Promoting Police Accountability and Entrenching a Rights-Respecting Policing Atmosphere in Nigeria:
Promoting Police Accountability and Entrenching a Rights-Respecting Policing Atmosphere in Nigeria:
A Report by Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre (RULAAC)
Leading police reform civil society organizations in Nigeria namely, CLEEN Foundation, the Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre (RULAAC), and NOPRIN Foundation, in partnership with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the Police Reform and Transformation Office (PORTO) under the Presidency, came together under a Consortium, with support from McArthur Foundation, to implement different activities under a Police Reform Project. The broad objective of the project was to promote police accountability and entrench a rights-respecting policing atmosphere in Nigeria in line with democratic values. The project duration was between January and December 2022.
Primarily, this project was designed to address the persistent problem of police brutality and human rights violations by the police. The year 2020 witnessed massive global outrage, protests and upheavals precipitated by impunity for police brutality. Globally, police institutions came under scrutiny and concerns about the delivery of their mandate, especially on the issues of extrajudicial killings and the use of force beyond permissible levels.
The public outcry in the US following the killing of a black African-American, George Floyd, sparked a reaction by the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement in the United States and across the world to restrain the powers of the police. George Floyd’s death followed a pattern of racially motivated police brutality against unarmed black males in the US. In Nigeria, there had been persistent clamour against police brutality especially by operatives of the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (F-SARS) of the Nigeria Police. The despicable activities of the defunct F-SARS operatives led to the ‘#ENDSARS’ campaign against police brutality and a national call to disband the unit late 2020. These protests were precipitated by years of bottled-up citizens’ anger over police violence, high-handedness, extortion, and sundry professional misconduct by operatives of the FSARS unit and indeed the general police culture of incivility that had characterized the operations and personnel of Nigeria Police Force.
#ENDSARS was a validation of one of the opening statements in the Preamble to the Universal Delcaration of Human Rights, that ‘’…it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law’.
To address these concerns in Nigeria, the Consortium proposed a series of actions that were aimed at bridging a nexus in communication on policy formulation and police reform agenda in Nigeria.
Our intervention sought to address the various concerns regarding policing practices in Nigeria aimed ultimately at protecting Nigeria’s fragile democracy. We collectively recognised the need to strengthen the capacity of the police to understand their role in the survival of Nigeria’s democracy by upholding the tenets of police accountability and respect for human rights which, among others, define democratic policing.
Activities undertaken by RULAAC using the project funds.
- RULAAC commenced implementation of its own part of the activities in January 2022 with the commissioning of two experts to produce draft Concise Summary of the Police Act 2020 and Abridged Version of the Police Trust Fund Act 2019.
- The fully illustrated abridged versions of the two Acts were presented for validation in a public event in Abuja in June 2020. Participants at the validation meeting comprised leaders of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), representatives of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), the Police Service Commission (PSC), the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Complaint Response Unit (CRU), and the media. The Inspector General of Police (IGP) Idris Baba Alkali was represented by a senior police officer in the Legal Department of the NPF.
- Following the validation of the two drafts, three thousand (3000) copies each of the Concise Police Act and the Abridged Police Trust Fund Act were printed and are currently being distributed to police formations and civil society organisations to enhance access, and promote awareness of the provisions of the laws. One of the gaps we found in our various engagements with police officers was the lack of availability and access – and therefore, lack of knowledge of the provisions of the laws that should govern their operations and conduct, including the Police Act. The printing of the summarized versions of the Police Act and the Police Trust Fund Acts was therefore, held as a welcome development with police commands, formations and individual police officers requesting for more copies for use by the personnel.
- Due to increasing demands, RULAAC commissioned the printing of additional 3000 copies of the Police Act as an appendix to this Final Project Report.
- RULAAC provided support to the Complaints Response Unit (CRU) of the Nigeria Police Force for the publication of the CRU’s quarterly reports for 2021 and 2022. The 2021 CRU report comprised reports for the four quarters in one volume and subsequently, the quarterly reports for 2022. This is the first time the CRU would publish its quarterly reports in booklet.
