STATEMENT TO THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES BY THE SPEAKER, REP. FEMI GBAJABIAMILA ON MISCONDUCT AND ABUSE OF AUTHORITY BY OFFICERS OF THE NIGERIA POLICE FORCE (NPF) ACROSS THE COUNTRY AND THE NEED FOR ADDITIONAL POLICE REFORMS. WEDNESDAY, 7TH OCTOBER 2020.
Every day, throughout our country, interactions between the police and our citizens result in acts of horrific brutality, extortion, and retribution against the Nigerian people. Too many of the people we have assigned to protect our citizens have shown themselves unworthy of that calling. Their actions betray our trust and wreak unquantifiable damage on the already frayed fabric of our society.
Unfortunately, many of those who have betrayed our trust in this manner are never answerable for their actions. At the heart of this fundamental failure lies the unavoidable truth that we do not have an independent framework for ensuring that members of the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) are appropriately held to account when they fail to adhere to the policies and laws that govern their operations.
We have long expected the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) to police itself. It is now abundantly clear that this was the wrong call. For the benefit of a functioning system of policing in Nigeria, it is now necessary that parliament steps in to introduce an independent, fair and practical approach to ensure that those to whom we grant the authority to act in the name of the State, are held to the highest standards of professional conduct.
Over the next thirty days, the House of Representatives will work with the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), with civil society and with Nigerians of good conscience to draft new legislation that establishes a system of independent accountability that:
a. holds erring members of the Police Force to account for their conduct in the performance of their duties and imposes civil and criminal liability for violations of the Police Code; and
b. also compels the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) to take responsibility for the failures of training and discipline that leads to such violations.
The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in Section 215(5) states that “The question whether any and if so what, directions have been given (to the Police) under this section shall not be inquired into in any court”. This provision presents a singularly obstinate obstacle to any system of effective judicial review of policing in Nigeria. Therefore, any reforms of the operations of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) must include a constitutional amendment to expunge this painfully undemocratic clause from our country’s constitution.
Substantive and wholesale reform of policing institutions is never an easy undertaking. From Europe to America, and across Africa, we have seen such efforts begin and falter. Police reforms succeed when such reforms have the support of the citizens who are determined to see the process through to a rewarding end, regardless of whatever obstacles might exist along the way.
This House of Representatives will act to ensure that those agents of the State to whom we have assigned the duty to protect and serve, are deserving of the faith and respect of the Nigerian people. I ask for the support of all Nigerians as we begin this endeavour. Let us work together to achieve the vision of a nation where the citizens trust the police to always act in the public’s best interest by respecting the rights of citizens and following the due process of law.
God bless you all, and God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.