The National Orientation Agency (NOA); State Actor and Nigeria Network of Non-governmental Organizations (NNNGOs); Non-State Actor leading the implementation of the Commitments 11-13 (Citizens’ Engagement) in the Second National Action Plan (NAP II) of the Open Government Partnership (OGP), Nigeria, organized a co-created and inclusive programme entitled ‘Police-Citizens’ Dialogue.’ The engagement came at the heel of the Work Plan on Police Station visitation initiative as entrenched in Activity 7 of Commitment 13 in the NAP II of the OGP. The programme was sponsored by Henrich Boll Stiftung, Abuja.
The event was attended by participants drawn from Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), Civil Society Organizations from various States of the Federation, Online participants (Zoom) and the Press; chief among whom were:
1. Prince Clem Ikanade Agba, Honourable Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, (Government Co-Chair, OGP), represented by Dr. Philip Ugbodaga.
2. Dr. Garba Abari, DG, NOA (speaking via Zoom platform) and represented by Mr. Samuel Soughul, Director (PRS).
3. Dr. Gloria Ahmed (National Coordinator, OGP).
4. Mr. Oluseyi O. Oyebisi; Executive Director (NNNGOs).
5. Mr. Sam Attah, Director (RC&SI), NOA.
6. Mr. David Akoji, SA (DG).
7. CSP Muyiwa Adejobi; Force Public Relations Officer (FHQ, Abuja).
8. Mr. Gad Peter, Executive Director (CLEEN Foundation).
9. Mr. Anthony O. Ojukwu, SAN, Executive Secretary (NHRC) represented by Mr. Abdularahman Yakubu.
10. Mr. Jochen Luckscheiter, Director (Heinrich Boll Stiftung), Abuja.
1. To gather citizens’ concerns on policing, shrinking civic space, human rights violation, protection of civil and political rights.
2. To raise awareness on the need to foster citizen-police relationship in respect of their operational standards.
3. To rebuild confidence and trust in the Nigerian Police Force through checkmating excessive utilization of force.
4. To make sure that citizens’ lives and property are protected by the enabling provision in the Police Act, 2020.
5. To strategize and identify way forward and follow-up plans for government, police and civil society to motivate and accelerate police performance on policy relating to right respecting.
1. Dr. Gloria Ahmed in her goodwill message reiterated the common phrase: “Police Is Your Friend.” She buttressed the significance of the Nigeria Police Force as a key establishment for securing the lives of the citizens. The Open Government Partnership initiative which Nigeria keyed into in 2016 was emphasized with the intent of ensuring transparency, accountability and institutional reforms in all spheres of the government.
The National Coordinator lauded the OGP objectives expressed by His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari in his determination to fight corruption to a standstill and ensure citizen participation in governance as well as driving institutional reforms through technology and innovation. OGP, she noted, provided the platform for citizens to engage on issues relating to national development. Also, she placed premium on dialogue for enhancing trust and building good relationship between the police and citizens as well as ensuring security. She inferred that cordial relationship has been absent in the operational conduct of the police. Participants were enjoined to give their best during the dialogue.
The National Coordinator (OGP) Dr. Gloria Ahmed giving her Goodwill Message
2. Dr. Garba Abari, utilized the zoom platform to welcome all the participants to the very important national dialogue with special commendation to the Executive Director, Nigeria Network of Non-governmental Organizations (NNNGOs) Mr. Oluseyi O. Oyebisi (Co-Chair, OGP) for the great job which led to the Citizen-Police Dialogue. He stressed the good working relationship existing between him and Mr. Oyebisi over the years. The DG stated the Agency (NOA) is happy with the initiative of the OGP which aimed at ensuring transparency and accountability and specifically, in government business, institutional reform and more importantly, respect for human rights. He prioritized the fundamental mandate of the National Orientation Agency (NOA) within the OGP which he led as Co-Chair, (State Actor) on Commitments 11-13 of the Citizen Engagement. The Agency’s voice consistently resonates in communicating government policy and activities by highlighting reform issues and ensuring transparency and accountability in all spheres of governance.
