than other security agencies. Her words. “Apart from having Police Council meeting twice yearly, there is a clear prohibition against gender discrimination, torture, arrest of persons on civil wrong, and arrest of persons in lieu of suspect by the Nigerian Police Force. In fact, there is clarity on the use of police power in the new Police Act.
“The Act prohibits arrests based on stereotypes – hair, age dressing, and skin colour. The Force is required to document arrests, witnesses and deaths in police stations including efforts made to ensure hospitalization of the wounded and proper preservation of the dead.
“The Act also harmonizes provisions with the Administrator of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015 to ensure the general application of provisions of ACJA across the country,” she stressed.
She noted that functions of police were enunciated in Section 4 of the Act among others prevention and detection of crime, law and regulations enforcement, immediate assistance in emergencies, protection of rights and freedom in accordance with the 1999 constitution.
She disclosed that the appointment and removal of the IGP is contained in Section 7, while Section 9 contains the powers and functions of the IGP.
She observed that the old Act only contained duties of Deputy Inspectors General of Police (DIGs) and Assistant Inspectors General of Police (AIGs) but noted that it was not that of the IGP. “Section 6 contains an expanded function of the Nigerian Police Force, sections 18 and 19 contain provisions for recruitment of constable and cadets. Financial provisions are contained in sections 26-30. There are also sections of the Act that outlines the powers of the police officers,” she said.
Ms. Uzodi urged CSOs to muster courage and ability to make informed demands so that they could be taken serious. “There is need for collective brainstorming to get the law working as it ought to. CSOs should also make efforts to make the Police Council work. It is sacrosanct,” she canvassed.
PRESENTATION OF THE POLICE TRUST FUND
In her presentation on the Police Trust Fund (PTF), Ms. Faith Nwadishi stressed that the PTF Act which was signed by President Muhammadu Buhari in June 24, 2019 as Police Trust Fund (Establishment) Act 2019 spelt out major goals to increase Nigerian Police overall efficiency.
She disclosed that Sections 26-30 details how NPTF should be funded adding that the funding was to carry out three major projects among them are to provide funds for the training and retraining of Police personnel, provision of state of the arts security equipment, increase the overall wellbeing and preparedness of the personnel.
She emphasized that the three major planks upon which PTF was set up was to aid the overall goal of policing. “Though there are contentious parts of the trust fund one of which is the withdrawal of 0.05 percent from the Federation Account to fund it. The Federation Account is not solely owned by the federal government. The States and local governments also have a share in it. The constitution did not mandate the federal government to administer the Federation Account on behalf of the states and local governments.”
Ms. Nwadishi advocates that the fund stipulates that the 0.005 percent of net profit accruing to companies doing business in Nigeria, should go to the Trust Fund, meanwhile it is clear that businesses are already overtaxed including the one for TETFund.
She added that “All over the world monies from trust fund is exempted from taxation.”
She noted that the Act gives the President power to hire and fire pointing out that the Trust Fund can only close if the National Assembly did not extend it. This she notes can breed corruption as NASS Reps may be benefiting illegally from this. “A trust fund is supposed to have a definite duration and purpose,” she avers.
She identified other sources of funds for the NPTF like the National Assembly budgetary allocation. Others are Aids, grants, donations and money derived from investment made by the NPTF.
She joined other speakers in canvassing that the fund be used to buoy up training, improvement of effectiveness of the Force, purchase of equipment and machinery for the police, construction of police stations, purchase of books, pay bills for conferences attended by Nigerian Police officers and logistics.
This, she added was vague in the Act as it was not clear who picks up the bill. “This is a source of confusion,” Nwadishi noted even as she revealed that the Act did not make provision for dispute resolution.
She tasked civil society organisations to demand for review of the Act otherwise it was dead on arrival.
“The roles of the CSOs are watchdog, advocacy, content creation, oversight, information dissemination, setting agenda, lobbying, community mobilization, sensitization, engagement with stakeholders, research, monitoring and evaluation, demand for accountability, and creating a feedback system, and in the Nigerian Police Force, there are so many undocumented sources of revenue for the police especially illegal monies which CSOs can track for the benefit of the Nigerian Police Trust Fund” she ended.
CONTRIBUTION FROM PARTICIPANTS
Mr. Z. O. Senbanjo declared that the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), Police Act and the PTF Act should work together for the benefit of the citizenry.
Secondly, that CSOs should study and suggest informed amendment to the Police Act and the Police Trust Fund Act.
Mr. Idowu Isamotu, a journalist from Daily Trust Newspapers wonders how some bills came through if CSOs were living up to their responsibilities. He noted that the media is not well represented in the programme and also canvassed a wide publicity of the CSOs position after a thorough articulation of points.
