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HRW: Police Still Nigeria's Most Corrupt Institution

Source: BABATOLA MICHAEL - thewillnigeria.com


LAGOS, August 17, (THEWILL) - Human Rights Watch (HRW), a US based human rights organization today released a report that identified the Nigerian Police as the country’s most corrupt government agency. It further stated that this could seriously undercut the 2011 general elections.

The 102-page report entitled: Everyone in on the Game: Corruption and Human Rights Abuses by the Nigeria Police Force, was unveiled at the Lagos Airport Hotel.

Giving insight into the report, HRW’s researcher on Nigeria (Africa Division), Mr. Eric Guttschuss said Nigerian politicians used police officials as trade tools for achieving their selfish agendas, as evident in the 2007 General Elections which was characterized by arbitrariness, violence and brutality.

"Credible elections are not likely if the control of the Nigeria Police remains in the hand of politicians. The control of the police should be taken from the politicians while professionals should be allowed to manage the country’s police affairs. Unless the police are rescued from partisan control, all efforts to ensure effective reforms will be in vain," he said.

The report x-rayed how unjust lust for pecuniary gains by police officers often quickly degenerate into chains of human right abuses in the society.

According to the report, the germane effect of police corruption on ordinary citizens stems from myriad of human rights abuses committed by police officers in the process of extorting money.

"The abuses range from arbitrary arrest and unlawful detention to threats and acts of violence, including physical and sexual assaults, torture and even extra-judicial killings, but many police officers conduct themselves in an exemplary manner, working in difficult and often dangerous conditions," the report said.

Further, the report identified how corruption in the Nigerian Police often leave tears on the faces of citizens seeking access to justice through the nation’s law enforcement agent.

"Police routinely extort money to investigate a given criminal case, which leaves those who refuse or are unable to pay without access to justice," the report said, citing this and the police’s inability to perform basic functions required of them as the albatross of rule of law in Nigeria.

As stated in the report, criminal suspects, who are moneybags "can simply bribe the police to avoid arrest, detention, or prosecution, to influence the outcome of a criminal investigation or return the investigation against victims. Ordinary Nigerians are further denied equal protections under the law due to a widespread practice whereby senior police officers sell protection for their own personal enrichment."

The report also devoted ample pages to prescribe several recommendations for reforming the Nigerian Police. Importantly, it asked the federal government "to establish an independent commission of inquiry with subpoena power to conduct a transparent, comprehensive and impartial investigation into systemic corruption within the Nigeria Police."

The report also identified the need "to prosecute without delay and according to international fair trial standards any police officer implicated in corruption and other serious abuses and the Nigeria Police should be made to publish quarterly financial reports of total fines collected from vehicular and traffic violations, revenue from state and local government allocations and any funding from private sources."

It recommended appropriate amendment to the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act to the end that terms and conditions for public asset declarations of public officials as provided in the 1999 constitution shall be stated explicitly.

It also urged the National Assembly to pass the Freedom of Information Bill, which it said would "give the people of Nigeria the legal right to compel the Nigeria Police and other government institutions to release information such as government budgets, expenditure reports and financial audits."

Dignitaries at the event included Mr. Leonard Dibia of Access to Justice (AJ), Mr. Okechukwu Nwanguma of Network on Police Reform in Nigeria (NOPRIN) and Mr. Emeka Umeagbalasi of International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law.