By : Douglas Ogbankwa Esq.
The New Nigeria Police Act,2020 which has been signed into Law brought some new vistas to Policing and Police Business in Nigeria however, there are still some deficiencies.One of the major inroads made by the Act includes the obligatory essence of every Police Investigation to be subject to the final scrutiny of the Director of Public Prosecution of each State of the Federation,for the purpose of reducing abuse of Police Powers on Investigations.
There is however a need for there to be a Nigeria Police Investigation Guidelines which will delimit the dos and don’ts of Police Investigations and recommend penalties for failure to adhere to same .Penalties deters Impunity .Once the Police Officer understands that his Investigations will be scrutinized and his failure to apply due diligence and due process in his Investigation Activities would lead to some consequences,such a Police Officer will exercise considerable restraint in engaging in any unwholesome Investigation Activities.
The Nigeria Police Investigation Guidelines will also let the Police Officers in, on basic Investigation Techniques that must be done in certain cases . For Example, in a case where some one has pleaded an alibi, that alibi must be investigated to ascertain its veracity.There sould also be a proper scrutiny of Case files to remove contradictory documents,that makes Police Prosecutions to fail. Also,there should be a way to ensure that the Final Investigation Report correlates with facts of the case on one hand and also that the Charge preferred by the Police conforms with the Final Investigation Report.We must stop the practice of the same sets of facts, in two separate cases , investigated by the same Police and they arrive at different outcomes .The Power available to an Investigative Police Officer is excessive.He can do what ever he likes as his report is the Official Version of any Story .By the time you get the real version , some persons will be rotting in jail .Judges and Magistrates must insist that the Proof of evidence should be attached to every charge at the Magistrate Court and every ex parte order sought to remand a suspect .This is to put all cards on the table and give sufficient facts to the Judge or Magistrate to be able to exercise his discretion in good conscience , using all the available facts in the case .
The action of arresting before Investigation should also stop. It is archaic, anachronistic, and crude. A Person should only be arrested when the Police are affirmative that the facts available to them will establish the guilt of a suspect. In this regard, Investigations should be conducted first, before any arrest.This can only be achieved if the Police was properly funded .If the Police had one tenth of the funds available to other Security Agencies in Nigeria ,they would perform better .As a matter of fact ,the in road made by the Police in their investigations makes them look like magicians , judging from an almost total lack of funds in doing their investigation activities .It is time for us to actually question what happens to the billions budgeted for the Police every year .As it is now the Police buy their case files from private vendors ,buy their uniforms ,some tim s ,they even buy their bullets .
A good investigation of cases , can only happen, if Investigation Activities and Police Business are funded. We must insist that funds budgeted for the Police are monitored and released directly to the Assistant Inspector General in charge of Zones for Admin/Operational Overhead , Commissioners of Police In charge of Police Formations for the Headquarters Admin/Operational overhead,Area Commanders ,Tactical Units , Divisional Police Officers, Officers in Charge and D.Os of Units , Teams and Out posts .This will ensure that Police business gets to the grass roots and for the money to be properly utilized for the purposes it is provided for and properly accounted for .
The Detaining Mentality must also stop. Once a person makes a Statement and you find that there is nothing connecting him or her to the Complaint at that time or the crime is bailable as provided for by Law , you let him go , as this is the International Best Practice.
Why detain a suspect at all ,when you will eventually release him or her ,most times the next day ?The name should also be Charged from suspect to Respondent ,the same way it has been Charged from Accused to Defendant in Court .A Person who is a suspect should be accorded the same rights and Privileges as the Complainant , as the current norm of the Police treating the Complainant better than suspect has no place in any Nigeria Law .They are both equal before the Law .In fact ,some times a Complainant can turn around to be the suspect and vice versa.
The issue of Police Collecting Money for Bail should also be looked into. Those monies are not Official Payments and they should be stopped forthwith.
We say Bail is free, but in Nigeria, most times you have to pay to go home while in detention. This has made some Police Men to abandon the real Police Business and begin to do their personal business ,using citizens of the Country as a commodity for trade .This is however not applicable to all Police Men ,there are some who do things the right way I must say .It is time for us to have Agency that will Police the Police, that should be made of Lawyers , Criminologists and Sociologists ,who will not be stationed in the Police Facility.This Agency should be called the Police Internal Affairs , or better still the Police Service Commission should have Offices in all States and Local Government in Nigeria ,while its jurisdiction should be expanded to accommodate all Police Officers to ensure a level playing field between a Complainant and a Police Officer .
All these were highlighted above to show some of the things to be included in the proposed Nigeria Police Investigation Guidelines.The Police Must reform itself using the recent protests from Nigerian Citizens .
We can make things better ,which will in turn make better things .Change is a challenge to the adverturous ,but a threat to the obscure insecure . We can get it right!Once our Police ,Lawyers and the Judiciary do the right thing , every other person will act right and do the right thing knowing that the long arm of the Law will catch up with him or her .
Douglas Ogbankwa Esq., @ email@example.com , is the Chairman of the NBA Benin Bar Police Monitoring Committee and the President of the Benin Writers’ Society.To join the Benin Writers’ Society , kindly send an email request to the email above .
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