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THE EFFECTS OF 2020 POLICE AMENDMENT BILL ON NIGERIA YOUTH

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 THE EFFECTS OF 2020 POLICE AMENDMENT BILL ON NIGERIA YOUTH 

So Many nigeria youths still find it difficult to understand, if the amendment police bill has been passed against the youths or in support of their freedom.In regards to the opinion of some youths we shall be taking a deep look into the bill from the root.

On wednesday july 2020 the nigerian  Senate passed the Police  harmonised  amendment  bill, which was forwarded to president mohammed buhari for his final approval the same month.The presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, in a statement issued on Thursday, said the Act repeals the Police Act Cap. P19. Laws of the Federation, 2004. Adesina added that the Act provides for a more effective and well organized Police Force, driven by the principles of transparency and accountability in its operations and management of its resources.

He said the Act, among others, establishes an appropriate funding framework for the Police in line with what is obtainable in other Federal Government key institutions, enhances professionalism in the Force through increased training opportunities, and creates an enduring cooperation and partnership between the Police Force and communities in maintaining peace and combating crimes nationwide.

On September 16, 2020, President Muhammadu Buhari assented to the new Nigeria Police Bill, 2020. It repeals the Police Act Cap P19 Laws of the Federation, 2004 and provides for a more effective and well organised police force, driven by the principles of transparency and accountability in its operations and management of its resources. It also enables and establishes an appropriate funding framework for the police, in line with what is obtainable in other Federal Government’s key institutions, to ensure appropriate funding for all police formations.

The Act further enhances professionalism in the Police Force, through increased training opportunities for officers. It also creates enduring cooperation and partnership between the police and communities in maintaining peace and combating crimes nationwide.

The Act, which has 142 sections, explains the general duties of the police to include, among others, protection of the rights and freedom of every person in Nigeria, the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, and any other law; provision of humanitarian assistance for citizens, facilitation of movement on highways, etc, without subjecting citizens to extortion, and adoption of community partnership in the performance of their duties.

Clause 7 of the Act sets out the appointment procedure and qualification requirements for the person to be appointed as inspector-general of police. The new law states that the person to be appointed into this office shall be a senior police officer not below the rank of an assistant inspector-general, with not less than a first degree or its equivalent, in addition to professional and management experiences. It states that such a person so appointed shall hold office for four years and shall only be removed from office for gross misconduct, violation of the constitution or demonstrated incapacity to effectively discharge the duties of the office.

The law also empowers the president to remove the inspector-general on the advice of the Police Council.

According to the Act, the inspector-general shall give a quarterly report to the Police Service Commission, itemising the number and identity of persons who were detained in all police formations across Nigeria, charged and prosecuted in the courts in Nigeria and the outcome of their cases, killed or wounded during police operations across Nigeria, and those who died in police custody.

Powers of police officers

Section 38(1) of the Act explains the powers of police officers to arrest suspects without an order of a court and without a warrant. 

It states that a police officer may arrest a suspect whom he suspects, on a reasonable ground, of having committed an offence in Nigeria or any other country, unless the law creating the offence provides that the suspect cannot be arrested without a warrant;  who commits an offence in his presence; who obstructs a police officer executing his duty; or who has escaped or attempts to escape from lawful custody;  in whose possession anything is found, which may reasonably be suspected to be a stolen property, or who may reasonably be suspected of having committed an offence with reference to the thing; whom he suspects, on reasonable grounds, of being a deserter from any of the armed forces of Nigeria; whom he suspects, on reasonable grounds, of having been involved in an act committed at a place outside Nigeria, which, if committed in Nigeria, would have been punished as an offence; to prevent the suspect in question from causing physical injury to himself or any other person, suffering from physical injury, causing loss of or damage to property, committing an offence against public decency, causing an unlawful obstruction of the highway; among other things. It, however, states that no person shall be arrested without warrant, except as provided in subsection (1) of this section.

Having an indepth look into the above section, which has generated a lot of controversy,  fear  and a lot of confusion among the youth, due to lack of trust and loss of  integrity from  the uncultured   law enforcement agent, who harassed the youth  unnecessarily even before the amendment of the 2020 bill.

It is so pathetic that  a lot of nigerian youth have been exploited,harassed and assaulted and brutalised or killed  innocently, by this official, due to money requests from them especially from the so called  SARS official and other unethical or uncultured police officials.

 Continuously,the law also states that a police officer can arrest a suspect who commits an offence in his presence without a warrant even though the Act creating the offence provides that the suspect cannot be arrested without a warrant.

