Investigation of Crime, Search and Seizure, Community Policing and Human Rights Violation; Strategies for Cordial Police-Citizens Relations

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INTRODUCTION:

Every State made of individual organized in a defined territory is expected to pursue the common welfare of the people and maintain law and order.

Indeed. The state using the government as its administrative organ is endowed with coercive power to maintain the social order. The state is unique in many respects especially as it is alone that has the rights to exercise force to compel obedience to its orders including the imposition of any penalty like imprisonment, deportation or death.

In order to function effectively, a state must therefore ensure the protection of life and property, maintenance of national value, protection of the environment and maintenance of good quality of life for it citizens. Therefore, anything that undermines these aspirations poses a threat to the security of the state and it citizens.

That the major duty of the Police in Nigeria is the protection of lives and properties seems not to be in doubt indeed, which is common knowledge often cited particularly by the Police. However, what the Police do not seems to know or seems to overlook is what public confidence is what guarantees effective policing and that Police abuses grossly undermine public confidence and subsequently undermine public safety and security.

The Police in advanced democracies are concerned about the cause and effect of poor perception of the Police and its performances on the part of the public, but the Nigeria Police seem in my view to fuel it by their continued human rights abuses.

Professor Etanibi Alemika, writing on Police Reform in Nigeria: “Issues contentions and options” noted that in response to the challenges of Police and policing in Nigeria there has been successive attempts to reorganize and reform the Police system, but with limited changes in the system. He concluded that scientifically driven comprehensive appraisal of the nation’s safety and security as well as criminal justice concerns needs to be critical components of economic and political development policies and programmes. He posited that political reforms in democratic societies are aimed at achieving respect for human rights of citizens by the Police.

Unfortunately, since the inception of democracy in Nigeria in 1999 this focus is far from reality. It was not surprising therefore when the Presidential Committee on Police reform confirmed that “In Nigeria the relationship between the Police and the public is largely characterized by mutual mistrust and hostility.

INVESTIGATION OF CRIME

According to the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary: “Investigation of Crime is an official examination of the fact about a situation.” Crime or criminality, e.g murder or even abuse of power, that is why Police will always say the matter is under investigation. They may have also completed investigation of a crime, they may also be investigating an event or situation so as to find out the truth. It is the Police that have the power to investigate crime, but the Journalist do go into investigation to assist them in their news reports; that is why we often hear Investigative Journalism.”

Policing and in the cause of investigation of crime, the Nigeria Police Force is characterized by the routine use of arbitrary and brutal forms of torture. For all these violations, NPF personnel enjoy impunity. The government fails to institute or exercise due diligence in investigating or ensuring accountability for Police abuse. The Police Service Commission (PSC) in Nigeria perform statutory Police oversight mechanism, is hobbled by undue and justified self-restraint, inadequate resources, and resistance from the Police and political leadership. Judicial oversight, as it is reliant on ineffectual Police investigation results to few convictions, as a result, few cases of Police abuse are reported. The victims fear reprisal or do not have access to effective redress. The systematic failure of access to remedies for victims of Police abuse reinforce impunity make the NPF, as an institution, predatory, unaccountable, an ineffective, corrodes Police community relations.

SEARCHES AND SEIZURE

     Section 44 Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) allows the Police to search a person arrested. Also certain investigation requires some search to be conducted. It could be a search of a dwelling house, office premises or other buildings.

The Police have been granted power to conducts search in execution of their duties of investigation under section 28 of the Police Act. In respect of the Police, a search should be by order of a court. This a cases in which a search warrant may be issued under the Criminal Procedure Act (CPA) is the receipt of information on oath by a Magistrate who on reasonable grounds, believe that there is in any building, ship carriage, receptacle or place:

a.         Anything upon or in respect of which any office has been or is suspected to have been committed; or

b.         Anything which there is reasonable ground for believing, will afford evidence as to the commission of any offence; or

c.         Anything, which there is reasonable ground for believing, is intended to be used for the purpose of committing offence the magistrate then issues a warrant for search of such building, ship carriage, receptacle or place for such thing before the Magistrate or some other Magistrate to be dealt with according to law: and to apprehend the occupier of the house or place where the items were found if the magistrate thinks fit to so direct on the warrant.

