Communiqué Issued After The Nigeria Police Force (NPF)
COMMUNIQUE ISSUED AFTER THE NIGERIA POLICE FORCE (NPF) COMPLAINT RESPONSE UNIT (CRU) STEERING COMMITTEE MEETING AND THE LAUNCH OF THE CRU’S 2021 ACTIVITY REPORT HELD IN ABUJA ON MAY 27, 2022
The NPF-CRU Steering Committee Meeting was held in Abuja on May 17, 2022 during which the published Activity Report for the 4 quarters in 2021 was presented.
The publication of the report and the steering committee meeting were facilitated by Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre (RULAAC) with support from MacArthur Foundation.
Participants at the meeting and launch of the report included representatives of the NPF-CRU, civil society organizations, development partners, including the US Embassy and GIZ, among other stakeholders.
ISSUES, OBSERVATIONS AND CONCERNS
- Head of the CRU, ACP Markus Ishaku Basiran thankedthe IGP for approving the first ever publication (in booklet) of the CRU report since its creation in 2015.
- He also thanked RULAAC and other Consortium members who, with support from MacArthur Foundation, facilitated the publication of the CRU 2021 report and for the further support for subsequent quarterly reports for 2022.
- He also commended RULAAC and other CSOs including BudgIT, Social Intervention Advocacy Foundation (SIAF), Avocats Sans Frontieres, CISLAC, CLEEN Foundation, and Citizens’ Gavel for supporting the CRU through various means including agenda setting and monitoring of timelines and milestone achievement.
- Participants noted the strategic place that the CRU occupies in the NPF noting that the CRU’s core mandate is to ensure accountability in the police. Noting further that accountability is not an easily acceptable issue in the NPF. Participants however, affirmed that there is no way community policing or democratic policing can thrive without accountability.
- Participants paid tribute to former Inspector General of Police IGP Solomon Arase for his wisdom in creating the CRU in November 2015 during his term, which affords citizens the opportunity to report Police officers’ misconducts, complementing the work of existing complaint mechanisms such as the Public Complaint Bureau (PCB).
- While acknowledging and commending Arase for his demonstrable commitment to police discipline and accountability, participants, however expressed concern that support for the CRU has continued to decline under successive IGPs after Arase.
- Besides changing the name of the unit from Complaints Response Unit (CRU) to Public Complaint Rapid Response Unit (PCRRU), IGP Idris Kpotum, who was the immediate successor to IGP Solomon Arase, did not take any significant measure to support and strengthen the unit.
- Things did not improve much under Kpotum’s successor, IGP Mohammed Adamu.
- Participants expressed concern that some Police officers who were reported to the CRU for misconduct became emboldened to ignore CRU summons owing to the body language and actions of the IGP which undermine the unit.
- Participants noted that the only reason the unit is still existing is because it became codified (incorporated into the Police Act 2020) which was signed into law by President Buhari in 2020 after several years of struggles and advocacies by Civil Society Organizations and other stakeholders.
- Participants noted that the codification of the CRU in the Police Act 2020 is a further recognition of the need to institutionalize the unit and this recognition also spurred RULAAC and the consortium, with support from McArthur Foundation, to provide funds for the publication and other support for the CRU.
- Participants welcomed the publication of the 2021 report which was launched on May 17, 2022 noting that it will provide proper record and analysis of complaints received to aid future policy and operational decisions.
- Participants noted that the repressive ban on Twitter also affected the operations of the CRU and thereby denied citizens the opportunity to report misconduct by police officers to the CRU since twitter was one of the main social media platforms and avenue through which citizens send complaints and got prompt feedbacks and result.
- Participants noted that the CRU is a laudable initiative and a modern avenue for the public to have their complaints addressed; it’s an important tool for checking police misconduct and impunity and offers the NPF the opportunity to use technology and social media to reach out and engage with citizens, particularly, the youth population in a dialogue about their expectations of transparent, responsible and accountable policing.
- Participants noted that as a unit established to redress service failures, it needs public trust which is in deficit due to fear of reprisals by reported police officers and obstacles that the unit encounters in its quest to promptly, transparently and effectively handle complaints.
- From the experiences shared by CSOs that engage with the CRU over time, it has become clear that some senior officials within the NPF, especially at the Force Headquarters, appear to work against the success of the CRU because they see the CRU under the current leadership as not compromising or manipulable and may get into trouble if reports are made against them.
- Participants expressed concern about the operations of some police officers at the Zone 2 Police Command who parade as CRU even though the Police Act which establishes the unit does not provide for the establishment of CRU in Police zonal commands. Participants observed that the disbanded Anti-kidnapping Unit at Zone 2 Lagos, on its own, metamorphosed into CRU, even though they are not trained or recognized by the unit. Whereas they do not interface with the CRU, they have remained subject of numerous complaints about their involvement in arrest and extortion of money from people, and reports sent to the IGP about their nefarious activities never receive attention.
- Participants noted that it is problematic for the CRU to function effectively because it is placed under the office of the Force PRO. The mandate of the Force PRO and the CRU are opposite. The Force PRO is to launder the image of the police but the CRU is to expose errant officers. The mandate of the Force PRO is not that of oversight therefore, there is need for the separation of the CRU from the office of the Force PRO.