We hope the above statement will be acted upon diligently by the force official.and not probe the youth unnecessarily.

Sections 35, 36 and 37 detail how to treat a suspect upon arrest. Section 35 states that a suspect shall be immediately informed of the reason for his arrest by the police officer.

It also mandates the police officer to inform the suspect of his right to remain silent or avoid answering any question until after consultation with a legal practitioner, consult a lawyer before making, endorsing or writing any statement or answering any question put to him after arrest. The suspect is also entitled to free legal representation by the Legal Aid Council of Nigeria.

Section 36 prohibits a police officer from arresting any person in place of a suspect.

Section 37 states that a suspect shall be accorded humane treatment, having right to the dignity of his person; and not be subjected to any form of torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

The Act, in section 49 (1), empowers a police officer to detain and search any person or vehicle where reasonable grounds for suspicion exist that the person being suspected has in his possession or conveying anything believed to be stolen, unlawfully obtained, or unlawful article.  It, however, mandates the officer, before the search, to disclose his name, station, search object and grounds or authorisation for undertaking the search, according to section 50.

The officer shall be in uniform or wear a visible or valid police identity card to exercise the power to stop and search.

Efforts shall be made to minimise embarrassment. Force can only be used when the person being searched is unwilling to cooperate, or resists.

Section 54 of the Act states that a person’s attributes, including his colour, age, hairstyle or manner of dressing shall not be grounds for reasonable suspicion.  Others are previous conviction for possession of an unlawful article, or stereotyped images of certain persons or groups suspected to be committing offences.

Powers to prosecute

Section 66 of the Act, which provides prosecutorial powers to ‘non-qualified legal practitioners,’ has been generating reactions within the legal community.  Subsection 1 of this section states that subject to the provisions of sections 174 and 211 of the Constitution and section 106 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, which relates to the powers of the Attorney-General of the Federation and of a state to institute, takeover and continue or discontinue criminal proceedings against any person before any court of law in Nigeria, a police officer who is a legal practitioner, may prosecute in person before any court, whether or not the information or complaint is laid in his name.

Subsection 2 states that a police officer, subject to the provisions of the relevant criminal procedure laws in force at the federal or state level, may prosecute before the courts, those offences which non-qualified legal practitioners can prosecute.

Some lawyers argued that there is no offence that only ‘non-qualifier legal practitioners’ can prosecute, citing section 8(1) of the Legal Practitioners Act, which specifies that only “a legal practitioner shall have the right of audience in all courts of law sitting in Nigeria.’’

Community policing

For effective and efficient policing of communities across the country, the Act states that the commissioner of police of a state shall establish a committee consisting of representatives of the Police Force and the local community in the state. It lists the duties of community officers to include assisting the police in crime detection and prevention; conflict resolution; criminal intelligence gathering and dissemination to local police commanders; maintenance of law and order; dealing with minor offences and social vices; traffic management and school safety duties, among others. This section provides for the judicious use of all funds accruing to the Police Force.

According to Section 28, the Police Force shall, not later than September 30 of each year, submit to the National Assembly, through the minister, estimates of its income and expenditure for the next succeeding financial year.

It also allows the submission of supplementary or adjusted statements of estimated income and expenditure.

Section 30 mandates the Police Force to, not later than June 30th of each financial year, submit a report to the minister, detailing all activities of the preceding financial year. This report shall include detailed information with regards to the activities and expenditures of the Police Force, utilised in carrying out its policing plan; a copy of the audited accounts of the Police Force for that year, together with the auditor-general’s report on the accounts.

 The general objective of the Act is to provide an effective police service that complies with the principles of accountability and transparency, protecting human rights and freedom. See Sec. 1.

 In addition,the duty of the Police is to prevent and detect crimes, protect the rights and freedom of suspects and non-suspects in accordance with the Constitution, the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights and any other law. See Sec. 4 (a).

 

Just like in the movies, Nigeria can now have private detectives who are not employed by the government. The Nigeria Police Force is responsible for vetting and approving the registration of Private Detective Schools and Private Investigative Outfits. See Sec. 4(i).

 The Police is mandated to report the findings of its investigation to the Attorney General of the Federation or State as the case may be. See Sec. 32(1).

 The Act prohibits the Police from arresting anyone based on a civil wrong or breach of contract. See Sec. 32(2).

 The Act equally prohibits the arrest of any person in place of a suspect. See Sec. 36.

