NOPRIN in search of better, secured Nigeria
By ABASIOFIOK INYANG
As search for a better Nigeria devoid of all forms of antagonism, violence, hate, mutual suspicion and insecurity of lives and property as a result of actions and inactions of the youths, the police and other security operatives in the country, a non-governmental, non profit organization in the country, Network on Police Reform in Nigeria (NOPRIN) in partnership with CLEEN Foundation with strong support from MacArthur Foundation, recently organized a two day Youths and Police Summit in the South-South Region of Nigeria.
The epoch making event with the theme “Strengthening Police Reform in Nigeria”, took place at SIAOSOA House and event center, Abak, Akwa Ibom State and brought participants from the six states of the South-South region of Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo and Rivers.
Interestingly, NOPRIN is a registered coalition of over 50 civil society groups and human rights organizations including private individuals with the desire for an accountable service delivery by the Nigeria Police Force as a gatekeeper to the Criminal Justice system. It also serves as a “platform that is committed to providing opportunities for civil society involvement in Police Reform and the enhancement of safety and security in Nigeria”.
As equally noted by NOPRIN national chairman, Mr Saviour Akpan, Esq, the organization believes that policing is supposed to be “strategically implemented in partnership with the citizens irrespective of creed and social status in a transparent and accountable manner that will always gaurantee the expected opportunity for justice in a democratic setting”.
The NOPRIN National Chairman observed that youths form the greater percentage of employees in the Police Force but due to unchallenged systemic failures and inability to isolate the police organization from partisan politics, the relationship between youths in the police and youths outside the police is far from being cordial and to control this, he called for the abrogation of the practice of using past Inspector General as chairman of Police Service Commission. He also called for immediate removal of Police from contributory pension scheme.
Akpan maintained that Police Service Commission is a civilian oversight agency saddled with the responsibilities of appointment, promotion and discipline of the police personnel except for the Inspector General and therefore should be manned b civilians who are knowledgeable in the field of police, policing and democracy accountability.
Failure of this policing system and poor justice delivery on the part of the Police as provided in Section 4 of the Police Act 2020, primarily led to the #ENDSARS protest that swept across the country in 2020 as the youths who are the major victims of police brutality took to the streets to demand an end to such brutality.
Section 4 of the Police Act 2020 states that the “primary duties and responsibilities of the Police are the prevention and detection of crime, the apprehension and prosecution of offenders, the preservation of law and order, the protection of life and property and the due enforcement of all laws and regulations”.
Acknowledging this responsibilities, the Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of State Criminal Investigation Department (SCID), Akwa Ibom State Police Command, Ikot Akpan Abia, Mrs Lara O’ Tola in her paper presentation on “Youths And Police Reforms In Nigeria; Strategies For Building Trust And Confidence In Post#ENDSARS In Nigeria”, said that this responsibilities cannot be carried out without the support and cooperation of the youths.
Represented by ASP Ibanga Inyang, Esq, she noted that such cooperation must go beyond giving information to the police, but ensuring that the offender is not only arrested but prosecuted in accordance with the laws of the land.
She, however, identified the crucial roles that could help in reducing violence and building trust and confidence between the police and the youths. They include, putting in place a clear organizational policy on the use of force; establishment of an organizationally structure to monitor the use of force; community based orientation.
This, she said, should involve government at all level and civil organizations through periodic sensitization programs that should aimed at building trust and confidence between the police and the public rather than antagonising the police at every point even when in the execution of their lawful duties; and proper funding of the police force including a meaningful pay package for its personnel.
On his part, the Area Commander, Etim Ekpo Area Command, ACP Eze Godfrey Chijioke advocated measures to curb insecurity in the country. He noted that youths play very important role in achieving a crime free society. He stressed that community policing through engagement of youths, religious organizations, market women, students and non-governmental organizations need to partner police.
Mr Anietie Udofia of the Department of Political Science and Public Administration, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Uyo, while delivering paper on “Insecurity In South South And The Effect Of Unknown Gunmen In Youth And Police Partnership In Crime Detection, Human Rights Protection And Violent Conflict; The Way Out”, noted with concern, the increasing abuses of the rights of the citizens especially that of the youths by those that supposed to protect such rights.
He stressed that there is the need for social protection program for members of the public especially the youths. He also advocated more training and retraining of the police.
Reacting to the essence of the youth summit, the National Coordinator of NOPRIN, Mr Ikule Emmanuel noted that young Nigerians are the main victims of police brutality as many have languished in police detention, killed while some do not even have access to justice.
He said regrettably, over the years, youths have been excluded in police reform, thus, the campaign by NOPRIN to get inputs on the shortcomings and the need to involve the youths and build strong partnership through community relations.
Mr Emmanuel equally noted that the summit is a capacity building for the police as they stand to benefit on the performance of their duties. This, he said will give them the opportunity to learn about the new Police Act and make them accountable in their actions.
The NOPRIN National Coordinator equally stressed that police rights have also been violated and that they can get access to justice through public tribunal, as well as get access to police trust fund that would go along way to make them financially independent.
NOPRIN, at the end of the two day summit, called for regular interface between the government, the youths and the police to end police brutality and build confidence with members of the public. It also called on members of the public not to see police as enemies but partners in a bit to have a crime free society.