Po­lice of­fi­cers and re­spect for hu­man rights

Daily Trust - - LAW - By Daniel Bu­lus­son Esq

Af­ter 40 years with the United Na­tions, I have learned that healthy demo­cratic so­ci­eties are based on three pil­lars: peace and SE­CU­RITY, the rule of law and RE­SPECT FOR HU­MAN RIGHTS” Kofi Anan for­mer Sec­re­tary Gen­eral of the United Na­tions. (Em­pha­sis mine)

Po­lice of­fi­cers in Nige­ria are em­ployed for the preven­tion and de­tec­tion of crime, the ap­pre­hen­sion of of­fend­ers, the preser­va­tion of law and or­der, the pro­tec­tion of life and prop­erty and the due en­force­ment of all laws and reg­u­la­tions with which they are di­rectly charged. They are also obliged to per­form such mil­i­tary du­ties within or with­out Nige­ria as may be re­quired by them or un­der the au­thor­ity of the Po­lice Act.

This means that the Nige­ria Po­lice play an im­por­tant role in en­sur­ing that Nige­ria main­tains a healthy democ­racy as they are re­spon­si­ble for the se­cu­rity of the na­tion and while per­form­ing such du­ties should have re­spect for the fun­da­men­tal hu­man rights of the cit­i­zens it seeks to pro­tect, es­pe­cially now that Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari has asked Nige­ri­ans to change their at­ti­tude and be law abid­ing.

On the 2nd of Oc­to­ber 2015, at the NBA monthly gen­eral meet­ing held at the High Court premises, Bida Road, lawyers in at­ten­dance were in shock and awe when they heard that a young lawyer was held in po­lice cus­tody for three days. He was re­fused food or as­sess to a phone, his legs and hands were hand cuffed, and he was forced to sign a con­fes­sional state­ment that he as­saulted a po­lice of­fi­cer be­fore he was re­leased on bail.

While it is true that there are two sides to a story, what of­fense can a le­gal prac­ti­tioner pos­si­bly com­mit to war­rant this de­grad­ing in­hu­man treat­ment? More­over, if a lawyer, who is a pro­fes­sional, can be sub­jected to such de­grad­ing treat­ment, what would be­come of a mere citizen of this coun­try who’s not en­light­ened or knowl­edge­able in law?

No one is say­ing that the Nige­ria Po­lice should not per­form its func­tion, it is the pro­fes­sion­al­ism and dis­ci­pline lack­ing in the per­for­mance of their duty that is wor­ri­some, and the ear­lier po­lice of­fi­cers have re­spect for hu­man rights the bet­ter for this coun­try.

To ef­fec­tively per­form these func­tions, po­lice of­fi­cers are armed with ri­fles to pro­tect them­selves and pre­vent the com­mis­sion of any crime, but like many an­tecedents in Nige­ria, the re­verse is the case. Nige­rian Po­lice of­fi­cers abuse the power im­posed on them and use their as­sault ri­fles to in­tim­i­date the cit­i­zens they swore an oath to pro­tect, which begs the ques­tion, which sane Nige­ria would see a po­lice of­fi­cer with a ri­fle and dare at­tack him know­ing how trig­ger happy most po­lice of­fi­cers are?

The Nige­ria Po­lice lacks the pro­fes­sion­al­ism the Nige­rian Mil­i­tary pos­sess. No mat­ter the of­fense one com­mits, if sol­diers ap­pre­hend an of­fender, they pun­ish the of­fender no doubt but with re­spect for his or her hu­man rights. Nige­ri­ans re­spect the mil­i­tary more than the po­lice not be­cause of the dif­fer­ence in uni­form but be­cause of the dif­fer­ence in at­ti­tudes.

With due re­spect to the few good eggs in the po­lice force, re­spect for hu­man rights is a con­sti­tu­tional mat­ter that is con­stantly in breach by the peo­ple who swore to pro­tect it, but po­lice of­fi­cers do not give the pro­vi­sion of the con­sti­tu­tion the rev­er­ence and re­spect it de­serves. Any Nige­rian who has had an en­counter with a po­lice of­fi­cer would tes­tify to this.

Le­gal prac­ti­tion­ers are not en­e­mies of the force. Truth be told, one can­not per­form its func­tion ef­fec­tively with­out meet­ing the other at one point, but po­lice of­fi­cers shouldn’t be threat­ened or in­tim­i­dated by the pres­ence of a le­gal prac­ti­tioner that they see the need to use force to prove a point.

The Nige­rian Bar As­so­ci­a­tion and the In­spec­tor Gen­eral of Po­lice need to do more to stop these as­saults on le­gal prac­ti­tion­ers by po­lice of­fi­cers. Of­fi­cers who are found guilty of com­mit­ting these bar­baric acts should be dis­missed from the force to de­ter oth­ers from fol­low­ing suit, the po­lice of­fi­cer should be made to ten­der an apol­ogy in a na­tional daily and com­pen­sa­tion paid to the vic­tim should be de­ducted from his or her pen­sion.

The coun­try is on the verge of change and the Nige­ria Po­lice Force need change with it.

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