The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) last week presented to the Nigerian public its 2013 police stations’ visitation assessment report in Abuja. According to its Executive Secretary, Prof. Bem Angwe, the exercise was meant to motivate the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) to improve on its obligations to Nigerians despite the hue and cry over police brutality and sundry violation of human rights in the country. AMEH EJEKWONYILO reports
It was a mixed bag of encomiums and knocks for the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) during the public presentation of results of 2013 police station visitation, conducted by the National Human Rights Commission ((NHRC) in collaboration with other stakeholders such as the CLEEN Foundation and UK department for International Development (DFID).
According to the Executive Secretary of NHRC, Prof. Bem Angwe, “The assessment is meant to institutionalize competition among police stations in the country so as enable them live up to their billings of providing security and treat people with dignity”.
Prof. Angwe further said: “The visitation to police stations was conducted in line with the commission’s legal mandate as stated in section 6 (1) (d) of the National Human Rights Commission (Amendment) Act 2011, which empowers the commission to visit prisons, police cells and other places of detention in order to ascertain the conditions thereof and make recommendations to the appropriate authorities”.
The exercise which covered 369 police stations in 21 Police State Commands across the country assessed each of the police stations in 5 key areas of: community orientation, physical conditions, equal treatment of members of the public, transparency and accountability and detention conditions.
The summary of the performance of top police stations in the country in the 5 indicator areas, saw Karu Police Station in Abuja and Illupeju Police Station in Lagos state topping the chart with 100 per cent performance in all the indicators for Karu Police Station in the FCT.
This rating drew the anger of participants at the event who said the rating was an “image laundering effort” for the police; owing to the huge negative perception of ineptitude and human rights violation by the Nigeria Police Force.
Nine other police stations, who finished alongside Karu Police Station in the top 10 ranks in the assessment exercise, also recorded remarkably high scores. These are Illupeju Police Station which came second with 97.33 percent; Ikoyi Police Station, Lagos with 96 per cent; Adatan Police Station,
Ogun state, 95.33 per cent; Victoria Island Police Station, 94.33; and New Haven Police Station, Enugu, 93.67 per cent.
Other police stations in the top 10 are : Badagry Police Station, Lagos, and Life Camp Police Station, FCT with 92.33 per cent respectively. Ijanakin Police Station, 91.33 percent; Airport Police Command Station, Uyo, Akwa Ibom state, and Trade Fair Police Station, Lagos, 91 per cent, and Birnin Kudu Police Station in Jigawa state, 87.67 per cent.
The Executive Secretary of the commission who announced the results, explained that the Commission deployed its staff, local community citizens and groups to visit the 369 police stations in the course of the exercise.
He explained further that, 1115 visitors participated in the visits to police stations in Abia, Federal Capital Territory, Akwa I bom, Anambra, Bauchi, Ebonyi, Enugu, Gombe, Imo, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Kastina, Lagos, Nassarawa, Niger, Ogun, Oyo, Plateau, Rivers and Zamfara states.
The commission also applauded eight other police formations which set up effective platforms for interactive community policing. They are: Orile Police, Lagos; Chanchage Police Station, Niger; Ikono Police Station, Akwa Ibom; Umuezeala Police Station, Imo; Adeniji Adele Police Station, Lagos; Gusau Police Station, Zamfara; Isokoko Police Station, Lagos; and Island Police Station, Lagos.
Prof. Angwe emphasized some of the good practices to include: organization of awareness programmes for community members on how to report crime; partnership with local authorities, NGOs and various community groups such as vigilante and neighbourhood groups, youth and other interest groups to curb crime in the community in many police stations among other sundry programmes.
He assured that his commission would use the findings from the police stations visitation to develop guidelines to improve the conditions of detention facilities in police stations across the country as well as develop Human Rights trainings for the police based on areas of challenges that have been identified.
Contributing to the discussion, the Chairman of the National Committee Against Torture at the Federal Ministry of Justice, Dr.S.S Ameh called for partnership between the NHRC and other sister agencies in the fight against human rights abuses in the country. He said: “Any complaint of torture can be directed to us”.
Dr. Ameh, however, lamented the problem of inadequate funding that has crippled the mandate of the committee. He said: “Poor funding has prevented the committee from embarking on visitation to detention centres across the country to investigate cases of torture”.
He commended the police for establishing human rights desks that take care of cases of human rights violation.
A representative of the Nigeria Prisons Service at the event, Mr. Olagushin Samuel noted that the decrepit nature of physical infrastructure at the prisons is more worrisome than the challenge of manpower development. He made particular reference to the dilapidated Okigwe Prison in present day Abia state which he described as dehumanizing.
He appealed for the provision of modern infrastructure at the prisons across the country to take care of the reformative objective of rehabilitation of inmates to become useful citizens in the society.
Overall assessment of police stations performance in Nigeria in the last three years (2011-2013) according to Altus, an alliance of 6 NGOs and academic centres working in the area of public safety and security from a multicultural perspective, there is significant improvement in the activities of the Nigeria Police Force in the five indicator areas of community orientation, physical conditions, equal treatment of the public, transparency and accountability and detention conditions.
However, there is no doubt that the police force is bogged down by the myriad of image deficit that tend to have drowned the force of whatever goodwill it has from the Nigerian populace if it any. Therefore, the ultimate assessment of the police lies with ordinary Nigerians whose encounter with members of the force on a daily basis leaves much to be desired.