UGRFP CALLS FOR URGENT URGENT REFORMS, RESOLUTION OF CONFLICT IN FUNCTIONS, FINANCIAL AUTONOMY FOR THE PSC & INCREASED CIVILIAN, CIVIL SOCIETY & PRIVATE SECTOR INVOLVEMENT IN THE REVIEW OF THE POLICING SYSTEM OF NIGERIA
Members of the Public, Panellists and Distinguished Members of the Press, thank you for your time and audience.
The Nigeria Police Force being the primary law enforcement agency in Nigeria with offices in all 36 states of the federation and the federal capital territory is saddled with the statutory responsibility of maintaining law and order in the civil space, and the protection of lives and property. The agency’s role in the foregoing regard has been the subject of multiple public complaints and law-suiits as officers vested with this responsibility and entrusted with weapons of coercion have systematically and maliciously applied same to oppress, harass and intimidate members of the public for pecuniary or prejudicial purposes.
The rising public complaints against the ultra vires, extra-judicial and oppressive tendencies of officers of the NPF who have normalised extortion, false imprisonment & trumped-up charges, and the use of torture or the threat of same to bend the public will to its narrow intents and purposes necessitated the establishment of a review and regulatory body to directly and expeditiously deal with such complaints for the sake of order and sanity in our policing system.
The Police Service Commission (PSC), established as an executive body under section 153 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Police Service Commission (Establishment) Act of 2001, became, on paper, the answer to the people’s prayer for an oversight body independent of the bias of in-house regulation against the unlawful actions of officers of the Nigeria Police Force. The PSC was established with the power to appoint, promote, discipline and dismiss all officers of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) except the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), and set-up to enhance and groom the relationship between the public and the police to be one of trust and confidence rather than suspicion and indifference.
Regrettably, there have been a lack of synergy between the PSC and the NPF occasioned in part by a lack of political will and conflicting bureaucratic interpretations of the functions of both bodies all of which have defeated the overall objective of making the Nigeria Police Force responsible and responsive as evidenced by the continued complaints of the public against harassment by men of the Force without consequence.
The United Global Resolve for Peace (UGRFP), in line with our mandate to ensure the rule of law and diligence in public service as a panacea for peace and order have drawn the conclusion that the unhealthy rivalry between the PSC and the NPF, especially as sharpened by the Police Force’s intent to usurp the functions of the PSC, is a significant glitch in the system that can ruin what little policing gains have been made over the years and condemn Nigerians to more years of oppression in the hands of corrupt officers of the Force.
The following missive is a rendition of our observations, contentions and recommendation for reforms in the system to overcome the immediate challenge of making the Nigeria Police principally by fully empowering the Police Service Commission to function without intervention.
DISTINCTION IN ROLES & FUNCTIONS
The legal maxim, “Nemo Judex In Causa Sua”, translated as “You Cannot Be A Judge In Your Own Case” underscores a key feature of the rule of law and of bureaucratic propriety in that it makes absolutely more sense for an independent body free from bias and the pressure of familiarity to review the actions of men of the Nigeria Police Force. It is this ideal, no doubt, which gave rise to the establishment of the Police Service Commission, a civilian oversight of the Nigeria Police Force statutorily enabled to promote diligent officers, dismiss erring ones and recruit or appoint fitting members of the public into the Force.
To wit: the PSC is the primary body specifically assigned this responsibility in the Constitution as contained in Paragraph 30, Third Schedule of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) which states as follows:
- The Commission shall have power to –
(a) appoint persons to offices (other than office of the Inspector-General of Police) in the Nigeria Police Force; and
(b) dismiss and exercise disciplinary control over persons holding any office referred to in sub-paragraph (a) of this paragraph.
Some have erroneously argued that the Nigeria Police Council, NPC, headed by the President has the same powers with the PSC. The constitution however states that:
- The functions of the Nigeria Police Council shall include –
(a) the organization and administration of the Nigeria Police Force and all other matters relating thereto (not being matters relating to the use and operational control of the Force or the appointment, disciplinary control and dismissal of members of the Force);
The Constitution was therefore careful to preserve the primary functions of the PSC in terms of especially appointment, promotion, and discipline of the Police as the exclusive preserve of the oversight body. The powers of the PSC, by Nigeria’s laws, is therefore not only supreme, but totally independent.
