Apr 20, 2019

Bill Tracker – Nigeria Police Reform Bill 2019

On Wednesday the 17th of April, 2019, the Nigerian Senate passed the much awaited Police Reform Bill, 2019. The Bill seeks to amend the Police Act which had been drafted since the 1960s but has never been amended. According to experts the Police Act is out of tune with current realities and requires urgent amendment.  The Senate Bill has been forwarded to the House of Representatives for concurrence before it may be forwarded to the President for his assent. This post seeks to enlighten you about some of the relevant provisions in the Police Reform Bill including -

Objectives of the Bill

The Bill outlines its objectives to be

i.                   To ensure a people friendly Nigerian Police which embodies the values of accountability, fairness, justice and equity in Police operations;

ii.                 Ensure Police responsiveness;

iii.              Ensure respect by Police of the dignity of all persons;

iv.               Safeguard of the fundamental rights as contained in the Constitution;

v.                 Fostering cooperation and partnerships between the Police and the communities it serves;

vi.               Promote the respect for victims of crime and an understanding of their needs.

Duties of the Police

Section 4, of the existing Police Act states the duties of the Police include 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,  and shall perform such military duties within or outside Nigeria as may be required of  them by, or under the authority of this or any other Act.

However, the new Police Reform Bill proposes additional duties to include;

       i.            Protection of the rights and freedom of every person in Nigeria as provided in the Constitution, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Right, and any other law;

     ii.            Provision of humanitarian assistance for citizen(s), facilitation of movement on highways etc. without subjecting citizens to extortion, and adoption of communist partnerships.

  iii.            Adoption of community partnership in the performance of the duties provided under this section

Appointment of Inspector General

Clause 7 provides for the appointment procedure and qualification requirements for the person to be appointed as IGP, such officer must be a Senior Police Officer not below the rank of an Assistant Inspector General of Police with the requisite academic qualifications of not less than a first degree or its equivalent in addition to professional and management experience. Also upon appointment, the Bill proposes that the IGP will have a 5-year tenure.

Clause 10 defines the powers and duties of the IGP, which includes development of a yearly financial plan for the Police and establishment of Police training centres.

While Clause 12 mandates State Commissioners to establish community police fora in the States under their command subject to the directions of the State Governor.

Powers of the Police

i.                   Clause 20 of the Bill attempts to qualify the power of prosecution in section 23 of the Act by subjecting the police officer’s power to conduct prosecutions to relevant criminal procedure laws in force at the federal level and in a state regarding prosecution by nonqualified legal practitioners. It further requires that every Police Division have at least one police officer that is qualified to practice as legal practitioner.

ii.                Clause 25 requires that persons arrested are taken into custody before taking such persons before a court of competent jurisdiction with respect to the offence with which he is charged. Same of which must be done as soon as practicable. The Clause also stipulates further provisions for bail.

iii.              Clause 26 provides for cases where the Police can apply for extension of detention or remand of a suspect i.e. to preserve evidence or interrogate him/ her. In such cases, the Police can apply to the court pursuant to section 293 of ACJA. Such application must be made within 48 hours of the arrest. The Court must also determine such application within 48 hours.

iv.              Clause 29 provides for powers to search premises and includes a prohibition on violation of human rights in the course of the search.

v.                 Clause 30 makes provisions on search warrant safeguards i.e. provisions on conditions to be satisfied before a search warrant can be issued e.g. the grounds for the warrant, the premises to be searched, etc.

vi.              Clause 31 provides for issue and execution of search warrants and its endorsement upon execution.

vii.           Clause 32 provides for power to detain and search a suspected person or vehicle:

       Where the police officer has reasonable grounds for suspecting that a person is in possession of or conveying anything the officer is believed to be stolen or unlawfully obtained;

       Where reasonable grounds for suspicion exists that such person or vehicle is carrying an unlawful article;

       Where reasonable grounds for suspicion that incidents involving serious violence may take place within a locality;

        Where  information has been received as to a description of an article being carried or of a suspected offender; and

A person is carrying a certain type of article at an unusual time or in a place where a number of burglaries or thefts are known to have taken place recently It adds however in Clause 33 that certain personal attributes shall not be grounds for reasonable suspicion, including:

i.                   a person’s colour, age, hairstyle or manner of dress;

ii.                 previous conviction for possession of an unlawful article; or

iii.              stereotyped images of certain persons or groups as more likely to be committing offences.

viii.        Clause 34 provides for actions to be carried out by a police officer before a search occurs i.e. the Officer must be in uniform and wear a visible Police identity card and must inform the person in charge of the vehicle of his/her name, police station, object and grounds of the search.

ix.              Clause 36 mandates the Officer to record details of the search and provide a copy to the person to be searched while Clause 37 provides for a National Search Record Form containing details of a search.

x.                 Clause 38 provides for powers to take fingerprints, photographs, measurements.

Note: Power to take finger prints etc. is contained in section 15 of ACJA.  Unlike ACJA, the bill however further requires the Police to store such fingerprint impressions and measurements in a retrievable format and hand over to a suspect who has been discharged or acquitted. It also requires a police officer to approach a court to compel a suspect in lawful custody who refuses to submit him/herself for such records to be taken.

Public Rallies & Processions

Clause 39(3) prohibits the Inspector General of Police or the Commissioner of Police or their lawful delegates from unreasonably disallowing members of the public, the right to hold peaceful rallies, processions and assemblies in public highways, buildings or spaces.

Subsection (4) provides for police personnel to provide security cover for such meeting, rally or procession. In cases where the organisation decides to proceed with a rally against Police advice, the Police is required to \obtain a court order to prevent the rally- Clause 39(5.)

Community Policing Forums

This is a new part establishing community police forums, divisional and state community police boards to maintain partnership between the community and the Police, promote communication, improve rendering of police service, promote co-operation and improve transparency and accountability in the provision of police services.

It shall be made up of representatives of the local community in the state of jurisdiction.

The objectives of the forums and boards as stated are to:

a. maintain a partnership between the community and the Police;

b. promote communication between Nigeria Police and the  community;

c. promote co-operation between the Police and the community in fulfilling the needs of the community regarding policing;

d. improve the rendering police service to the community; and

e. improve transparency and accountability in the provision of police services to the community.

This bill adds that this provision shall not prevent Police liaison with the community by means other than Community Police Forums and Boards.

Police Public Complaints and Discipline

This part establishes the Police Complaints Response Unit to receive complaints about police misconduct from the public or other police officers. The Bill also looks to enshrine the existing Police Complaints Unit within the legal framework governing the Police and provides a procedure for investigations. It mandates the Inspector-General of Police to establish a Police Complaints Response Unit in each of the Police Commands in all the State of Federation.

The Unit is mandated in monitor investigations initiated by the unit as well as conduct investigations.  The Unit may receive: »» any complaint alleging that the conduct complained of resulted in the death or serious injury or other gross human rights violation; »» any complaint showing that a police officer is involved in an act constituting professional misconduct. - If the investigations reveal a criminal offence, a copy of the report shall be sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions for prosecution. - If it is an offence against discipline, it shall be sent to the appropriate Police or oversight authority for proper disciplinary action - If it reveals false information against a police officer, then the complainant shall be tried according to relevant laws in force.


For Further reading see PLAC ( Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC) is a Non-Governmental Organisation Promoting Good Governance and Citizen’s Access in Nigeria)