Furthermore, the DG mentioned the partnership with NNNGOs which led to the co-creation of inputs and submission of Memorandum on two bills namely; an Act to amend the Nigeria Police Act, 2020 and an Act to amend the Firearms Act Cap. F28 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, to the House of Representatives’ Committee on Police Affairs. He said that the presentation was a lofty idea and robust as indicated by the House Committee’s concerned. Also, collaboration with various MDAs and in particular, the National Human Rights Commission has led to report and information sharing, as part of OGP prerequisites.
He called for programmes initiation and partnership from MDAs by way of engagements, so that the gains already recorded will continue to be enjoyed by citizens. The DG appreciated the two Directors and his Special Assistant who stood in for the NOA at the dialogue. He wished the participants a very pleasant and fruitful engagement.
The DG (NOA) Dr. Garba Abari Making an Opening Remark on Zoom Screen
3. Mr. Jochen Luckscheiter in his goodwill message, expressed his organization’s objective aimed at promoting human rights and social development. He stated that police brutality and other forms of rights abuse are challenges facing Nigeria. Transparency and accountability, he said, should be emphasized in the operation of the police force. The Police Act, 2020, he said, captured various functions of the Nigeria Police Force which citizens ought to be familiar with. The Act expresses various reforms detailing effective policing in Nigeria and protection of citizens. Citizens’ rights are expected to be understood as entrenched in the Act. He said further that the citizen-police dialogue forum was necessary to boost good relationship between the force and Nigerian citizens; even as the country prepares for the year 2023 General Elections. He commended both the NOA and NNNGOs for making the dialogue a reality.
4. Mr. Oluseyi O. Oyebisi lauded the DG (NOA); Co-Chair OGP for making the engagement a reality after about two years of work on the initiative. He thanked the Heinrch Boll Stiftung for funding the engagement. Likewise, the National Coordinator of the OGP and other notable guests were given due credence. He gave an overview of the Police-Citizens’ Dialogue organized by the Nigeria Network of NGOs in partnership with the Citizens Engagement Thematic Working Group of the Open Government Partnership and the National Orientation Agency. The essence of the dialogue, he declared, is to provide a platform for engagement between the police and organized civil societies from the OGP and beyond. This is in line with the President’s commitment to the international community with reporting due in December, 2022. He specifically noted, among others, issues around policing, shrinking civic space, citizens’ engagement, human rights and the protection of civil and political rights that would be deliberated upon during the dialogue. The NNNGOs have focused on education, health, environment, gender equality, social protection, youth, poverty and proper governance, etc. He maintained that the Nigeria Police Force stood prominent as violators of human rights in Nigeria, according to research. He stressed the issue of apathy being demonstrated by Nigerian citizens on issue relating to police affairs. Giving the statistics of participants invited through SMS messages, he said over 9,000 was sent to the general public but 300 people were duly registered. He was of the view that the apathy might be due to loss of interest or trust in the Police Force. Mr. Oyebisi implored the participants to study and utilize the Discussion Paper as well as the Concept Note distributed for effective session. He informed the stakeholders that the Citizen-Police Dialogue initiative would be moved forward to the National Action Plan III of the OGP as a continual initiative. It will also serve as a blueprint and guide on how to implement future similar dialogues at the sub-national level.
The keynote address of the Hon. Minister of State for Finance, Budget and National Planning (Price Clem I. Agba) was read by Dr. Philip Ogbudaga. He said that his principal was on another official engagement outside Nigeria. The Citizen Engagement Working Group of the OGP, led by the NOA and NNNGOs were lauded for the programme co-creatively organized He gave premium to the fundamental rights of the citizens as entrenched in the United Nations Charter on Human Rights. The activity seven in the Commitment 13 of the NAP II spelt out the criteria for citizen-police dialogue which is internationally recognized. The Government Co-Chair expressed the need for providing insight to the dwindling relationship between the citizens and the police force, as well as mapping out recommendation to bridge the gap. He alluded to the country’s signing in to the OGP in 2016 by President Muhammadu Buhari with the aim of addressing, among others, matter relating to shrinking civic space. He reiterated that the work plan put up by the NOA and NNNGOs is to ensure the development of a guide on police station visitation in synergy with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the Police Service Commission.
