By Gift Chapi-Odekina
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rep Femi Gbadjabiamila on Wednesday said that over the next thirty days, the House of Representatives will work with the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), civil society and Nigerians of good conscience to draft new legislation to establish a system of independent accountability for the police force.
According to Gbajabiamila, interactions between the police and the Nigeria citizens over the years had resulted 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.
He further stated that the reform will help to hold 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 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,” he added.
In the same vain, the House during its plenary called on the Inspector General of Police to take decisive action to stop the brutality and Human Rights Violation by SARS and report the said actions to the House within three weeks.
The House further requested the Inspector General of Police; to produce a comprehensive record of disciplinary and judicial action taken
against the officers accused of abuse of power in the past five years, produce immediate plan for identifying and compensation for victims.
Further resolved to set up a Joint Committee of Justice, Human Rights and Police affairs to oversee the above prayers and Conduct Public Hearing on the Human Rights Violation of Citizens by SARS and submit their report within 6 weeks for further Legislative action.
The house also resolved to take immediate steps to develop Legislative actions to; amend existing Laws and the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to excise Section 215(5) and replace it with provisions that ensure judicial review of Police actions is enshrined and protected by the constitution.
The resolutions followed a motion moved by the leader of the House, Rep. Alhassan Doguwa, who noted that the persistent outcry by Nigerians over the brutality and human rights violation by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigerian Police Force.