A participant from Conscience for Human Rights and Conflict Resolution, Mr. Idris Miliki expressed concerns about the generic form of reflecting men and women of the Nigeria Police Force as unacceptable. He noted that the poor suffer more when arrested for lack of knowledge of their rights. He also disapproved of the president’s disregard of the Police Council before appointment of IGPs.
Another participant, Mr. Ambassador Onoja stated that if the Police Act and the PTF are well implemented the results will positively impact the society but that implementation has been the bane of the implementation.
He averred that CSOs should not only focus on educating the Police but also the citizens so that even if the police is not ready to comply, citizens would force them to. He advised that the two Acts be digested by CSOs to be empowered in passing same to the citizenry. According to him, “another “endsars” is coming if efforts are not made to address Police abuses.”
Mr. Victor Eboh commended the presentation of the Police Act by Nkeiru Uzodi. He however asked to know how many times Chief Magistrates have gone to the prisons to find out records of those arrested.
For another participant, Mr. Gad, the Police Act has been simplified for participants. He stated that police officers most likely don’t have or know these laws hence the ignorance on the part of police personnel. He also condemned police officers for arrest in lieu.
Iheseken Samuel Esq. noted that there is need to focus on what the Police Act says about peaceful assembly. Police view peaceful protesters as criminals he noted and also asked that this idea (of viewing protesters as criminals) should be addressed and peaceful protesters given protection instead.
Secondly, Police response to CSOs’ enquiry about Miss Gloria Okorie who has been in police custody for some time now and how Miss Okorie suddenly became a terrorist according to the Police Complaint Unit (PCU) after CDOs intervention. He is bothered about how the police can get a “serious PCU.”
Thirdly Mr. Iheseken is bothered about how the police will be funded going by a recent judgement of the Federal High Court declaring unconstitutional Section 4(1)(a) & (b) of the NPTF Act 2019, requiring the deduction of 0.05 per cent of any funds in the Federation Account and 0.005 percent of the net profit of companies operating in Nigeria to fund the police.
Lastly, he is of the view that police hierarchy must be engaged to give a “reasonable policing.”
Another participant, Mr. Justin Tayib canvasses that advocacy should be taken to the police and citizenry. He also wants to know if the appointment of the IGP is in conflict or not with the constitution.
He is of the opinion that the recent ruling of the court nullifying sections of the PTF Act remains valid until an appeal is made. Hence, the judgement remains even up to the Supreme Court.
On police arresting suspects without warrant, he noted that citizens can arrest suspects not to talk of police officers.
Mr. A.A Bako is of the view that senior police officers should train their junior officers on human rights.
For him, since the PTF Act has provision for CSOs’ representation, he wants to know who is representing the CSOs.
Ms.Ruth Olofin was of the opinion that community policing has no local or national ownership. There should be a sustained campaign by CSOs on community policing. She also stated that community policing is an organisational strategy; the police should mingle with the people to know their needs and it should not always be donor dependent for this to happen. She wonders what will happen if donors are not available how the police will utilize the little resources at their disposal. For her, “rethinking police strategy is key.”
Mrs. Angela Uwandu believes the Nigeria Police Force might not appeal the recent High court judgement nullifying sections of the PTF Act because appeal is expensive. She want to know if the police can go the whole haul.
She wants all CSOs to engage with the Complaint Response Unit (CRU) and that there should be accountability. She complained about the CRU being under the PRO. According to her, it should not be so.
Nkeiru Uzodi notes that ownership is important in the formulation of the Police Act.
Again, Mr. Z.O Sobanjo questions why sister agencies to the police force are called “agencies” while the police is a “force.”
According to him, “we want a Nigeria Police Service and not a Nigeria Police Force.” This is because the “force” is affecting the psyche of police officers.
For him, the original idea of recruiting the Inspector General of Police (IGPs) was to throw the position open for public application but it was rejected.
He noted that since police is a creation of the law, nothing should be done outside the law but that the police is pervious to change and this has made many people believe that the police is untrainable.
He explained that community policing is about decentralizing the police so that the community owns the police.
The Police Council is supposed to meet at least twice a year but they don’t meet hence internal and external oversight is important but failing. According to him, “CSOs should have courage and ability to make informed demands so that we are taken seriously.
There is need for collective brainstorming to get the PTF Act working. CSOs should also work for the Police Council to work. It is sacrosanct, he said.
Presentation of both the Police Act and the Police Trust Fund Act made participants understand better the content and purposes of the Acts which was the main reason for the inauguration. Participants were delighted for the new knowledge they acquired and promised to help in bringing same to the attention of police officers and citizens.
Mr. Nwanguma closed the event by thanking participants for coming and making the event very participatory. The event came to a close at 02:45pm.
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