By Levinus Nwabughiogu— Abuja
Men and women of the Nigeria Police Force are willing and capable of protecting the rights of the people, as they have excelled while on international duties.
However, the harsh environment, condition and the Force as currently structured, makes it difficult for them to perform their duties well.
This was the submission of the Executive Secretary, National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, Tony Ojukwu, who added that “the majority of police officers are very willing to do their job.”
Ojukwu said while the Constitution says that every citizen is innocent until proven guilty, the harsh realities on ground have made “police officer guilty and he now has to prove himself innocent”.
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The NHRC boss spoke at the public policy dialogue on “Policing and Human Rights in Nigeria,” an event organised by the House Committee on Monitoring and Implementation of the Legislative Agenda, chaired by Henry Nwawuba.
He wondered if “The way they are presently constituted, are they (police) able to do that (protect human rights)?
“It is one thing to give someone an assignment and another thing to equip and predispose that person to be able to carry out the assignment. I think the majority of police officers are very willing to do their job.”
On the officers’ performance while on international duties, the NHRC boss said: “It is well known in this country that whenever our police officers go outside this country for international operations, they excel. So, what is the missing gap?
“The missing gap is just that the climate of operation; the condition under which they operate over there predisposes them to excellence, but the condition under which they operate here creates the challenge they have.
“So he (the policeman) is not predisposed to protecting the rights of people even if he wants to. That is a challenge.”
Besides the NHRC boss, also speaking at the event, President, Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Olumide Akpata, welcomed the idea of reforming the police in line with the present realities.
He said: “With regard to human rights violations and those in authority, those who command security or run security forces, it’s a matter of orientation.
“It’s a conversation that’s just beginning. Within the level of the NBA, what we’ve done first and foremost is to reenergise our human rights institutions and we also have a section in public interest and development.”