• Friday, July 19, 2024
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The role of the public towards forging robust Police public relations in Nigeria

The Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association, Ijebu Ode Branch in Ogun State, has urged the members of the public to see police officers as friends, and not enemies.

Going by the words of distinguished learned silk, Afe Babalola, SAN, published in National Tribune newspapers on the 17th day of November 2001, where he posited that: “The conception of the idea of a police is noble. It is in line with what obtains all over the world. The sole purpose is to achieve a saner, regulated and orderly society.

It is on this assertion as declared by our revered learned silk, Afe Babalola, SAN that I make a case for robust Police Public Relations in order in order to guarantee the effective administration of the criminal justice system in Nigeria.”

The police and the members of the public have consistently through acts and omissions erected barricades between themselves.

A large percentage of members of the public do not see anything good with the police to foster cordial relationships and cooperation between them.

The public erroneous and unfounded belief that only men of the underworld i.e criminals keep police friends radiate consistently in the minds of the public.

According to BASIL MOMODU, quoting a comment in Nigerian Tribune on the 12th day of March 1996: “Frankly speaking, about 80% of the Nigerian populace would rather prefer not to have anything to do with the Nigeria Police”.

This hostility and disaffection have gained momentum and continued to grow despite all coordinated efforts made by the police, and other stakeholders to ameliorate and improve the already strained relationship. But for the sake of our security, and the future of our dear country, this ugly trend cannot continue to occupy space in the hearts of the public.

Indeed, there is an urgent need to improve Police-Public Relations to stem the growing incidence of crime and improve public perception, and the good image of the police.

Read also: Psychology, self-respect, and the Nigerian Police

Section 4 of the Nigeria Police Act, 2020 states the functions of the police force, the understanding of which will leave no one in doubt that police are peoples’ friends. It provides as follows, “The police force shall: prevent and detect crimes, and protect the rights and freedom of every person in Nigeria as provided in the Constitution, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and any other law; maintain public safety, law and order; protect the lives and properties of all persons in Nigeria; enforce all laws and regulations without any prejudice to the enabling Acts of other security agencies; discharge such duties within and outside Nigeria as may be required of it under this Act or any other laws; collaborate with other agencies to take any necessary action and provide the required assistance or support to persons in distress, including victims of road accidents, fire disasters earthquakes and floods; facilitate the free passage and movement on highways, roads and streets open to the public; adopt community partnership in the discharge of its responsibilities under this Act under any other laws, and to vet and approve the registration of Private Detective Schools and Private Investigative Outfits.

It has been greatly emphasized that the functions to be performed by the police force are that of friends, not enemies. A person whose main duty is to protect our lives and properties cannot be termed an enemy, but rather a good friend.

It has also been emphasized that the duties of the police force as encapsulated in Section 4 of the Nigeria police Act, 2020 cannot be adequately and effectively carried out without the total cooperation of the members of the public.

The public needs to work hand in hand and cooperate with the police in the overall interest of our dear country.

However, the law recognizes the fact that some police officers may act or conduct themselves in ways that are quite unprofessional and antithetical to their code of conducts, and against the provisions of Nigeria Police Regulations, the public can report such erring officers to the appropriate authority.

Making a complaint against erring police officers
Instead of creating a situation of deadly mutiny, rebellion or anarchy by taking laws into one’s hands, the law prescribes the following steps in seeking redress in cases of violations of people’s rights by the police.

A person may take different courses of action if he feels the police have treated him unjustly and he wants to lodge a complaint. They include:

i. Petition to the Police Complaints Unit or Bureau: this procedure can only result in the errant officer(s) being disciplined or in exceptional cases, prosecuted, this procedure cannot however provide a person with compensation.

ii. Suit against the police authority for damages: this procedure requires consultation with a legal practitioner.

iii. Petition to the Commissioner of police or the Inspector-General of Police.

iv. Collective or joint action through a public campaign to monitor and ensure policing with integrity.

All the above stated is to ensure that the members of the public are well secured, and also foster the synergy between the public and the police force.

The ongoing enlightenment is to ensure adequate awareness in terms of Police-Public Relations, and also to urge public members to desist from self-help.

In Oguonzee v the State [1998] 4 SCNJ 226, [as stated on page 350 of S.T. Hon’s Constitutional and Migration law in Nigeria], an argument ensued at a police checkpoint between the deceased and the appellant, a police officer. In the heat of the argument, the appellant dragged the deceased out of his Volvo Saloon car and shot him to death.

The Appellant claimed that the deceased had struggled with him over the gun, causing the gun to explode and kill the deceased accidentally. The Appellant appealed the murder conviction, but the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, saying a case of the deliberate and intentional shooting of the deceased by the appellant was established beyond reasonable doubt by the prosecution.

But the big question to ask is whether the Appellant in the above-decided case had been executed as ordered by the Court considering the refusal of Governors to sign a death/execution warrant.

In light of this. I say, let the public be guided.