- Participants welcomed the publication of the CRU report noting that before now, CRU reports were produced on pieces of papers. Participants commended RULAAC, the Consortium and other CSOs for their support to the CRU
- Participants observed that the report gives hope to victims who send in complaints that their concerns will be addressed and feedbacks given. It will also help groups working on police accountability obtain relevant data unlike what obtains in the Army where the civilian desk is hardly accessible.
- Participants encourages the CRU to keep an updated data base that reflects the sides of the complainant and response of police officers especially in relation to the female gender.
- Noting that Rivers State recorded the highest number of human rights violations reported in 2021 and documented in the report, participants called on the Police authorities to call the attention of the Rivers State Police Commissioner to the report as soon as possible.
- Participants noted that data is very important and encouraged that Report should be shared with State CPs in a spread sheet so that they can see how they are faring and areas to improve upon.
- Participants also observed that there are reported cases with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) which the CRU report did not capture. To address discrepancies in reports, there should be inter-agency synergy in harnessing and treating complaints for a comprehensive report.
- Participants noted that some states recorded very low numbers of complaints and sought for explanations for this: could it be lack of awareness, or lack of knowledge of how to engage with the CRU or other issues?
- Participants further noted the need to make the CRU data serve broader purposes in the policing sector. For example, the data should be able to show if a certain gender is presenting a certain type of complaint more than the other gender, keep track of complainants that receive threats from police officers for reporting their misconducts as well as capture if errant police officers are prosecuted or not etc.
- Participants called for improvement in police response to gender based violence, and that the CRU should ensure appropriate disciplinary actions against police officers who display bias and unprofessional conduct with regards to handling issues around domestic and sexual based violence
- Participants called for the creation of awareness about the CRU in local languages including the use of the media especially radio in creating awareness and disseminating information to the public about the unit.
- Participants called on the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to make toll-free lines available to the CRU for people to make their reports to the unit.
- Participants resolved that there is a need to draw up a strategic plan for the CRU and track the progress the unit is expected to make in the next 3 years. Part of this plan should include to determine the CRU’s capacity to deal with police accountability in terms of Conduct (behavior), Crime (performance in handling crimes) and Cost, i.e. to ascertain if all of the 3Cs apply to CRU’s mandate.
- Participants resolved that there is need for the CRUto have unfettered access to the office of the IGP and that the IGP should give full and genuine support to the unit, noting that the CRU will boost citizens’ acceptability and support for the NPF.
- There is the need to strengthen the CRU as a tool which can help the NPF begin to regain the trust of Nigerians as it offers citizens the opportunity to report police officers’ misconducts to their fellow officers in the CRU and expect justice.
- Participants resolved that there is the need for an external oversight body to be in place to avoid political interference especially with the promotion of officers.
- Participants resolved that it is important for the unit to sustain reportage of its activities through data analysis on trends and give feedbacks on interventions and other statistics
- Participants resolved that there is need for routine training for the personnel of the unit to enhance their professional competence.
- Participants resolved that there is the need to provide an expanded and more befitting office space for the CRU at the Force Headquarters which can accommodate modern equipment for the efficient performance of the unit, as well as the need to create satellite offices and standard call centres especially in Lagos and Abuja.
- Participants resolved that there is need to urgently amend the Police Act 2020 to address nagging issues that slow down the progress of the unit, including domicile of the CRU for effective performance. In part, participants called for the amendment of section of the Police Act that placed the CRU under the Force PRO and posited that the CRU should rather be under the admin or human resources and professional ethics department of the NPF or under the office of the Force Secretary who is an AIG chosen by the IGP himself. The AIG is charged with oversight of senior police officers and issues queries from ASPs up to DIGs. This will make it easier to access and have the ears of the IGP.
- Participants resolved that there is need for CSOs to have regular engagements with, and interventions on, the CRU and continue to find ways to support the unit.
- Participants called on development partners and foreign embassies, to support the CRU as a way to demonstrate their commitment to police accountability which is essential for the legitimacy of the NPF.
- Participants resolved that there is need for inter-agency support and collaboration especially between the NHRC and the CRU.
- Participants resolved that there is need for external oversight body which could be a government appointee or somebody in government who would have unfettered capacity to call the CRU to order. The appointee should not be bound by bureaucracy in the NPF. If the Police understands that they have external persons watching, the NPF will be better behaved. The Police Service Commission which is supposed to act in that capacity is distracted with recruitment tussle with the NPF.
- Participants resolved that there is Need for the CRU to continue to strategically partner with development partners and CSOs that can be of support to them, especially in the areas of statistics, infographic designs, data analysis and website maintenance.
The Police leadership needs to prioritize discipline and accountability in the NPF. One of the best ways to do this is to strengthen and support internal oversight systems especially the CRU to function effectively.
There is need for the establishment of the CRU in the 36 states of the federation and as the Police Act dictates, the office of the IGP should give priority to this so as to expand the reach, coverage and effectiveness of the unit.
The IGP should insulate the unit from undue control and interference and disband all illegal CRU offices in zonal commands which are not statutorily recognized.
We reaffirm our unequivocal commitment to continue to support the CRU and to contribute to efforts aimed at improving the effectiveness of the unit in handling complaints in order to engender confidence in the police.