REMARKS BY THE SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVE, REP. FEMI GBAJABIAMILA AT THE PUBLIC POLICY DIALOGUE ON “POLICING AND HUMAN RIGHTS IN NIGERIA” ORGANISED BY THE HOUSE COMMITTEE ON MONITORING AND IMPLEMENTATION OF THE LEGISLATIVE AGENDA OF THE 9TH HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES. WEDNESDAY, 18TH NOVEMBER 2020. TRANSCORP HILTON, ABUJA.
Good morning and welcome to the Public Policy Dialogue series of the House of Representatives.
I thank all of you who have heeded the invitation to join us at this event and to contribute to the critical conversations that I expect will hold here today. I congratulate all of those whose efforts have contributed to articulating and implementing the vision of this Public Policy Dialogue. I want you to know that it is through efforts of this nature and conversations such as would hold here that we will be able to achieve for ourselves a fairer, more equitable and more prosperous society.
The cause of Police Reform has since inauguration been one of the fundamental commitments of the 9th House of Representatives. When we adopted our Legislative Agenda within months of our inauguration into office, it was right there on the list of the things we hoped to achieve. When we updated the legislative agenda due to the new realities of Covid-19, we did not deviate from that cause.
This is because we recognise that the policing function is at the very heart of any fully functioning State. It is through the institution, mechanisms and resources of policing that the State can protect the welfare and wellbeing of its citizens. Without the ability to offer this protection, the State loses legitimacy and the authority that flows from there. A society that cannot effectively Police itself ceases to exist, and a government that fails to protect its citizens has lost the right to continue in office. We must avoid these unfortunate outcomes.
This is why we must commend the present administration which inherited a flawed policing system, and is now taking giant steps to reform the system through the recently enacted Police Reform Act, 2020 and several other measures. But the work is far from done, and we must continue in these efforts.
Effective policing is only possible when the policing institutions are grounded in the rule of law, when they are accountable and when the justice system in its entirety is fair to all who have cause to appear before it. We cannot have an effective policing system when the citizens do not have faith that the Police will treat them fairly every time, no matter the circumstance.
We do not have an effective system of policing when the relationships between communities and the Police are defined by fear and mistrust. The Police cannot be effective when the mechanisms for accountability and discipline are too weak to identify, remove and prosecute rogue officers as a matter of course.
Ladies and gentlemen, we will have succeeded in building modern and effective Police when service in the Nigeria Police Force consistently attracts the best and brightest in our country without objection.
The House of Representatives has not taken up the cause of Police Reform because we bear particular animosity towards the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), or the individual officers that make up the force. The Police includes in its leadership and ranks, many dedicated public servants doing their jobs as best as they can, under challenging circumstances. We want to help them be better public servants by making it easier to remove rogue officers from amongst their midst because bad Police make it impossible for good Police to do their work.
When we think about policing reforms, we must resist the urge to focus only on making new rules about police conduct, and establishing new ways of holding officers accountable for failures to meet the standards of behaviour that we expect from them. Policing reform is more profound than that. Yes, we must begin by holding officers accountable, but we cannot stop there.
Our reform objectives include wholesale reviews of police recruitment and training procedures and practices. It also includes an obligation to drastically and rapidly improve the welfare and wellbeing of police officers from recruitment through to retirement. As we expect more from the men and women who carry arms and take risks to protect us, we must also be ready to do right by them, and by their families. They too are our citizens; they are our brothers and sisters deserving of the best that our nation can offer.
I want to assure all of you in this room, all of you who are watching today from wherever you are, the 9th House of Representatives will do everything we can to deliver for the Nigerian people a policing system that works for every citizen. We will talk, we will engage, we will change laws, and we will amend the Constitution subject to the consensus of the Nigerian people. We will do everything that we have the power to do so that when the account of this moment is given, we will be counted for making the right choices and doing justice by our people.
Ladies and gentlemen, this moment is about legacy, and the House of Representatives will leave a legacy of a reformed Police force.
This moment is also about our nation’s young people, a generation that never witnessed military rule, who were born into and have lived their entire lives in a democracy. Too often, and for decades, that democracy has unfortunately fallen short of their expectations. These young people have declared that they will no longer accept, under any circumstance, a democracy that fails to meet their yearning for freedom from want, from violence, and injustice in every form.
They are right to reject these things.
Our nation’s creed promises “one Nation bound in freedom, peace and unity”. It is not too much that our young people have now asked us to make real this promise. We owe it to them, and we owe it to ourselves. So let us roll up our sleeves and get to work now to see to it, that we deliver a better policing system, grounded in respect for the rule of law, mindful of the rights of citizens, and accountable to the Nigerian people.
Finally, ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests, let me remind all of us that at this moment, our country is going through rapid and unpredictable change. How we respond to these changes will make the difference between achieving a nation that is at peace, and productive or leaving for our children a country in perpetual conflict, torn apart by crises, unable to fend for itself and at the mercy of others. Let us work together across the three arms of government, and between the government and the private sector, in the recognition that nation-building is always a joint task, and nothing of consequence in politics is ever achieved by the efforts of one person or one group working alone.
To our friends all over the world, whose concerns for our progress and prosperity is genuine and heartfelt, I ask you to join us and support these efforts towards comprehensive reform. We will be looking to other international parliaments to see what they have done to make their police forces better, and we will adopt best practices to meet our present national needs.
Once again, I thank all of you for taking the time to join us here at this first Public Policy Dialogue on “Policing and Human Rights In Nigeria”. On behalf of the House of Representatives, I welcome you all to this dialogue and I wish us all a successful event.
God bless you, and God bless our Federal Republic of Nigeria.