I have the pleasure of welcoming you all to this Public Hearing organised by the Senate Committee on Police Affairs for further consideration of The Police Act CAP P19 LFN 2004 (Repeal and Re-Enactment) Bill 2018 (SB.682), which is sponsored by Distinguished Senator Baba Ibn Na’Allah and was debated up to Second Reading before being referred to the Committee.
2. Let me take this opportunity to express our gratitude to the Distinguished Senator Tijjani Y. Kaura, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Police Affairs — and indeed the entire members of the Committee — for organising this Public Hearing for us today. The considerable work and effort of the Committee in seeing the Bill to this stage, is highly commendable indeed.
3. Of course, I cannot leave out your good selves — the concerned and committed stakeholders and interested parties who have made the time to be here. Your presence at this Public Hearing is a sure indication that you recognise the significance of this Bill, and the potential positive impacts on policing in Nigeria. Public Hearings are a crucial part of the National Assembly’s continuing efforts to involve the people in lawmaking; and it is heartening that we will be getting your input into the Bill in the course of these proceedings.
4. As indicated earlier, the proposed law tabled for your consideration today is The Police Act CAP P19 LFN (Repeal and Re-Enactment) Bill 2018 (SB.682). The overall objective of the Bill is to help create a policing system in line with the global standards. This is of the utmost importance, as the Nigerian Police is a veritable part of our national security architecture, which many have noted is in need of reform, particularly in light of the many security issues that beset our nation at the current time. These concerns dictate that the Police must be up to the task of protecting lives and property, and do so without compromising human rights and the sense of community that holds us together.
5. Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, it has been noted that the laws and regulations guiding police functions in Nigeria actually date back to colonial times. This should give us pause, because the Police during the colonial era was never constituted to serve the Nigerian masses in the first place. Despite a number of amendments over time, the fact remains that the current laws governing the Police are 75 years old and are crying out for an update. This is what the Bill is intended to achieve, and I believe that, with your considered input and insights, we will be able to push through the long overdue reform.
6. The Bill, therefore, seeks to repeal the extant Police Act 2004 — and replace it with the proposed Police Reform Act 2018 — which will be founded on these core principles: Accountability, Transparency, Human Rights and the Promotion of Community Relations. If I may dwell on the last principle for a moment; when we talk of better intelligence to combat the myriad security threats to our country, there is no denying that a good relationship between the police and the community is crucial.
7. This proposed law will enhance communal relations, and in order to do this, will establish a Divisional State Police Board to foster better engagement with the people and the communities in which they live. A revamped policing structure will provide better guarantees for the rights and freedom of citizens. For example, a person may not be detained for more than 24 hours in the event of an arrest without a warrant; and a police officer will not be able to act as a prosecuting authority with regard to a case in which he or she was a participant. Provisions such as these — as well as the proposed establishment of a Police Complaint Authority — will better serve the cause of justice.
8. In all, the Bill is intended to establish a policing system that is fit for purpose — able to prevent and detect crimes, apprehend offenders and enforce laws and regulations within its mandate accordingly. Underpinning this people-and-service-oriented police system would be an appropriate funding framework designed for effectiveness.
9. Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, as the sponsor of the Bill noted during one of the debates in plenary, “The Bill is certainly not an absolute panacea to our policing problems but will be a major contribution to addressing it.” I therefore call on all stakeholders here present — officials, Civil Society Organisations, community leaders and others — to give the Bill your due attention. Your frank contributions and submissions would go a long way to helping us get the Bill right, so that the people of this country can get the Police Service they deserve.
10. It is on that note that, without further ado, I hereby declare open this Public Hearing on The Police Act (Repeal and Re-Enactment) Bill 2018. I wish you successful deliberations and I look forward to your recommendations.
PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE