Why we can’t punish police officers who arrested Lekki Toll Gate protesters – PSC

THE Police Service Commission (PSC) says there are reasons behind its inability to punish police officers who arrested Lekki Toll Gate protesters last Saturday in Lagos State.

Rommy Mom, commissioner for human rights, PSC, said last Thursday during a virtual round table hosted by the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR) to discuss many issues surrounding police brutality and the #ENDSARS protests.

Mom said this while responding to a question by the moderator of the discussion over the failure of the PSC to discipline officers who arrested the protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate last Saturday.

“Undoubtedly, the issue of police discipline is that of the Police Service Commission. As with everything that is official and government, you need to have some sort of instrument to act on; it could be petition or complaint or whatever. I think there are a lot of layers to where the police commission can be activated in terms of exercising the powers over police officers.

“We need to understand that the Police Service Commission is not on the street with the protesters. It acts on petitions; it acts on complaints and, for me, this is where there was a gap in terms of identification of those police officers and submitting their names and actions to the commission for discipline,” Mom said.

He stated that most Nigerians did not understand the mechanism of discharging the duties of the PSC.

READ ALSOFalana to sue police over arrest of #ENDSARS protesters at Lekki Toll Gate

According to him, most Nigerians did not know about the PSC until the #ENDSARS protests in October 2020.

Mom further lamented that the PSC was not properly empowered to perform its functions as established in the PSC Act, noting the commission, which was supposed to discipline police officers across the country, was located only in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory.

“So much money has been poured into police reform, but not very much has been put into the Police Service Commission which is the oversight mechanism,” the PSC commissioner added.

Rinu Oduola, an #ENDSARS campaigner, who attended the virtual roundtable discussion, said Mom’s explanation meant that Nigerians were in trouble.

“We are all in a lot of trouble because a police officer would threaten to shoot you and he would shoot. With what Mr Rommy is saying,  it means that we are all in a lot of trouble. So it is not the protesters alone, it is everyone,” Rinu added.

Reacting to Mom’s comment, Femi Falana, a human rights activist and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), said the PSC should be funded in time to come following the Police Trust Fund Act of 2019.

“What we have done with respect to funding of the police is a campaign, and there is now a law what we call Police Trust Fund Act of 2019 which has provided 2.5 percent of the entire money in the federation account as well as 0.0005 percent of companies’ profit in Nigeria to be paid into the Police Trust Fund account in buying weapons and providing accommodation for police officers in Nigeria.

    “But it has not been allowed to function. I think it was only last week that the National Assembly passed the budget of the police with a bill to release part of that money,” Falana said.

    He stated that currently, there was a disciplinary process at the state level through state commissioners of police, stating that this was being done through an orderly room trial of police personnel. Falana noted that the officers would be referred to the commission after the trial.

    “In the case of Lagos, with respect to the case of human rights infringement that occurred on (previous) Saturday, the commissioner of police has set up an enquiry to investigate the officers. Again, this is where the PSC has not even lifted a finger,” Falana stated.

    He added that there was already a decentralisation of police discipline in Nigeria and there are cases that are handled in orderly room trial so that Nigerians would not have to go to Abuja, for every case of police misconduct.

    Lukman Abolade is an Investigative reporter with The ICIR. Reach out to him via [email protected], on twitter @AboladeLAA and FB @Correction94

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