As the saying goes, "POLICE IS YOUR FRIEND", One thing that often baffles one is the reason why "My friend" has to brutally profile me all because I am a young man who "has a peculiar look or dresses in a particular manner or because one is in tune with the trend (Tattoos, shredded clothing, piercings etc.)". (Disclaimer: This writer does not in any way support vices or crimes or indecent dressing). This writer has also wondered why "my friend" has to stop me while driving on the road, check all necessary particulars and required equipment, items, gadgets, etc., and still find it convenient to ask, "Oga, anything for the boys?". As much as this article seeks to address the indecent acts of some police officers, credence must also be given to the Officers of the Nigerian Police Force who are exemplary, brave, and patriotic in the line of duty.
Back to the crux of this article, It is safe to assume that at some point in time, we have all been victims of police incivility and brutality, either directly or indirectly. These acts, amongst others, range from violation of our privacy by searching our phones indiscriminately to unnecessary and undeserved assault and rough handling; some of us even get arrested for crimes we do not know anything about or situations where untruths are being alleged against us by others at the Police Stations all in a desperate bid to fleece us of our hard-earned monies. Some of the victims readily take to the internet to upload videos of these acts. Most times, our internet uploads only generate internet sympathy at best. In fact, only a few of these complaints actually get attended to.
The question that readily comes to the fore is whether there is a way to ensure that such acts do not go unpunished. The good news is Yes! Come with me, and I will tell you all you need to know. I will, therefore, through this medium, highlight the ways in which to seek redress against Police misconduct.
IS THE POLICE ACTUALLY MY FRIEND?
The Nigerian Police Force is established by the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended)1 and the Police Act of 20202. It is also necessary to note that the Nigeria Police Force is supervised by the Police Service Commission established by the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria3. This commission has the inherent powers to appoint, promote and discipline all Police Officers except the Inspector General of Police4.
In a civilized clime, the Police are actually your friend, and the reason for this conclusion is not far-fetched. By virtue of Section 45, the primary function of the Police is stated as follows:
"The police shall be employed for the prevention and detection of crime, the apprehension of offenders, the preservation of law and order, the protection of life and property, and the due enforcement of all laws and regulations with which they are directly charged, and shall perform such military duties within or outside Nigeria as may be required of them by, or under the authority of this or any other Act.
In this writer's submission, where anyone performs any of these functions dutifully, it goes without gain saying that such a person is my friend. However, this is not the case in Nigeria, as a few bad eggs have smeared the good image of the Nigeria Police Force.
WHAT CAN I COMPLAIN/ REPORT ABOUT?
PROFESSIONAL MISCONDUCT: It is very important that the acts complained of are performed in an official capacity (as a Police Officer). Minor misconduct has been held to, among others, include any act, wrongdoing, or omission of which the prescribed punishment in case of conviction in a criminal proceeding does not exceed a term of six months. Examples of such minor offenses include but are not limited to; Improper dressing, driving Police vehicles when not properly dressed, Lateness to duty, Incivility to members of the public, smoking in prohibited areas, drinking alcohol while on duty, and disregard for general rules and regulations. The categories of punishment include warning, minor fees, confinement to barracks, compulsory community service, and extension of work hours.
Superior police officers at various commands of the Nigerian Police Force may discipline subordinates for minor offenses after due investigation. This does not however restrict the Superior officer from following the proper disciplinary channel.
There are also major misconducts, and examples of these may include; misconduct of police officers that resulted in death or grievous bodily injury of any person or a violation of the human rights of any person. Complaints may also show that a police officer may have committed a criminal offense or been engaged in professional misconduct.
TO WHOM DO I COMPLAIN:
The Inspector General of Police is saddled with the responsibility of creating a Police Complaints Response Unit under the Public Relations Section of the Nigeria Police Force in every state and also at the headquarters6. All complaints are to be forwarded to this unit.
HOW DO I LODGE A COMPLAINT
There are certain things I would advise to enable a proper channeling of your complaints.
- When accosted by a Policeman, don't be aggressive or offensive. After all, you have nothing to hide. Be polite, calm, and firm in your words. It would be wise not to argue with armed personnel if arguments ensue. Accidental discharge is one of the most tendered excuses.
- Do not make threats. Even if you are influential, It oftentimes will not turn out well. Keep your next move to yourself.
- Take sufficient notice of relevant information (e. g. the name of the officer, Force Number, Place, time, and Date of incident). If possible, get picture and video evidence (not for internet sympathy or clout chasing). Note: This might be a dicey one. Your safety comes first.
- Be bold to speak against the act complained about. Police are public officers who should be accountable for their actions. Most brutality and misconduct cases are swept under because the victims don't speak up.
- Write a well-detailed Petition explaining the incident. Where you have other witnesses to corroborate your story, have them write too. You can choose to be anonymous for your safety.
- Send the letter to the Complaint Response Unit. It can be sent to this unit at the headquarters or by mail from the comfort of your home.
- Follow up with the progress of the petition you lodged through any of the means of communication open to members of the Public by the Complaint Response Unit. It is expected that upon receiving the investigation report, and the allegations are true, the Inspector General or Commissioner of Police, as the case may be, shall forward the said reports to the appropriate office (Police Service Commission) for immediate attention and necessary punitive measures be set in motion.
- The Public Complaints Rapid Response Unit is mandated to investigate the allegation and conclude the same within the space of 7 to 21 days.
- The accused officer also has a right to defend himself in light of the said allegations.
- If any of the allegations levied are found to be untrue, the Complainant will be prosecuted.
- Forwarding a complaint to the Complaints Response Unit does not preclude a victim from instituting an action in a Court of law.
Conclusively, the first step to rid our Nigeria Police Force of impetuous behavior by a few officers is to speak up against these acts. Not all acts can be forgiven because if done so, this can/may only lead to more of such acts. Speak Up!
1. Section 214 of the 1999 Constitution.
2. Section 2 of the Police Act 2020. The Act can be downloaded at http://lawsofnigeria.placng.org/laws/P19.pdf
3. Section 153
4. Section 6 of the Nigerian Police Service Commission Establishment Act. This Act can be downloaded at http://www.commonlii.org/ng/legis/num_act/psca402
5.Section 4 of the Police Act 2020.
6. Section 131 of the Police Act 2020
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.