A legal practitioner and President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Olumide Akpata has said that the relationship between the Nigerian Police Force and lawyers is abysmal in Nigeria.
Akpata made this revelation at a police reform town-hall organized to discuss the problems of the policing system in Nigeria and how to fix them.
The programme, which is a brainchild of Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC), looked at the workability and implementation of the new Police Act, 2020, which provides the framework for the police to ensure cooperation and partnership between the force and host communities in maintaining peace, combating crime, protecting liberties, lives and properties.
Akpata expressing how deeply bad the relationship between lawyers and the police are in the nation said this is not far fetched as the trust between them is non existent as well as that of between police and the citizens.
Speaking on the ever widening trust deficit between the police and the public, Akpata noted that it is the reason why lawyers and even citizens are sceptical about the implementation strategies of the new Police Act 2020.
“I am hoping that if we get our implementation strategies right, we should be able to arrive at the promise land”, Akpata said.
The NBA President further mentioned that the lack of optimism in the new Police Act, 2020 is understandable against the backdrop of the recent occurrences in the nation like the #EndSARS protest.
Akpata discusses issues in the New Police Act, 2020
Giving his views on the new law and if it captures the agitations of the citizens on the long-standing clamour for police reforms, Akpata noted that the new act touches on certain key areas such as secured tenure for the Inspector General of Police which helps for continuity as well as community policing.
He expressed his excitement on the provisions of the act which made room for community policing describing it as a welcome development.
Akpata said it appears to be the first time at the federal legislative level that the call to bring community policing down to the people has been responded to and he hopes that the implementation will foster better police relations with the citizens.
However, the NBA president expressed his concerns that despite the well crafted laws and fantastic pieces of legislation, implementation strategies is a determining factor.
“Another major issue that is lacking is that in this new act, there does not appear to be a clearly laid out accountability framework,” he said.
Expressing that it is a major concern, Akpata noted that the act is full of prescriptions as to what standard operational procedures should be regarding policing but fails to proffer the rules that govern how police operatives would be held accountable when they default.
Akpata said “The trust that we are hoping to build can only be built when the citizen is assured that there is accountability whenever the police is found to have erred”.
Work is on going between the Nigerian Bar Association and the National Assembly particularly the House of Representatives in order to provide that accountability framework in the soon to be proposed Police Service Commission bill.
Akpata called on the Nigeria Police Force to undertake enlightenment initiatives in educating the populace on their rights as contained in the new Police Act, 2020 while noting that the force leading the charge will help to build confidence.
PLAC on Police Reforms
The 2020 Police Act signed by President Muhammadu Buhari administration in September, 2020 has been described as something that can engender the needed reform of the police.
Speaking at the townhall meeting on police reforms put together by Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC), Mr. Innocent Chukwuma who is the country director of Ford Foundation West Africa says for that to happen a full year is needed to set up the process in motion.
“There’s a very important provision in the new act that talks about annual policing plan from the force headquarters down to the barest unit and that means you take time to plan what tare the priority crimes you are going to be dealing with in a particular year”, Chukwuma noted
The Deputy Inspector General of Police in charge of Research and Planning, Mr. Leye Oyebade disagrees with that submission saying that time is of essence especially in the implementation of the act.
PLAC is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit capacity building organisation that works to strengthen democratic governance & citizens’ participation in Nigeria.