Femi Gbajabiamila, speaker of the house of representatives, says the reform process for effective policing can only work when officers are held accountable for their actions.
President Muhammadu Buhari had, on September 16, assented to the Police Reform Bill, 2020, which repeals the Police Act, 2004.
The bill limits the tenure of the inspector-general of police (IGP) to four years, and makes provisions for funding and accountability in police operations.
Speaking on Wednesday at the house of representatives public policy dialogue series, themed “Policing and Human Rights in Nigeria”, Gbajabiamila said the reform process would cover training, recruitment, welfare and accountability.
“We recognise that the policing function is at the heart of any fully functioning state. It is through this institution that the state can protect the wellbeing and welfare of its citizens. Without the ability to offer this protection, the state loses legitimacy and the resources that flow from there,” he said.
“A society that cannot effectively police itself, ceases to exist and the government that fails to protect its citizens has lost the right to continue in office. We must avoid these unfortunate outcomes. This is why we must commend the present administration which inherited a flawed policing system and is now taking giant steps to reform the system through the recently introduced police reform act 2020 and many other measures.
“But the work is far from done. We must continue in these efforts. Effective policing is only possible when the policing institutions are grounded in the rule of law, when they are accountable, and when the justice system in its entirety is fair to all who have cause to appear before it. We cannot have an effective policing system when the citizens do not have faith in the police to treat them fairly every time no matter the circumstance.
“We do not have an effective system of policing when the relationships between communities and the police are defined by fear and mistrust. The police cannot be effective when the mechanisms for accountability and discipline are too weak to identify, remove and prosecute its rogue officers. We would have succeeded in building modern and effective police when service in the Nigerian police force consistently attracts the best and brightest in our country without objection.
“The house of representatives has not taken up the cause of police reform because we bear a particular animosity towards the Nigerian police force or the individuals that make up the force. The police included in its leadership and ranks, many dedicated public servants doing their job as best as they can under challenging circumstances. We want to help them be better public servants by making it easier to remove rogue officers from among their midst because bad police makes it impossible for good police to do their work.”
According to the speaker, the reform will also focus on “establishing new ways of holding officers accountable for failure of meeting standards of behaviour we expect from them”, as well as a review of police recruitment and training procedures.
“As we expect more from men and women who carry arms and take risk to protect us, we must also be ready to do right by them and by their families. They too are our citizens; they are our brothers and sisters deserving of the best that our nation can offer,” he added.
The legislative dialogue comes weeks after Nigerians took to the streets to demand an end to police brutality, as well as a reform of the force under the #EndSARS campaign.