The recent aberration in the recruitment and appointment of new officers of the Nigeria Police Force overseen by the Inspector-General of Police is therefore anathema to the intent of our laws and undermines the authority of the Police Service Commission. The strategic political placement of the Inspector-General of Police, especially as singularly exempt from the Police Service Commission’s legal authority, has thus been observed to be deployed towards undermining the Commission, and this cannot be allowed to continue. Any or all actions such as the observed moves of the National Assembly to transfer the oversight powers of the PSC to the Office of the Inspector-General of Police is thus misguided and ill-advised, as a body cannot run oversight over itself with any significant measure of success.
INDEPENDENCE OF THE POLICE SERVICE COMMISSION
“We’ve made the regrettable observation that the PSC is yet to be afforded the space and enablement to carry out its statutory functions largely in part to its composition and how this defeats the aim of independence needed to make the Commission’s work possible and effective.It has become the tradition for retired Inspector-Generals of the Nigeria Police Force to take over the helm of affairs as Chairmen of the Commission and, while it may be argued that they bring with them a wealth of insight and influence, it cannot be ignored that their loyalty to the Commission and its objectives is undermined by their years as men of the Force who continue to enjoy the patronage and fealty of hierarchies of the Nigeria Police Force, making the enforcement of disciplinary actions against their former colleagues difficult if not impossible.”
Other significant roles can be found for such former IGP’s with intent to continue to serve in the public service sector but not such sensitive roles that manifestly places a question mark on their motives and competence on the basic of loyalty. The Police Service Commission is not a retirement home for such ex-officers, but is in fact a civilian-members driven forum inclusive of private citizens, civil society groups and career public service members unblemished by any link to the Nigeria Police Force.
A CASE FOR REFORMS
The emerging norm all over the world is the centring of policing systems around the citizens through the protection of their rights, lives and properties. To birth the policing system of our dream, it is pertinent that we have a Police Force that answers for its ill-actions to a citizen-driven supervisory body such as the Police Service Commission. It has been rightly said that a weak oversight machinery births a dislocated and anti-citizen police especially in a system where the citizenry do not enjoy the licence to carry arms to protect themselves from trigger-happy cops.
The following recommendations are therefore hoped to drive a holistic reform in our policy system:
- The reservation of the chairmanship of the Police Service Commission of Nigeria for former Inspector-Generals of Police is a tradition that must be discontinued as it is defies any logic for independence of the Commission. A retired Inspector-Generals of Police who continues to retirement pay from the Force, who is a product of the system which the PSC is set up to regulate, and who continues to have, hold and enjoy fellowship with former colleagues in the Police Force who may become subjects for disciplinary actions would be hard-pressed and divided in his sworn duty. It is best for the system that such scenarios are avoided in its entirety, and other roles be found for such officers other than the chairmanship of the Commission.
- In the alternative, a tenured Executive Director may be appointed to chair the Commission from amongst professionals such as retired Justices of any superior court in Nigeria, Senior Advocates of Nigeria, or seasoned professionals in the Human Rights sector within the private or public sector.
- The National Assembly must as a matter of urgency grant financial concessions to the Police Service Commission to help it improve its accessibility to Nigerians in the most remotest regions. The funding of the Commission must be prioritised to help it meet its mandate
- Also, the appropriation of the recruitment and appointment role of the Commission by the Nigeria Police Force which expressly goes against the spirit of the law must be discontinued and same given judicial and legislative emphasis. It is not, and should never be, the duty of the Nigeria Police Force to cherry pick its own officers and presume to exercise disciplinary oversight over same. Simply put, the police cannot police itself. This defies all logic for success.
- The role of civil society groups, members of the public and human rights workers in the live of the Commission must be given emphasis and brought to the fore of its engagement with the public if any success can be hoped to be made with meeting the objectives of the Commission.
It is our belief that a proper separation of powers and functions between the Police Service Commission and the Nigeria Police Force is needed for synergy and the effectiveness of both institutions in playing their individual roles in the policing system of Nigeria. Both the PSC and the NPF must see the public and civil society groups as essential to ensuring an effective policing system. Between the two, we may yet hope for peace and order in our civil space if roles are neither reversed, conflicted nor usurped.