Police reform goes beyond #End SARS campaign – By Okechukwu Nwanguma


The EndSARS campaign underscores the urgent need for police reform. As I have always said, SARS is just a symptom of the problem that plagues the Nigeria Police.    We are faced with a problem bigger than SARS. It’s an entrenched institutional culture problem.

   The colonial culture of violence, brutality, repression and corruption inherited at independence was consolidated by military rule. Beyond rhetoric, no serious measures have been implemented that would transform the Police and policing in the new ‘democratic’ dispensation.

  The new Police Act provides a framework to start genuine and far reaching police reform. From compromised recruitment process, to poor training (including dilapidated training institutions and poor training content) to inadequate funding and poor welfare conditions which make the police work force prone to corruption and violence.

   As long as people who are not qualified and trainable continue to be recruited; as long as investigating police officers do not have funds to carry out basic investigations and have to depend on complainants and accused persons for funds to carry out investigation; as long as junior officers remain under pressure to generate funds and make returns to their superior officers who threaten to remove them from ‘lucrative’ postings if they don’t ‘deliver’; as long as corruption and abuses are condoned and tolerated at the top; as long as the Inspector General of Police lacks operational autonomy and security of tenure and cannot safety resist political interference, and so on.. no serious change can happen.
There are many individuals and authorities who have different roles under the new Police Act. The State Governors are members of the Police Council headed by the President, for example.

  The Council is charged with policy and general administration of the police and ought to meet periodically to receive reports on security situations across the country, and to advise the President on general state of security and on the appointment of the IGP when there is a vacancy.

  Can the governors insist that the Council meet as stipulated in the Police Act? The need for the Police Council to meet at this critical juncture is obvious!
The Magistrates and federal/state attorneys general have supervisory role over police stations and commands within their jurisdictions with regards to procedures and number of arrests and detention every month.  

The Act has also made elaborate provision for due process safeguards and how police officers should exercise their powers The IGP and State CPs have obligations to facilitate access to legal assistance to persons arrested and detained and to make the record of the number of persons arrested to the Federal and State Attorneys General. etc  

 If all the various stakeholders commit to implementing the law as it is, then the gaps that have allowed abuses and corruption by police officers, not just SARS will begin to close and acts of misconduct would be under check.

Okechukwu Nwanguma is Executive Director, Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre (RULAAC)


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