By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA-Ahead of the forthcoming general election, a coalition of seventy Civil Society Organisations, CSOs, on Tuesday, called for urgent passage of the Police Reform Bill.
The group, decried that the Nigeria Police Force is currently operating under a colonial law that was promulgated in 1943.
They urged the 8th National Assembly to ensure a quick passage of the Nigeria Police Reform Bill that is pending before it.
In his remarks, the Convener of the group and Executive Director of Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre, PLAC, Mr. Clement Nwankwo, said there was need to strengthen the operational capacity of the Nigerian Police Force to enable it to effectively discharge its responsibilities.
He decried that since 1943, the country had yet to undertake a comprehensive review of the Police Act.
According to him, there is need for a police that will meet globally acceptable policing standards in a democratic society.
“Operating a Nigerian police with 1943 law is certainly unacceptable, so we need to bring the legal framework guiding the creation, operation and functions of the police to conform with modern realities.
“This will be the first time that the 1943 law will be considered for a reform. So certainly it is important for us to get the police law reformed.
“We hope that this is the huge opportunity everybody takes advantage of to ensure that we bring our law into conformity with modern times.
“As civil society groups, we cannot over emphasize the need for a modern, professional and efficient Police in Nigeria”, Nwankwo insisted.
In his remarks, sponsor of the Bill, Senator Na’Allah, said he was perturbed that Police authorities were in the fore front of forces that are against the proposed reforms.
Na’Allah, who is currently the Deputy Majority Leader of the Senate, said some persons had attempted to dissuade President Muhammadu Buhari from accenting to the Bill on the premise that it was a deliberate plot to divest him of the power to appoint the Inspector General of Police.
“The obvious fact is that the current law that regulate police operations which was handed to Nigeria by the United Kingdom, was not established inline with the country’s peculiarities.
“We discovered that the structure of the Nigerian Police will never ever give it the kind of efficiency and effectiveness that it requires to be able to secure the population of Nigeria.
“We have a situation where it is more convenient for Police to be only available where a clear interest of the government is threatened and I think this is wrong.
“Today, as a Governor you have the privilege of having over 30 police men following you. The irony is that if tomorrow you leave the office, those officers may not be there and the problem of insecurity sets in.
“So why don’t we move for an effective police that will ensure that we go to bed and sleep with our two eyes closed?”, he queried.
He said it was wrong for people to insinuate that the proposed Police Reform Bill was fuelled by ulterior motives, adding that the Senate leadership has expressed commitment to ensure its passage before the expiration of the 8th Assembly.
Na’ Allah said the bill has passed the second reading and was currently at the committee level.
“Last week I approached the Senate President and insisted that the Bill must be passed before the end of this tenure. He promised me that funds would be made available for a public hearing to be held sometime next week”, the lawmaker added.
Similarly, Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Police Affairs, Lawal Abubakar Garba, noted that the idea of State Police be impossible until section 214(1) of the 1999 Constitution is amended.
He equally bemoaned the fact that attempt by the NASS to push for the reform of the Police has met stiff oppositions.
“We in the NASS are perturbed that people tend to read meanings in whatever we do, but we will not be deterred by that.
“The issue of Police is in the Exclusive Legislative List and section 4 of the Constitution gave the Legislative Arm the powers to make laws for good governance in the country.
“It is the prerogative of the NASS to make laws as it affects the police, and we are not afraid to carry out that function.
“In furtherance of this mandate, the 8th House of Reps came up with legislative agenda, to provide legislatice backing to measures to enhance national security concerns in the country.
“Under item 8 of that agenda, we agreed to review some achaic laws that are currently in operation on Nigeria.
“In order to assist in reforming the Police, we brought up different Bills, carried out oversight functions at the Police headquarters /college, as well as at the Police Service Commission.
“The bottomline is that the NASS is ready to collaborate with the Police to create a Force that will meet contemporary challenges”, he added.
Meanwhile, the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Idris who was represented by the Commissioner of Police, Administration, Research and Planning Department, Adat Ududo, commended the National Assembly for the reform effort.
While debunking the allegation that Police was against the move to reform its operations, the IGP said there was need for the NASS to reconsider its plan to reduce the number of Assistant Inspector Generals of Police from seven to only one.