Sunday, September 20, 2015 8:05 pm
The Network on Police Reform in Nigeria, NOPRIN, a network of 49 civil society organisations spread across the country to promote police accountability and respect for human rights, has written the Professor Itse Sagay-led Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption urging it to urgently review all past presidential and civil society committee reports on the reformation of the Nigeria Police Force.
The review being sought for by NOPRIN is to enable the implementation of all far-reaching recommendations on police reform in the country. The letter signed by Okechukwu Nwanguma, NOPRIN’s National Coordinator, and obtained by our correspondent, began by commending President Muhammadu Buhari for setting up the committee as part of the fulfillment of his campaign promises to tackle insecurity, tackle unemployment and corruption.
NOPRIN which said the emergence of democracy in 1999 brought to the fore the need to reform the police and make it more accountable and responsive to the safety and security needs of the people, added that considering the neglect and abuse the police suffered under military rule between 1984 and 1999, police reform was, and remains inevitable and crucial for effective police performance of their criminal justice functions.
“Several international agencies, foreign governments and private foundations have provided various forms of assistance to the Nigeria Police in the past sixteen years. These include donation of vehicles and equipment; episodic training on human rights and human trafficking, and development of community policing as a strategy of policing in the country, etc. The reform priorities of successive administrations have included purchase of arms, periodic recruitments, promotions and setting up of police reform committees. However, police promotions by the Police Service Commission have often been greeted with controversies and allegations of favouritism and corruption. Not a few police officers have complained about being sidelined in promotions and stagnated on the same rank for several years while their mates and even their juniors get promoted over and above them on the sheer account of who they know – the phenomenon of godfatherism. This corrupt practice has lowered morale among some senior and many junior level officers,” NOPRIN said.
The organisation further noted that the periodic recruitments to make up for the shortfall in police manpower caused by prolonged years of military rule had also been marred by corruption and irregularities.
In the report of NOPRIN’s field investigation on the patterns and prevalence of police abuse in Nigeria, entitled: ‘Criminal Force: Torture, Abuse, and Extrajudicial Killings by the Nigeria Police Force (2010)’, NOPRIN observed that police recruitment is compromised by political interference leaving the NPF with a poorly trained and badly paid workforce prone to violence and corruption. “Every successive Inspector-General of Police (IGP) comes up with his own agenda which hardly survives beyond the tenure of the particular IGP that conceives of such agenda. The result is policy inconsistency and lack of sustainability of vision. These agenda are hardly well thought-out and far reaching because they do not benefit from public- or even stake holder- input. They are hardly backed by law,” NOPRIN argued.
The lengthy letter from the organisation hinted that successive administrations since 1999 have set up Presidential Committees on Police Reform without implementing the recommended reforms.
“Reports are shelved soon after they are submitted to the President, and another committee is set up by the next administration in response to a new incident or development. President Obasanjo set up the first Presidential Committee on Police Reform in 2006. President Yar’Adua set up another committee in 2008 and President Jonathan set up yet another committee in 2012. Setting up police reform committees seemed to have become a means by which successive administrations distribute patronage, a waste of time and public resources. It is indeed, a pretext to evade responsibility. The resulting effect is what has been aptly described as ‘motion without movement’. NOPRIN urges the Presidential Advisory Committee against Corruption to advise President Buhari on the need to “dust up the shelved reports of both civil society and successive Presidential Committees on Police Reform and harmonise them for implementation of the far reaching recommendations contained in them. The reports contain recommendations on how best to restructure and reorganise the Nigeria Police to make it more efficient, professional and accountable; how to check abuse and corruption, and how to address the operational and dire welfare needs of members of the Nigeria Police.”
The group added: “As we stated in our transmittal letter to the former President (Goodluck Jonathan), we cannot think of any issue more critical to the survival of our nation at this juncture in our history, than repositioning the Nigerian Police Force to effectively and efficiently discharge its functions in partnership with the communities it serves. What have been lacking are not the solutions to the problems plaguing the Nigeria Police but the political will to implement far reaching reforms. We believe that President Buhari will make the difference and muster the will to implement the far reaching recommendations contained in the reports of the various Presidential Committees as well as the CSO Panel on Police Reform in Nigeria.”