Actions on Ending Police Brutality: Insights from the Police Service Commission
Barrister Rommy Mom, a Commissioner in the Police Service Commission, gave a comprehensive outlook on the situation of the Commission. In his contribution to the topic, he stated that the Commission is constitutionally backed to exclusively enforce discipline in the Nigeria Police Force but regretted that it is, as at present, not functional; reiterating that the Commission is an empty box. He cited the reason for its non-functionality as wrong leadership system, occasioned by choosing retired Senior Police Officers to head the Commission. He is of the opinion that civilian headship would have been the best because it deals entirely with civilians, civil society organizations, media and the three arms of government. The Commissioner stated that the current Police leadership of the Commission does not translate to any positive result and that there is lack of transparency and accountability which the open government professes. He declared that he would like a situation where the next Chairman of the Commission is a civilian. Also, he gave a statistics of less than 150,000 Police Officers in the country with just one person over sighting it in Abuja. This, he sated, should not be so. Furthermore, he gave the following information as true reflection of the police situation in Nigeria:
i. Inadequate manpower to service the over 200 Million citizens resulting in officers being overstressed.
ii. The enormous job of the Police Force is not commensurate with their earning.
iii. Lack of promotion examination for police to determine their value and professionalism.
iv. Denigrating living condition and poor salary package of Police Officers as a result of poor funding.
v. Budget is for police training only, while oversight is excluded.
vi. Lack of proper sanction for erring Officers.
vii. Cases are not properly and timely prosecuted.
The Commissioner said that the police are the most important security apparatus in the country, yet the leadership did not take cognizance of their service to the nation.
He was of the view that the above stated premise might trigger a bad and aggressive conduct by a Police Officer, especially, with a reference to #EndSARS saga of October, 2020. He enjoined the stakeholders to come up with the best approach to address the situation.
Mr. Friday Odeh, (Country Director, Accountability Lab Nigeria, CSO) moderated the session. He started by quoting the acclaimed Global and International Terrorism Research /Analysis Group which said that: ‘Nigeria is the second most terrorized country in the world.’ How can citizens engage police as well as enhance citizen-police relationship to address the situation? The moderator gave brief information about the expectations in the National Action Plan II of the OGP, especially in the Commitment 13 of the citizens’ engagement thematic area. The activity involved holding a quarterly zonal Citizen-Police Dialogue with Police Service Commission (PSC), National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), National Orientation Agency (NOA) and their Non-State Actor partners. Likewise, joint visitation by the PSC and CSO to ascertain the condition of Police Station visitation, adherence to the standard operating procedure (SOP) and conditions of suspects held in the stations were stated in the NAP. Discussants were enjoined, during the dialogue, to provide necessary information as a way forward. The following members served as panel of discussants:
1. CSP Muyiwa Adejobi, Force Public Relations Officer, FHQ, Abuja.
2. Mr. Gad Peter, Executive Director, CLEEN Foundation.
3. Mr. Anthony O. Ojukwu, SAN, Executive Secretary, NHRC represented by Mr. Abdulrahman Yakubu.
The moderator utilized question and answer format to elicit response from the panelists during the dialogue. Participants online and on-sight were told to put down their questions on paper.
Question 1: ‘What are the actions being taken by the police to address citizen-police relationship?’
Response: CSP Muyiwa Adejobi lent credence to the fact that police officers can misbehave as a result of reduction in the area of manpower. He wondered how three hundred thousand (300,000) police officers could effectively protect over two hundred million Nigerian citizens. The Officer mentioned some interventions by the Police Force basically on checkmating misbehaviour of erring officers through Complaint Response Unit (CRU), National Police Council, NHRC, House Committee on Police Affairs and through physical reporting mechanism.
Question 2: ‘On police brutality issue, what is the role of citizens and civil society?’Response: Mr. Gad Peter responded that Nigerian citizens should do the needful by being obedient, law abiding and show respect to the police. He made it clear that civil society organizations have provided adequate information for the citizens on how to engage police as well as what to do if their rights are violated. The need to express positive value of the police should be mentioned rather than negative attributes popularly apportioned to them. He was of the view that the Nigeria Police should improve upon their standard operating procedure in their discharge of duties. He stressed the need for physical engagements by visiting police stations to know the situation there; especially stakeholders that have the mandate to do so. He inquired if anyone has held any police officer, especially the Divisional Police Officer accountable. Oversight and training programme, he said, are sacrosanct if the country wanted the best from police.
