By Esther Onyegbula
Security stakeholders in Lagos on Wednesday said only a well funded Nigeria police Force (NPF) would curb bail money collection from different police formations in the country.
They stated this during a one-day Civil Society Organisation/media engagement on the Nigeria Police bail process and citizens’ rights organized by the Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre(RULAAC) in partnership with the Nigerian Policing Program (NPP).
The stakeholders said that, although, they were not supporting the collection of bail by the police, but a situation where different police formations like the area commands, divisions have no monthly allocations to run their day to day activities, the system had indirectly legalised corruption.
Mr Ikechukwu Nwanguma, Executive Director of RULAAC said many people have been complaining about bail money collection by the police, while the police officers complain of police lack of funding .
Nwanguma said the engagement was aimed at increasing public awareness on the NPF bail process and to clarify the rights of citizens and powers and duties of the police within the bail process under the law.
He said bail supposed to be free from any police formation, stressing that without allocation to all the Area commands, divisional police stations, corruption would be difficult to check at these levels
“If we don’t address the root cause of corruption, which includes funding, welfare and equipping the force, bail is free may only be a cliche. You don’t expect DPOs, Area Commanders to use their salaries to run their stations.
“Members of the public should understand the challenges of the police help them to carry out their obligations in anyway possible. The police must also tell the public their challenges,” he said.
Mr Malachy Ugwummadu, President, Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), said that the police may be under funded, yet that does gave them licence to collect money for bail as the law of the land stipulate free bail.
Ugwummadu said he was not in anyway supporting under funding of the force, stressing that gross under funding of the force had impacted in the bail money collection.
He said that the effects of under funding the force should not be transferred to members of the public who may have run fowl of the law, calling for sanctions for any police officers spoiling the image of the force.
On human rights, Ugwummadu said the law that stipulate detention of suspect was still in force, stressing that no police officer has the power to detain any person beyond 24 hours, except through court authorisation.
He noted that many people rights were being violated because they don’t their rights, how to seek redress for their rights and the capacity to do so.
For Mrs Ene Sarah Unobe, Executive Director, International Centre for Human Rights Non violence and Safety Awareness said police should not be blamed alone for collecting bail money, but also accused the court of same offence
Unobe noted that some people preferred to give bail money rather than go to court, stressing that the court collected more money from suspects in the name of bail conditions than the police.
She noted that many people are in different prisons today due to lack of capacity to meet bail conditions, calling on those in authorities to look into the court bail conditions.
Some police officers, including DPOs, unit leaders present said that no police division, unit or area command that has allocation of funds to run the stations.
They said the officers in charge of such stations print the bail paper, arrest warrant, and any other documents required to run a station with their own money, stressing that only those willing to pay for bail do with o without compulsion.
The officers complained that policemen used their money to go to court to prosecute suspects, give money to Prisons officials to carry their suspects to prison if reminded.