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Senate Passes Police Reform Bill

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The Senate on 17th April, 2019 passed a Bill to repeal and re-enact the Police Act Cap P19, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 and enact the Nigeria Police Act to provide for the framework of the Police Service and ensure cooperation and partnership between the Police in maintaining peace and combating crimes and related matters.

Among others, the Bill seeks to reform the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) by creating an agency that could be more responsive to the needs of the public and bringing it in tandem with modern day realities. The Bill has been argued to be a step forward in addressing Nigeria’s national security gap, providing a basis for partnership between the Police Force and host communities as well as addressing the issues responsible for the low morale of officers.

Notable provisions in the Bill include the appointment of one Deputy Inspector General as against the current seven Deputy Inspector –Generals and providing for a single tenure of 5 years for the Inspector General of Police to provide security of tenure. Additionally, the Bill prescribes qualification provisions for the Inspector General of Police such as that Police should not be below the rank of Assistant Inspector General of Police, must have a bachelors degree or its equivalent in addition to professional and management experience and be subjected to Senate confirmation. Other important provisions in the Bill include the establishment of a Community Police Forum and Board at the State and community levels, statutory backing for the police complaints response unit with power to receive and investigate complaints of misconduct against police officers by the public, as well as a Police Reward Fund to reward and commend officers for gallant and exemplary service among others.

The Bill further provides for human rights safeguards by incorporating certain sections of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, (ACJA) 2015 dealing with arrests, searches and warrants. This is to clarify police powers on these issues and eliminate the wide discretion that the existing Act allows.

While the Senate must be commended for pushing for police reforms, the eventual passage of the Bill is dependent on the concurrence of the House of Representatives and the political will of the President to sign the law to activate the desired reforms.