Question 3: ‘What accountability mechanisms are put in place to ensure citizens’ rights are not trampled upon?’
Response: Mr. Abdulrahman Yakubu said that the Commission investigated cases on human rights abuse. He stated that its Commission has offices in all the 36 states of the federation. Citizens were not charged for reporting cases. Four departments existed in the Commission to deal with various human rights abuses namely; gender, abuses etc. Through the deployment of Social media handles like; Twitter, Instagram, E-mail, Call Center and an App “Usup,” citizens are utilizing them for engagements with the NHRC to report human rights violation. He said that there is partnership with relevant government departments. Effort is still on to ensure police dialogue mechanism. More civil society engagements with the police are encouraged.
Question 4: ‘What are the challenges limiting implementation of the reports of the panel of enquiry submitted to the federal government on rights abuse and why have they not been translated to a White Paper?’
Response: Mr. Abdulrahman Yakubu stated that the state government has the right to protect the rights of the people at the state level but the federal government is to assist. Each state set up panel and held public engagements while reports were submitted with recommendations to the federal government on how to address protesters’ rights violation and compensation to the victims. The judicial panels were headed by retired judges and about two-third of the reports had been implemented, he said. Mr. Yakubu maintained that advocacy would still be scaled up to ensure response from the appropriate authority. State and Non-State actors are also required to put up pressure and continue to engage.
Question 5: ‘How practicable is Police utilizing technology in their operation?’
Response: CSP Adejobi responded with a reference to what is practicable in modern countries. He specifically mentioned the use of CCTV for checking lawlessness. He dwelt on citizens’ disobedience of traffic rules and other forms of law breaking occurring daily in the country. Corruption, he said, was enormous in the polity but citizens always find it easy to blame the police. He advised that all citizens should do the needful even if for instance, they are using phones.
Question 6: ‘Given the current 300,000 number of police officers in the country, how can they effectively protect over 200 million citizens?’
Response: Mr. Gad placed premium to utilization of social media handles for citizen-police communication to fill the gap created by lack of manpower. He also expressed the necessity of oversight in the area of education and training of the police. This, he said, would enhance better performance.
Question 7: ‘What is the situation of human rights protection in Nigeria?’
Response: Mr. Abdulrahman responded that though human rights violations are reported by concerned citizens, mechanism is on ground to proffer solution to such violations through various interventions by the Commission.
Question 8: ‘What system can be put in place to ensure citizen-police engagement?’
Response: CSP Adejobi stated that government is in the best position to ensure the engagement as well as its regularity. Mr. Gad was of the view that increased accountability in government institutions should be all embracing.
Contributions /Questions from Audience- First Set
1. Mrs. Victoria Etim (from R2K Nigeria) requested to know how citizens could make complaint on the police website; though it is not available.
2. Mrs. Anne Olatunji (from Oxfam Foundation, Abia State) said there was no measure in place to do annual statistics of issues brought before the police.
3. Prince Chris Azor (from Anambra Civil Society Network) asked if there is possibility of having joint citizen-police action on matters raised in the Act.
4. Mr. Nelson Nwafor (from Fenrad) enquired how engagement could be ensured at the local (sub-national) level.
Response to Questions
CSP Femi Adejobi responded to the questions asked by the participants. He mentioned that complaints could be made through the Complaint Response Unit of the Force. Statistics on matters are done as an annual report with over 76,000 cases recorded while 51,000 were prosecuted. Phone numbers of the police control units in all the 36 States as well as that of the police relations officers are also available for contacts. The Officer also said that physical police station visitation can be utilized for engagement with the police. He mentioned that the police force has the best and more competent lawyers in the country that can handle cases well.
Contributions /Questions from Audience- Second Set
6. Mr. Lincoln Maife (from Publish What You Pay) requested to know how the Police, VIO and FRSC could ensure synergy within the Police Act while performing their duty.
7. Mrs. Chisom Mofor (from YSADI) asked if it could be possible for the police to have Toll Free Lines in case of an emergency.
8. Mrs. Josephine Alabi (from Keen & Care Initiative) solicited for standard training, a better remuneration package and good accommodation for the police.
