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Training, access to information, listed as measures in promoting rule of law

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Senior Associate, Punuka Attorneys & Solicitors, Mr Tochukwu Nwobodo (left); Partner at Punuka Attorneys & Solicitors, Mrs Ebelechukwu Enedah and Commissioner of Police, Training, Force Headquarters, Mr Abduyari Lafia at a webinar organised by the Attorney General Alliance Africa in collaboration with the Nigeria Police Force.

Experts have called for constant training of police officers, accountability and access to information among citizens as measures to promote the rule of law.

This was disclosed at a two-day webinar organised by Attorney General Alliance Africa (AGA Africa) in collaboration with the Nigerian Police force themed; “Maintaining Public Safety and Ensuring Respect for Fundamental Human Rights.”

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Facilitators included Commissioner of Police in Charge of Training at the Force Headquarters, Abduyari Lafia; a former Lagos Solicitor-General, Fola Authur-Worrey and Chief of Intelligence, New York Police Department (NYPD), Thomas Galati.

Others are Executive Officer, Intelligence Bureau, NYPD, William Roberts; intelligence analysts, NYPD Intelligence Bureau, Manal Jamal; Senior Partner at Punuka Attorneys & Solicitors, Chief Anthony Idigbe (SAN) and Deputy Commissioner of Police, Malawi, Mr. Mwabi Kaluba.

Kaluba noted that challenges faced in promoting rule of law include, lack of robust accountability mechanism, capacity among police officers, understaffing and access to information among citizens.

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Speaking on accountability mechanisms, he said that internal accountability mechanisms are undermined by favouritism, a culture of silence and quest to protect the image of the institution, while external accountability mechanism lacks the capacity to investigate or are overwhelmed with complaints.

He explained that some officers have little understanding of human rights and principles of rule of law, adding that police understaffing leads to inadequate provisions for equitable access to justice.

Kaluba suggested the promotion of human rights norms and standards among police officers, training, monitoring and enforcement of laws as solutions to human rights challenges.

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“Promotion of accountability through effective and fair internal disciplinary mechanism, capacity building of police officers, basic policing training focusing on elements of the offence and use of police powers are essential measures that must be adopted,” he said.

He called on the officers to refrain from using the criminal process to punish anyone for political expressions. “This can be achieved through refraining from cases of partisan behaviour and managing political control,” he said.

He stressed the need to promote community policing as widespread ignorance of human rights and the law among citizenry means abuses often go unchallenged.

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Board Member, AGA Africa, Markus Green, stated that globally, police safety and management had gained series of attention particularly in the rise of insecurity in Nigeria.

He also stated that the purpose of the AGA Africa was to train Nigeria police, human rights activists, the general public and legislatures to engage in discussions and exchange ideas towards meeting the primary responsibility of any government, which is securing life and property.

He explained to the participants that the police acts as gatekeepers and are the first point of contact with the criminal justice system, thus the laws are to be rightly followed, while individuals are to be treated with dignity and respect

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According to Green, the importance of bringing various facilitators from different jurisdictions was to improve the value chain and humanity together in the sphere of the global criminal justice system, adding that the training was an opportunity to learn a few tips, learn new information and knowledge.

Lafia said during the pandemic, Police noticed that there was an increase in the cases of rape and a decrease in the number of violent crimes.

He stated that the expectation is that police officer should not only live above board but should be extraordinary in their performances.

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He declared that an untrained policeman is an unequipped officer, who would turn out to harm himself and be a disaster to the citizens whom he is charged with the responsibility of protecting.

He urged the participants to consider themselves fortunate and privileged to have been carefully selected across the board to participate in the training.

Lafia charged them to take the training seriously and ensure that they implement the principles learnt at the training.

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According to him, the provisions of the Police Act, clearly shows that the police are not only charged with the responsibility of protecting human rights, it is also responsible for ensuring an orderly society that operates within the confines of the law.

“It is imperative that Police officers understand that divergent views, conflating ideas and protest are part of the beautiful elements of the democratic dispensation. This is the departing point between a democratic state and a dictatorial system.

“Thus, any attempt to take away people’s right to peacefully express their opinion in form of civil protest automatically removes the glitter of what makes democracy beautiful.

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“Civil protests can be said to be an organised group against government actions or inactions and in some instances employer’s policies often by trade union activities. This protest usually involves minimal or large numbers of people who come together to express dissatisfaction.

“The effective management of a civil protest entails the consideration of controlling expected and unexpected crowds in an orderly manner without running afoul of the law. The ability of the police to effectively manage a civil protest is dependent on the protesting groups in ensuring that they express their grievances in an orderly manner. Thus, the Police must abide by Chapter 4 of the Constitution and Section 33-44 of the Constitution in relation to civil protest,” he declared.

Idigbe (SAN) noted that some of the prosecution powers of the Attorney General have been delegated to the Police by virtue of Sections 174(2) and 211(2) of the Constitution of Nigeria.

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“This delegation is also recognised by Section 68 of the Police Act, 2020. Hence, a Police officer does not only have the duty to investigate crimes and apprehend criminals, but he also has the duty of prosecuting the criminal, subject to the laws.

“Unlike in civil cases where the claimant has the burden of proving his case on a balance of probability, in criminal cases, a Police officer when prosecuting a case, must prove the case against a defendant beyond all reasonable doubt.

“This principle is laid down in a plethora of judicial decisions such as the case of Shehu v State (2010) LPELR–3041 (SC),” he said.

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He called for the modernisation of the Police Force to create room for use of 21st-century resources in the performance of its duties.

“The importance of the use of technology in policing can never be underestimated. 21st-century crimes involve complex methods, which can only be detected using technology. There should also be a move towards a more specialised policing, as is the case in the United States where there is the FBI and CIA,” Idigbe advised.

He added that there should be clarity on the roles of the various components of policing.

For instance, the use of neighbourhood watch, undercover, electronic surveillance, tracing to detect and prevent financial, public corruption and drug crimes, he said, should be encouraged.

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