- RULAAC facilitated the steering committee meeting of the CRU which held in Abuja on May 17th 2022 aftera very long time. During the meeting, the CRU report for 2021 was also presented to members of the CRU Steering Committee including international development partners like the GIZ, Avocats Sans Frontieres, the US Embassy, other CSOs and the media. The event was widely publicized in the media. The CRU report attracted an editorial from the Punch Newspaper. Other participating CSOs and development partners also pledged to support the unit, following RULAAC’s step.
- RULAAC forged a close partnership with the leadership of the CRU, held regular meetings and reached agreements at every stage on the modalities for providing support to the CRU.
- RULAAC traversed the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria, organized inception meetings for the project, and capacity building for CSOs on the Police Act 2020 and the Police Trust Fund Act 2019. A Civil Society Organisations Observatory (CSO-PTF Support and Oversight Group) was also inaugurated in every zone to monitor the implementation of the Police Act 2020 and the Police Trust Fund Act 2019. The Observatory was launched in Abuja for the North Central Zone and Abuja on the 27th of January 2022; in Umuahia, Abia State, for the South East Zone on March 3rd 2022; in Asaba, Delta State, for the South-South Zone on April 7th 2022; in Ibadan, Oyo State, for the South West Zone on 23rd of June 2022; in Yola, Adamawa State, for the North East Zone on 25th August, 2022; and in Kano State, for the North East Zone on 16th November, 2022.
During the zonal capacity building workshops, experts were engaged to sensitize the CSOs on the innovative provisions of the Police Act and the Police Trust Fund Act. At the end of each zonal meeting, a WhatsApp group comprising Police Officers, CSOs and the media was also created for each zone where cases and complaints of police abuse are received, discussed and resolved through joint action. Communiques were issued and publicized in the media at the end of each zonal launch. Copies of the abridged versions of the Police Act and Police Trust Fund Act were also distributed to participating police officers and CSOs.
The Observatory was intended to, and has continued to act as a catalyst to spur the Police Trust Fund to deliver on its mandate. The CSO-PTF Support Group has been engaging in online conversations and carrying out sensitisation to create public awareness across the geo-political zones on the existence of the Police Trust Fund and its mandate.
At many of the zonal launches, participating media representatives stated that they were hitherto, either unaware of the existence of the Police Act and the Police Trust Fund Act or had never seen copies of the Acts. This aroused their interest and encouraged them to write reports and feature stories and editorials on the Acts
- Advocacy for transparency and accountability in the management of the Police Trust Fund and dissemination of information on the implementation of the Police Trust Fund Act 2019.
The Police Trust Fund was established in 2019 by a national assembly legislation to offer additional funding for the police. The NPTF Act also creates the NPTF Board of Trustees, responsible for investing Trust Fund funds, as well as establishing regulations for NPF personnel training and retraining. The Act exempts the Trust Fund from paying income tax on any income generated by the Trust Fund’s investments.
On June 24, 2019, President Buhari signed the Nigeria Police Trust Fund (Establishment) Bill into law, and the Board was announced one year later on May 6, 2020.
The Police Trust Fund Act establishes a legal framework for the administration and control of a special intervention fund for the training and retraining of Nigerian police officers, as well as the provision of state-of-the-art security equipment and other related facilities for the improvement of the skills of Nigerian police officers.
The Trust Fund will operate for six years after the Act takes effect, after which it will cease to exist unless an Act of the National Assembly is passed to prolong it. The delay in forming the Board – one year after the bill was enacted into law – ate into the board’s planned lifespan. The Trust Fund is already in its 4th year in 2023.
According to the PTF Establishment Act, the Fund will consist of 0.5 percent of total revenue coming to the federation account, take-off grants, aids, and gifts, as well as 0.005 percent of net profit of enterprises doing business in Nigeria.
