The Vice Chairman of Nigerian Bar Association, Ijebu Ode branch, Moruff O. Balogun, Esq., has urged the members of the public to see police officers as friends, and not enemies.
In his statement to our correspondent, he made recourse to the words of a distinguished learned silk Afe Babalola, SAN, published in National Tribune Newspapers on 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”.
The police and the members of the public have consistently, through acts and omissions erected barricades between them.
The large percentage members of the public do not see anything good with the police as to foster cordial relationship and co-operation between them.
The public erroneous and unfounded belief that only men of the underworld i.e criminals keep police friends radiates consistently in the minds of the public.
According to Basil Momodu, quoting a comment in Nigerian Tribune of 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 has gained momentum and continued to grow despite all co-ordinated 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 urgent need to improve the police public relations, to stem the growing incidence of crime and improve public perception, and the good image of the 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.
Section 4 of the said Act provides that:
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 others 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; and
- 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 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 total co-operation of the members of the public.
The public needs to work hand in hand and co-operate 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 codes of conduct, 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 ones hands, the law prescribes the following steps in seeking redress in cases of violations of peoples’ rights by the police.
There are different courses of action a person may take if he feels the police have treated him unjustly and he wants to lodge a complaint. They include:
- 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.
- Suit against the police authority for damages, this procedure requires consultation with a legal practitioner.
Petition to the Commissioner of police or the Inspector General of Police.
- Collective or joint action through public campaign to monitor and ensure policing with integrity.
All the above stated is to ensure that members of the public are well secured, and also foster 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 members of the public to desist from self-help.
In Oguonzee V. The State  4 SCNJ 226 [as stated in page 350 of S.T. HON’S Constitutional and Migration law in Nigeria] where in an argument at a police checking point between the deceased and the appellant, a police officer, the appellant dragged the deceased out of his Volvo Saloon car and shot him to death.
Appellant claimed that the deceased was struggling with him over the gun, making the gun to accidentally explode and kill the deceased.
On appeal by the Appellant against conviction for murder, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, saying a case of 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 death/execution warrant?
Let the public be guided. He added.
About the Author
Moruff O. Balogun Esq.
Vice Chairman,NBA Ijebu Ode branch.