 The Act makes it mandatory on the police officer or any other person authorized to effect an arrest to inform the suspect his rights to:

 

i. Remain silent or avoid answering any question until after consultation with a legal practitioner or any other person of his own choice. See Sec. 35(2)(a).

ii. Consult a legal practitioner of his own choice before making, endorsing or writing any statement or answering any question put to him after the arrest. See Sec. 35(2)(b)

iii. Free legal representation by the Legal Aid Council of Nigeria or other organizations where applicable. See Sec. 35(2)(c).

 The Act also makes it mandatory on the Police to notify the next of kin or relative(s) of the suspect immediately after the arrest of the suspect. See Sec. 35(3).

 A suspect shall be accorded humane treatment. And a suspect shall not be subjected to torture, cruelty, inhumane or degrading treatment. See Sec. 37.

 The statement of a suspect can be taken only when he wishes to make a statement. See sec. 60(1).

 The statement, where the suspect wishes to make one, MAY be taken in the presence of a legal practitioner or any other person or organization of his own choice. See sec. 60(2).

 Where a suspect is arrested and detained for more than 24 hours, if the offence he was arrested for is not a capital offence, his lawyer or relatives can notify any court that has jurisdiction to try the matter about his arrest. See sec. 64(1).

 The notification can be made in writing or orally. See sec. 64(3).

 The court SHALL order the production of the suspect and inquire into the matter. Where it is convinced that the suspect should be released on bail, the court shall admit him to bail.

 The Police are mandated to take the photographs and fingerprint impressions of all suspects who are in lawful custody. See sec. 68(1).

 Where a suspect refuses to allow the Police to take his measurements, photograph and fingerprint impressions, the Police can the right to apply to court to compel the suspect to submit himself. See sec. 68(2)

 On the last working day of every month, an officer in charge of a police station must report to the nearest magistrates the cases of all arrests made without warrant in his jurisdiction, whether the suspect has been admitted to bail or not. See sec. 69(1).

 By section 66(1) of the Police Act 2020, ONLY a Police Officer who is a LEGAL PRACTITIONER, can prosecute. Section 23 which hitherto gave non-Police lawyers prosecutorial powers no longer hold any potency in law, the entire old Police Act,cap P.19,LFN,2004, having been REPEALED by the Police Act, 2020 recently ASSENTED to by Mr. President.

 In effect, any prosecution by a non-Police lawyer is null and void, and of no effect  whatsoever - by virtue of section 66(1) of the Act(supra).

Thus, it's a legal ground for objection to any prosecution being conducted by a Police Officer who is NOT a LEGAL PRACTITIONER.

 Furthermore,The above listed are one of the high points of the new Police Act 2020 that you need to assimilate and make part of you.

According to Qudus Abiola , a 25 yer old students, we hope the police official will not harass and assault  us any how, because even  before  the amendment bill was signed into law, we have been harassed by the special anti squad, and they base it on look and hairstyle which is  not meant to be.

“Also the officials hit us with guns, if we refuse to give them our phone, and tag that individual as cultists or anything. We urge the federal government to kindly monitor the activities of these officers and safe the youth from unnecessary embarrassment and exploitation”. He said 

Speaking with our reporter, MR Felix Onechi.(menzo) This amendment law is like a cage and handcuffs the hand of the nigeria  youth at large. Based on the fact that SARS officials harass us anytime, any day, anywhere, even without warrants or suspecting anything criminal. 

“Moreso, these same officials will be accused of wrong deeds which you did not commit, while you argue with them, they hit you or shoot you, and it is due  to the phobia of being killed  that why most youth don't argue or shout ''.

“We like to implore the police disciplinary committee and federal government to always treat any police officer caught in accordance to the police force and nigeria  constitution  before the police force can earn her respect from the youth because the force has lost her integrity and image in the eye of most nigeria youth “ he said.

Therefore, in order to avoid any form of embarrassment from many police officials, will advise that it is suitable for nigeria youth to work in conjunction with the community policing  group of vigilante  group of Nigeria(VGN). while you can also request for an Identity card or other means of identifications.

wrapping  it up, Accountable Nigeria, implore the nigeria police force to take note of the complains from the nigeria youth, while we indurge our youth to also be law abiding and be a good ambassador of their home, community,state and country As we hope for positive effects.

For complains, kindly visit, Louis Edet, House, force Headquarter , Garki, Sheu Shagari way,abuja or call +220043241124, or text the email pressforabuja@police.gov.ng.