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Powers, achievements, and failings of the Nigeria Police: Need for urgent attention(4)

“The Police Act is the main law dealing with the organization, discipline, powers and duties of the police, the special constabulary and the traffic wardens”.

By Aare Afe Babalola

HAVING shown, with particular reference to the old kingdom of Oyo, how the concept of Police is not a byproduct of western civilization, it is necessary to discuss the evolution of the Police system in Britain. The British police has its origin inextricably woven in tribal history and unavoidable circumstances. It is based on costs for securing order through the medium of appointed representatives. Simply put, the people, indeed were in essence the police.

According to British history with special emphasis on the police, the Saxons brought this system to England and improved and developed the organization. This innovation entailed the division of the people into groups of ten, called “tythings” with a tythings- man as representative of each and into larger groups, each of the ten tythings, under a hundred man who was responsible to the shire-reeve or sheriff of the given country. After contact with Norman feudalism, the “tythings” man system changed considerably but was not wholly destroyed. In due course the “tything” man became the parish constable and the shire-reeve the justice of the peace to whom the parish constable was responsible.

This system which became widely established in the seventeen and eighteen centuries, comprised generally, one unarmed able bodied citizen in each parish who was appointed or elected annually or for a year unpaid as parish constable. This parish constable worked in cooperation with the local justice in securing observance of law and maintaining order. Additionally in towns, responsibility for the maintenance of order was conferred on the guides and later on the specific groups of the citizens. These supplied bodies of paid men, known as the watch for guiding the gate and patrolling the street at night.

The industrial revolution of eighteen century brought about the beginning of tremendous social and economic changes with attendant consequential movement of the population from rural communities towns. This population shift had an effect on the towns in particular and the entire society in general. Owing to the growth in population, the parish constable and the watch systems failed completely. The aftermath of this development was that conditions generally became intolerable leading to the formation of a new police.

In 1829, the first metropolitan police act was passed and consequently the metropolitan police force was established. The new modern development occurred when Sir Robert Peel was home secretary. This new force superseded the local watch in the London area but curiously enough the city of London was not covered. Interestingly enough, even within the metropolitan district there still remained certain police establishment organized during the eighteen century outside the control of the metropolitan office, viz-
1. The Bow Street patrol mounted on foot, the later commonly called the bow street runners.
2. Police office constable attached to the offices, of and under the control of magistrate.
3. The marine or river police.
By 1839, all the aforementioned establishment had been absolved by the metropolitan police force. In the same year, the city of London police was setup and till this day has remained an independent force.

NOTABLE DATES
1285- Statute of Winchester – introduced system of regular watchmen in towns.
1361 – justice of peace Act – first rudimentary police system involving responsibilities of constable to lay justice.
1829 – Metropolitan Police Act – creating the Metropolitan Police Force.
1839 – Country Police Act – Authorizing county arears to esterblish Police Force if they so desired.
1910 – Police Forces (weekly rest day) Act – Granting one rest day per week to police throughout England and Wales.
1919 – Police Act – Creation of Police Federation of regulation of pay and conditions by Home Office.
1946 -– Police Act – compelled amalgamation of small forces into large units.
1964 – Police Act – compelled further amalgamation of police force
1974 – local government re-organization.

THE NIGERIA POLICE:
The existence and/or establishment of the police is constitutional. Put in another form, the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (As Amended) establishes the Nigerian Police Force (Now Nigerian Police).Section 214 reads thus “
214 (1) There shall be a Police Force for Nigeria, which shall be known as the Nigerian Police Force and subject to the provisions of this section no other Police Force shall be established for the federation or any part thereof.
(2) Subject to the provisions of the constitution (a) the Nigerian Police Force shall be organized and administered in accordance with such provisions as may be prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly (b) the members of the Nigerian Police Force shall have such powers and duties as may be conferred upon them by law. (c) The National Assembly may make provisions for branches of the Nigeria Police Force forming part of the armed forces of the federation or for the protection of harbours, waterways, railways and airfields.

From the above constitutional provisions, the following deductions can be made:
1. The existence of the Police has the backing of the constitution – the supreme law of the land.
2. No other police force can be created or allowed to exist within the country except with the blessing of the constitution itself.
3. The organization and administration of the Nigerian Police force are to be strictly in accordance with the prescriptions of the Act of the National Assembly comprising the Senate and the House of Representatives.
4. The power exercisable by members of the Nigerian Police together with duties imposed on them are all to be observed strictly according to law.
5. Branches of Nigeria Police Force can be created or established as part of the armed forces of the federation or for the protection of harbours, waterways, railways and air fields as the prevailing situation in the country may require.

It is noteworthy to state right here that apart from the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, other laws exist mainly to regulate generally the activities of the police. This in no way derogates from the provisions of the constitution. The Police Act is the main law dealing with the organization, discipline, powers and duties of the police, the special constabulary and the traffic wardens. The police Act took effect from 1st April 1943. According to section 3 of the Act. There shall be established for Nigeria Police Force known as the Nigeria Police Force (here after in this Act referred to as “the Force”). The above provision is in line with section 214 (1) of the 1999 constitution.

The main rationale for the establishment of the Police is provided for in the same Police Act – specifically in section 4 thereof. The section provides “4 The Police shall be employed for the prevention and detection of crime, the apprehension of offenders, the preservation of law and other, the protection of lives and properties and due enforcement of all laws and regulations with which they are directly charged and shall perform such military duties within or without Nigeria as may be required by them by or under the Authority of, this or any other Act.

To be continued.


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