THE House of Representatives has been criticised for not passing the police reform bill by Citizen’s Gavel, a civil society group and civic tech organisation, which likened the decision to throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
A little over a month after the same bill was passed by the Senate, the House of Representatives, on Wednesday, rejected the Police Act (Repeal and Re-enactment) Bill, 2018, popularly called the Police Reform bill.
This decision, the lawmakers had said, was reached because “most of the provisions of this bill are against the constitution”.
“Unless we amend the constitution, we can not implement the bill. The bill also proposed the reduction of the number of DIGs, are we moving forward or backward? The bill is also referring to the Police as police force which is against the constitution,” explained Abubakar Lawal, chairman of the house committee on police affairs.
In its press statement released on Friday and signed by the group’s team lead Nelson Olaonipekun, Gavel said the lower legislative chamber would have done a better job if it simply removed the sections in conflict with the constitution and passed others.
Or it could have passed “the bill and let those provisions be removed when tested in court rather than throwing the baby out with the bathwater,” it added. “The present set has sent the country back to the dark age.
“In recent times, citizens have complained about the increase in police brutality, police extortion, poor welfare of police and extrajudicial killings across Nigeria. After the unfortunate death of Kolade Johnson in Lagos, several other persons have died in a similar manner, and this has left citizens to wonder who will be the next victim,” the statement said.
“Citizens on several occasions have admonished the National Assembly to strengthen laws on police accountability and in extreme cases called on the National Assembly to investigate above-mentioned instances.
“The Police Reform Bill has been before the House of Representatives and Senate. While the Senate has taken the bold step to pass the bill, the House of Representatives has taken Nigerian back to the old colonial days by refusing to pass the 21st-century law.”
Gavel pointed out that the Police Act currently in force is old-fashioned as it was enacted in 1943. It further called for a massive overhaul of the system, especially through passing the proposed amendment which “promotes human rights, efficiency and effectiveness of the police”.
The CSO also urged the coming ninth National Assembly to prioritise the lives of Nigerians and police officers by ensuring the swift passage of the bill.
Among other things, the bill makes provisions for the establishment of a police fund and community police forum. It also makes illegal the taking of liquor or intoxicating substances while on duty, stipulating a fine of N20,000 or three months imprisonment as a penalty.