Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Beyond Code of Conduct for Nigerian Police

On Thursday, January 10, 2013, the Nigerian Police authorities launched a new code of conduct for the Force. The policy which the Inspector-General of Police, Muhammed Abubakar, referred to as an article of faith is meant to instill discipline and ethics in the officers and men of the Force. According to the Deputy Police Public Relations Officer, CSP Frank Mba, “The Code contains standard policing rules as well as contemporary international best practices in law enforcement as available in various United Nations Conventions, the Nigeria constitution, Police Act and Regulations and other domestic statutes. It is intended to be used by police officers in determining what is right and proper in all their actions.”
Furthermore, Mba intoned, “The Code is designed to promote efficiency and effectiveness of Police services by promoting transparency, accountability and a deeper sense of civilian oversight on police activities. It is further intended to promote discipline, professionalism and strict adherence to due process in police activities and operations.” The cryptogram dealt with issues such as the primary responsibilities of police officer; performance of duties as a police officer; discretion; use of force; confidentiality; integrity; cooperation with other police officers and agencies and personal professional capabilities.
There is no gainsaying that the motive behind the enactment of the new cipher is noble and the IGP deserves commendation for his dynamism aimed at improving standards and efficiency of the Nigerian Police. It is noteworthy that the Force has been under virulent attacks by the Nigerian public and some international agencies like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch of late.
In its 2011 report, Human Rights Watch said this about our police: “As in previous years, the undisciplined Nigeria Police Force was implicated in frequent human rights violations, including extrajudicial killings, torture, arbitrary arrests, and extortion-related abuses. The police routinely solicit bribes from victims to investigate crimes and from suspects to drop investigations. Embezzlement of police funds is rife among senior police officials who also often demand monetary “returns” from money extorted from the public by their subordinates.” In a November 1, 2012 report, Amnesty International in an account titled, Nigeria: Trapped in the cycle of violence, documents the atrocities carried out by the Nigerian security agencies as including enforced disappearance, torture, extrajudicial executions, the burning of homes and detention without trial.
While delivering a keynote address on December 10, 2012 during the International Human Rights Day in Abuja, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Bello Adoke, (SAN), castigated the Nigerian Police for carrying out extrajudicial killing. According to media reports, Adoke opined that the Federal Government had noted with concern that the police had, through the years, relied on ‘Police Force Order 237’ to commit extrajudicial killings. The order, he observed, allows the police to shoot any suspect or detainees trying to escape or avoid arrest. Hiding under the cover of Order 237, the Police had perpetrated unlawful killings of 7,195 persons in four years, out of which 2,500 were detainees. The AGF further revealed that plans were afoot by his office to take over from the police the power to prosecute any criminal suspect in the courts because the Force, in his opinion, is peopled by laymen who could not adequately prosecute cases in court.
These scathing remarks, it would seem, did not go down well with police authorities hence the IGP got a team together to fashion out this new code of ethics. However, this regulation is not in anyway new. It is like putting a new wine in an old wine skin and if history is anything to go by, this supposedly new code will most likely change nothing. Something more than a convention is needed to reform the Nigerian Police and the authorities know that. Several investigative panels have been set up to transform the Force but their reports have remained largely unimplemented. The last one was the AIG Parry Osayande (retd.) panel which submitted its recommendations last August. The White Paper on that report has yet to be out.
In spite of the horrific picture of the Nigerian Police painted by the AGF and other international agencies, the police have burnished Nigeria’s image in international assignments particularly during peacekeeping operations and at international sporting events. Many forgot that a policewoman, Chioma Ajunwa, gave Nigeria her first Olympic gold medal via Long Jump at the Atlantic Olympics in 1996. A former World Boxing Council Heavyweight champion, Samuel Peters, sprinter Sunday Bada of the blessed memory and Kikelomo Ajayi, former skipper of the Super Falcons are among police officers who have done this nation proud.
In my own opinion, Nigerian police officers and men need to be motivated for them to be able to conform to the new code. Like Governor Adams Oshiohmole observed during the launch of the code, it is incongruous to expect the best from policemen and women who are posted on assignment outside their base without adequate logistics and had to take shelter in accidented vehicles at police stations. The Governor also joined the Osayande committee to call for the scrapping of the Ministry of Police Affairs. I endorse these positions completely.
The Nigeria Police deserves our empathy and sympathy. It is impossible to make bricks without straw. The workload on police operatives is far too heavy. They are prime targets of terrorists, and marauders. While men of the Force may have killed thousands unlawfully so have they lost hundreds in the same manner. Sadly, they are not properly trained, equipped and remunerated. Yet, we summon them at odd hours to come out and confront dare-devil criminals just because they possess some anachronistic weapons. I was shocked to learn that Nigerian Police lack a state of the art forensic laboratory. How then would they solve the tons of criminal cases we rely on them to crack? Nigeria is grossly under-policed due to inadequate manpower and funds. Many a time, the police rely heavily on state governors for logistics such as operational vehicles and communication gadgets. This makes the call for the establishment of state police logical.
Though inherent with potential abuses, if proper parameters are not set to guide their operations, state police will ensure adequate community policing. It is not mandatory for all states to establish state police, only those with wherewithal may do so. The police should be under the concurrent legislative list just like education. I do know the fear lies in a possible abuse by politicians and other power brokers but even the federal police, as we have it, are being greatly influenced by the political and economic elite. With state high courts already in place, state police and prisons, when established, will complete the justice sector at the state level. Though the Police Equipment Fund of yesteryears was perverted and embroiled in huge controversies, a remodelling of such is imperative. This time, it should be a government-driven and legally established Security Trust Fund which should make companies in Nigeria to donate possibly one per cent of their annual profit before or after tax to the Trust Fund. With proper training, work environment, logistics and welfare, the Nigeria Police will perform better and then the new code will truly be an article of faith.