However, procedures for search should be in the presence of the owner of the premises been searched and at least two independent witnesses who will sign an attestation to the search and items recovered thereof and where they were found.

Do the Police in most cases comply with this particular procedure?

COMMUNITY POLICING

Police institutions across the nations are moving away from the traditional model of policing in favour of a policy model oriented towards establishing a close working relationship with communities. The utilization of neighborhood watch has become integrated into policing in many nations. Experience and practice has shown clearly that community policing can effectively contribute to reducing crime and promoting security.

In Nigeria, the relationship between the Police and the public is largely characterized by mutual mistrust and hostility as noted above. The general causes of the negative opinion on Police by the public include the repressive nature of enforcement under authoritarian colonial and post-colonial governments, general inefficiency of the Police due to inadequate facilities, corruption, poor remuneration and conditions of service, insensitivity towards the public by the Police in Nigeria is the order of the day.

THE HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATION

“All human rights are universal, indivisible, interdependent and inter-related. The international community must treat human rights globally in a fair and equal manner, on the same footing and with the same emphasis.” Vienn a Declaration of 1993

The Universal Declaration, which has become an essential guide to the interpretation of human rights emanating from “the inherent rights” of the individual, which rights it declares as the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world. The International Covenants mainly focus on the duties of state towards the undertaking parties, and assurance by the state to each other that they will respect “all people” exercise of the right contained in the covenants.

The new rights, which otherwise are known as group or people’s rights cover some or all of the following; the right to self-determination, right to development, right to a safe environment, right of minorities and right of democracy, right to life, etc.

The word “human: is not controversial; neither should the rights which ever rights in which it defines or qualifies. All rights derived by humans for the freedom and security of humans in their relationship with humans, nature or human institutions are human rights. Being thus definitively and equally human, we may decide for practical purpose to sub-dividable, the rights of state or institutions, the rights of minorities, the rights of children, the right to development etc. The question of human rights arises basically because man is in interaction with man in society. Human rights are about man and woman in society and not simply about the state. To insist on divorcing man from society is to pry man and woman outside the reality of ordinary existence. Freedom to exercise individual rights within the context of social justice should be the directive principle.

STRATEGIC ORIENTED POLICING

As noted above, strategic policing is about adopting proactive and preventive methods of crime prevention. The more police you have, the more crime would be discovered and not necessarily solved, and the more the citizens would complain about the intrusive behavior of the police because of more regular contact. In many societies where crime rate is very low, contact with the police is minimal. In Nigeria level of crime rate is high. There is high level of insecurity among the citizens with rampant cases of armed robbery and kidnapping. The citizens perception of the Police is very poor. There are daily complaints of Police brutality and extortion from members of the public. There is therefore the need for the Nigeria Police Force to become strategic in it approach to policing to be able to overcome the challenges of Policing in Nigeria.

CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS

The Police is the Principal agency charged with the responsibility of internal peace and security of nations. In Nigeria, the NPF is constitutionally and legally empowered to Police the country for peace and security. But the policing in Nigeria is bedeviled with a lot of challenges. Scholars and practitioners have identified the challenges facing the Policing in Nigeria. They include the problems of funding, increasing crime wave, poor training, corruption within and outside the Police, lack of involvement of citizens in policing, poor public image, lack of inter-service and agency co-operation, Poor condition of service and welfare of Police officers.

We suggest that the Nigeria Police Force need to become more strategic in its approach to policing to be able to overcome these challenges of policing. The starting point is to identify the strategic issues that affect the organization, efficiency and effectiveness of the Police as an organization. In our view, some of the strategic issues that need to be addressed are in the recruitment, human capital issues development, change of attitude, operations, corruption, image of the Force, funding, leadership and management, monitoring and evaluation.

As we go into the 2023 elections, the Nigeria Police can do more to secure Nigeria and Nigerian.

Idris Miliki Abdul
Executive Director,
Conscience for Human Rights and Conflict Resolution (CHRCR)
Lokoja, Kogi State.


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