Network on Police Reform in Nigeria (NOPRIN) has observed with utmost concern the now almost routine tours from one Government House to another by the Chairman of the Police Service Commission (PSC), Deputy Inspector-General of Police (Rtrd.), Mr. Parry Osayande and his commissioners. These tours are happening at a time that public complaints on police killings and abuses continue to mount at the commission’s offices without being investigated with a view to bringing the perpetrators to account.
In the last one week alone Human Rights Watch, the BBC and Amnesty International have released damning reports of increasing police killings and abuses in Nigeria, corroborating NOPRIN’s findings of pervasive patterns of abuse by NPF personnel. NOPRIN’s investigation revealed a consistent pattern of police abuses, including torture, rape and extrajudicial killings by NPF personnel. Our findings—which were corroborated by the BBC report of 8th December—reveal shocking levels of official indifference to, complicity in, and impunity for these horrifying violations. There is also a marked public distrust of the police, deriving significantly from the abuse visited upon civilians.
Our investigations revealed that a main cause of police abuse is the absence of effective mechanisms for preventing, investigating, and punishing the NPF’s numerous violations of basic rights and proper police procedure. Those involved in police abuse are almost certain to get away with it.
Therefore, NOPRIN is startled that at a time reports show that members of the Nigeria Police Force continue to routinely commit extrajudicial killing, torture, and other abuse with impunity, and at a time that the Nigerian public’s perception is that authorities condone or are indifferent to police abuses, the Chairman of the PSC and his team will choose to be touring government houses and state commands instead of focusing on the PSC’s statutory mandate of oversight and effective investigation of public complaints on police abuses, with a view to bringing the perpetrators to book.
The PSC was established in 2001 by the Police Service Commission (Establishment) Act No. 1, 2001 as the oversight body for the police. It is charged with the statutory functions of, among others, policy formulation for the NPF, and police promotion and discipline. But the Chairman and his team have since their inauguration in 2008 preferred to be junketing from one State Government House and State Police Command to another in endless ‘Interactive Sessions’, ‘Familiarization’, courtesy visits and ‘Working Visits’, thereby, leaving untreated, the heap of public complaints on police abuses that continue to flood the commission’s offices almost on a daily basis.
On Wednesday, December 2, 2009 the Chairman and his team were reported to have visited the Kaduna State Government, and were received by the Acting Governor, Mr. Patrick Yakowa. The PSC Chair was reported to have announced that the PSC needs 420 billion naira. This would be about the 6th State Governor that the PSC Chairman and his team have paid ‘courtesy calls’ on in recent time.
In the first week of December, 2008 few months after the federal government inaugurated the current council for the PSC headed by Mr. Parry Osayande the Chairman and his team visited Lagos and Ogun States Commissioners of Police at Zone two, Onikan, Lagos in what was tagged ‘ an interactive session’ with the Chairman and his team. In his team were the Secretary to PSC, Mr. Gamba Muwai, Dame Comfort Obi, Abu Daura and Dr. Ignatius Adaji. Mr. Osayande said he was in the zone to familiarize with men and officers of the zone. Other Zonal and State Commands have been visited in turns by the Chairman and his team.
Mr. Osayande and his team also recently embarked on ‘working visits’ to states and ‘courtesy calls’ to State governors. In the first week of November, 2009, Mr. Osayande and his team were in Owerri on ‘a two day working visit of the Chairman, Commissioners, Secretary and Directors of the Commission to Imo State as part of familiarization in Nigeria.’ While addressing the State Command, Mr. Osayande announced that ‘…about N420 billion is expected in the next five years to enhance the welfare of police officers nationwide’.
In the same week, November 04, 2009 Mr. Parry Osayande was in Ebonyi State on a ‘working visit’ to the Ebonyi State Police command. According to reports, the retired DIG of Police explained that the essence of the working visits to all the commands in the country was to determine their problems and proffer solutions. "We will submit our reports to the appropriate authorities and work toward prompt implementation of the recommendations," he said.
Again, on 20 November, 2009 Osayande and his team visited Asaba where they met with the Delta State Commissioner of Police, Mr Yakubu Alkali.
NOPRIN wonders what the PSC chairman and his members are doing moving from one government house to another, at a time that they are needed to sit down in Abuja and investigate numerous public complaints that daily flood their offices on police abuse of human rights! NOPRIN cannot see the connection that these State tours have with the work of the Commission, and what they are intended to achieve! What achievement can the Commission boast in its two years of existence, other than sacking Nuhu Ribadu?
In April 2008, nearly 18 months after the tenure of the first council of the PSC under Chief Simon Okeke lapsed in November 2006, the federal government inaugurated a new council for the PSC headed by retired Deputy Inspector-General of Police, Parry Osayande. In the absence of the council, the Commission was unable to consider or take any decisions on complaints of police abuse. Consideration of disciplinary cases which stalled for nearly two years had not resumed at the beginning of 2008. But in a case surprising for its effect on the credibility of the new PSC, the leadership of the PSC convened surreptitiously in December 2008, after some of the members had already proceeded on end of year holidays, to adopt an internal police report recommending the sacking from the NPF of Nuhu Ribadu, former head of Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission who had fallen out of favour with the government for appearing too committed to rooting out corruption in public life in Nigeria. The IGP happened to be the complainant in the case.
What the PSC needs to tell Nigerians are:
1. How many other petitions it has successfully investigated and the outcome of such investigations;
2. What guidelines it has formulated for police promotion and discipline, etc.
In 2006, the UN Special Rapporteur on executions, Professor Phillip Alston, in his Report of the Special Rapporteur, par. 58 summed up the record of the Commission in the report of his mission to Nigeria as follows:
The Police Service Commission is charged with police discipline, but has opted to refer all complaints of extra-judicial police killings back to the police for investigation. The Commission’s mandate is potentially empowering. But despite efforts by one or two excellent commissioners, its performance has been dismal and self-restraining. Its quarterly reports to the President are not published and present a dismal chronicle of rubber-stamping decisions taken by the police, coupled with inaction in relation to pressing concerns. A radical overhaul of its procedures and composition is warranted.
Nothing seems to have changed since the foregoing assessment was made in 2006.
The ongoing merry-go-rounds by the PSC Chair and his team are not part of the functions of the PSC. It appears that the Chairman is confusing his role as an ombudsman, and the head of an external oversight body with his role as a police officer. NOPRIN is worried that such frolic to Government Houses has the potential of weakening focus and compromising the impartiality and effectiveness of the Commission as an oversight body, which ought to be independent and shielded from partisan influence.
NOPRIN hereby calls on the commission to call off these needless trips and seat back in Abuja and attend to the numerous public complaints on police abuses. Failure to diligently and effectively investigate and sanction abuses contributes to impunity; and failure to ensure adequate remedies for victims of abuses compounds the injustice of their abuses.
If the PSC cannot promote and ensure discipline and professionalism in the police, it loses justification for its existence and may finally erase its eroding credibility.