In 2021, RULAAC in partnership with the Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI) initiated an intervention to interrogate how far the NPTF had achieved its set purpose of filling the funding gap and enhancing the operations of the NPF. The intervention was aimed at promoting transparency and accountability through independent scrutiny and interrogation of the application of the resources of NPTF and to disseminate information on the budget of the trust fund. The duration of this intervention was from May 15, 2021 to November 30, 2021
Among other ambitions, the project set out to interrogate the often-repeated problem of lack of funding for effective policing particularly against the backdrop of escalating crises of safety and security in Nigeria. Beyond the NPTF, the project also set out to collect and collate information on the attacks on police personnel and installations across the country – paying special attention to Imo (the site of the most recent seemingly well-coordinated attacks).
This intervention reviewed progress (or lack of it) in the implementation of the mandate of the NPTF with a view to ascertaining impact and making specific recommendations.
As part of that intervention, RULAAC commissioned a research in Imo State with a view to collecting and collating information on the recent attacks on police personnel and installations across the country – paying special attention to Imo. A comprehensive report was produced which forms a basis for engaging the discussion about funding and appropriation for policing functions.
This project supported by McArthur built on the previous intervention by RULAAC in partnership with the OSJI
- National Performance Assessment Meeting on the implementation of the PTF Act
In furtherance of advocacy to enlist other CSOs and public involvement in monitoring the implementation of the PTF Act in order to achieve the purpose of setting up the Police Trust Fund – to improve funding and enhance the capacity of the NPF to effectively perform its constitutional and statutory duties, RULAAC, in partnership with the consortium, convened a one-day National Performance Assessment Meeting on the Nigeria Police Trust Fund (NPTF) in Abuja on the 23rd of November, 2022. The meeting provided opportunity for stakeholders from across the country and from different institutions and organizations to come together and do a collective assessment of impact and to know how far the NPTF has got along achieving its mandate.
There is increased public awareness and attention, and demand for transparency and accountability in the management of the Police Trust Fund. A group of over 30 CSOs spread across Nigeria jointly issued a statement calling on the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) to make public the outcome of its unduly prolonged investigation into allegations – coming from within the Trust Fund itself- of mismanagement of funds. The allegations arose from disagreement on sharing formula for the diverted funds. RULAAC also sent a Freedom of Information (FoI) Request to ICPC demanding that it makes the report of its investigation publicly available. RULAAC is following up with a law suit to compel the ICPC to comply by disclosing the requested information under the FoI Act.
Participants at the Performance Assessment Meeting on the Police Trust Fund also adopted some action points to intensify and sustain advocacy for transparency and accountability in the management of the police Trust Fund so that it will achieve the purpose for its establishment which is to increase funding, state of the art modern equipment, and training and retraining for personnel of the Nigeria police to enable them effectively discharge their duties of providing security for Nigerian people and residents.
The Action points:
- Sustained media advocacy – massive media campaign, working with the media and social media influencers to give speed and boost to the campaign, and sustained campaign by the zonal CSO Support and Oversight Groups.
- Task Presidential aspirants in the 2023 general elections with their plans regarding the NPTF Act, police funding and police reform generally with a view to extracting their commitments, as part of the social contract. The Consortium should engage the aspirants at Town Hall meetings and debates to state their plans for addressing safety and security challenges.
- Representatives of CSOs in each geo-political zones who benefitted from the capacity building on the NPTF Act and the Police Act 2020 should be encouraged to do a step down training for their various CSOs, religious groups and the media and engage the National Assembly members in their zone towards the implementation and review of the NPTF Act.
- Deploy the FOI Act; file actions in court to compel response if they fail to respond within seven days
- RULAAC and the consortium should communicate the agreement/communique to the ICPC, PSC, NHRC and other oversight institutions
- Organise street marches/protests to attract the attention of the NPTF board and the National Assembly.