9. Mr. Effiong Innocent (from CPASD) frowned at the devastating state of most of the police stations in the country. He asked if there is fund for such facilities.
10. Mr. Emmanuel Edet (from YSDI) declared that many citizens did not know their rights while engaging police. He alleged that NOA’s impact has not been felt in this area.
11. Mrs. Funke Abioye said that awareness creation would be essential for a citizen-police engagement effectiveness.
12. Dr. Emmanuel A. Ivorgba (from NECSF) expressed the necessity of delegating agile police officers to man strategic places on issue of ensuring security. He also placed emphasis on checkmating activities of the police on matters concerning budget and inclusion.
13. Mr. Favour Odiniya (from YISHDA) focused on police harassment of citizens through checking of their phones and assault carried out when escorting personalities on the roads.
14. Mr. Olalekan Oshunkoya (Exec. Director, CitizenCommons) commented on the organizational structure of the police force and its methods of discipline and human rights abuse. He was of the opinion that power of the police should be checkmated through the Police Act.
15. Mr. Ikejie Sebastiane (from Women Friendly Initiative) said that the organizer of the programme should ensure that the citizen-police engagement capture people living with disability.
16. Mrs. Zhebali Oghodo (from GIEVA) commended the NOA and NNNGOs for the good initiative. She suggested the inclusion of representatives of the judiciary, executive and legislature in subsequent engagements.
17. Barr. Mrs. Ogbonna Nma (DD, Ministry of Health) stated that police force has enough power which is enshrined in the Constitution but these should be regulated in line with the Police Act, 2020.
Responses to the questions raised were given by CSP Adejobi. He reiterated that toll free lines for communication with the police are available likewise the existing collaboration with other agencies. Inadequate funding of the police was also one of the challenges he mentioned. He said further that people living with disability are not stigmatized against while discharging their duty.
National Orientation Agency’s Perspective
Mr. Samuel Soughul responded to the allegation raised by a participant concerning the impact of the Agency as regard human right abuse. He gave a summary of the NOA’s core mandate beginning with focus on September, 2016 ‘Change Begins With Me’ initiative of the President; His Excellency, Muhammadu Buhari, the essence of which is value re-orientation, patriotism and adherence to the national core values, among others. He stated that the Agency has consistently utilized its platform of presence in all the 774 Local Governments in the Federation to reach citizens through their languages. Though the NOA does not have the luxury of funds, most of its interventions have been captured in the media. He implored the participants to consistently visit the NOA’s Website and Social Media Handles (Twitter, Facebook and Instagram) for many inspiring activities carried out. He informed the forum that the Agency has been engaging the Police Force on various topical issues relating to human dignity.
Mr. Samuel Soughul, Director, PRS responding to Question from a Participant and on his right hand side is Mr. Sam Attah, Director, RC&SI
Closing Statements and Call to Action
Mr. Uchenna Arisukwu, Civil Society Adviser, OGP appreciated the National Orientation Agency, State Actor, NNNGOs, Non-State Actor and the funding organization for ensuring that the programme came to reality. He mentioned that the Citizen Engagement Working Group in the National Action Plan II was the most vibrant. He said that the dialogue so far has been crucial for addressing shrinking citizen-police relationship, trust building, police brutality and right respecting mechanism. The next action plan of Nigeria (NAP III) currently being developed, he said, would go for public consultation and the general public comment. He enjoined participants at the forum to participate in the process. Also, Mr. Arisukwu made it imperative that the Citizen-Police Dialogue would be carried forward to the NAP III for continuity across the country because of its significance. The essence is to ensure transparency and accountability of police officers in their dealings with the citizens.
Group photograph of participants at the event
Mr. Oluseyi O. Oyebisi expressed his appreciation to all the participants for ensuring effective dialogue and success of the programme. He tasked the stakeholders to ensure engagement with the police force through various platforms of communication; for instance, through social media and App. Citizens’ participation and synergy with law enforcement agencies are important for public safety and effective governance. Cooperation is very essential for the police force to make any reasonable achievement.
He emphasized that Memoranda on the dialogue would be forwarded to the appropriate authorities for implementation. He wished the participants farewell as they return to their various destinations.
The event ended at 2:35pm.