- Build the capacity of the rank and file of the police force to support CSOs on the need to ensure transparency and accountability in the management of the NPTF Act
- Have quarterly meetings to brain storm and get update through the WhatsApp platforms
It was concluded that government cannot release the humongous amounts it is releasing to the NPTF Management (151.6 Billion Naira in 3 years) and not call for accountability. We need to make the board account for their stewardship, before their tenure elapses, otherwise, we may as well, call for the scrapping of the NPTF
Policy implications of these project activities
- Discussions around the Police Act and the Police Trust Fund Act have brought to light the many gaps, contradictions and inconsistencies in the two Acts and the urgency for their review by the National Assembly (NASS). There are already discussions and moves towards the direction of review by the legislature as well as extending the life span of the Police Trust Fund Act which expires in 2024. The representative of the IGP at the Validation of the draft abridged Police Act noted the points raised about gaps in the Police Act and promised that they will be included in the National Assembly’s proposed amendment of the Act. For example, the contentious issue of police recruitment which has created tension between the PSC and the NPF is one area requiring amendment
- One of the recommendations that came from the discussions at the zonal launches was the consideration of changing the Nigeria Police Trust Fund to the Nigerian Security Trust Fund so that it will gain more acceptance from the citizenry. Those who pushed this argument said that naming it ‘Security Trust Fund’ will minimize or discourage the clamour by other security agencies for their own trust fund. They argued that one Security Trust Fund can serve all the security agencies. Another argument was that people are more likely to support a security trust fund than a police trust fund because of the history of past police trust funds under previous administrations and the negative public perception of the police. Another notable observation was the unnecessary duplication of Trust Funds in other sectors and the complaints by corporate organisations about being overtaxed.
- There is evidently low level of awareness of the Police Act and the PTF Act among both the Police and the public, including CSOs. Many police officers had never seen a copy of the Police Act until RULAAC and the Consortium printed the abridged version. Many CSOs and the media also confessed not knowing about their existence, or if they knew, never saw copies of the Acts until they participated in RULAAC’s meeting and engagements on the two Acts
- Most times when police officers attend CSO or other public events, they unnecessarily assume the posture of being on trial and always on the defensive. We understand that reassuring them that CSOs understand and empathize with their challenges and are partners, not merely bent on fault-finding but on partnership to find solutions, is yielding positive results. With constant interaction, the police are increasingly beginning to change their notions about CSOs and beginning to open up and see them, not as adversaries but as partners in progress. It is helping them to loosen up and become more receptive to collaboration and even objective criticisms.
- The CSO-PTF Support and Oversight WhatsApp Group is helping to promote police – public interaction and dialogue on a continuous basis, helping in resolving complaints jointly by CSOs and police officers in the groups. The Group is also making information sharing easy among CSOs and between CSOs and the police
- The Observatory has made engagement less confrontational and yielding faster and better results by way of jointly addressing and resolving complaints
- The engagements have helped to create greater awareness about the Acts among CSOs who often express surprise at some of the innovative content of the Acts
- The massive media publicity from RULAAC’s activities push the police to seize every opportunity to state their own sides to issues, with the Force PRO sometimes issuing statements for clarification
- Some police officers now refer some victims to RULAAC with assurances that they will get result. They feel that if they intervened directly, they will be seen by their affected colleagues as working against them or against the police.
- A lot of units in the Police Force that have roles in addressing public complaints like the CRU are in dire need of support and the support provided by RULAAC and the consortium through this grant has made a great deal of difference
- Increasing insecurity and security concerns affected the implementation of this project. For example, RULAAC had to postpone an already scheduled meeting in Yola, Adamawa but eventually held it on a later date.
KEY ISSUES, CONCERNS AND RECOMMENDATIONS FROM THE VARIOUS ZONAL OBSERVATORY LAUNCHES
From the interventions, there have been key issues, observations and concerns around both the Act itself and its implementation.