The House of Representatives has stripped the Police Service Commission recruitment and training powers and domiciled them with the Nigeria Police Force in a bill amending the Nigeria Police Act, which passed the third reading.
Governors have also been relieved their powers to issue order to commissioners of police in their respective states, while the Nigeria Police Council is now to meet twice in a year and during emergencies.
The PSC and the NPF had had a legal battle over who should recruit the 10,000 special constables approved by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) to strengthen the police due to rising spate of banditry, kidnappings, armed robbery and armed herdsmen attacks across the country.
The House had on Tuesday considered and adopted the report by the Committee on Police Affairs on the ‘Bill for an Act to Repeal the Police Act, Cap. P19, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, and Enact Nigeria Police Act, 2020.’
The amendment bill is to “provide for the framework for the Police Force and ensure cooperation and partnership between the police and communities in maintaining peace and protecting lives and properties.”
The Minority Leader, Ndudi Elumelu, had during consideration of the clauses of the bill by the Committee of the Whole, noted that both the proposal and the recommendation by the committee stripped the PSC powers to recruit constables “as against the provision in the Constitution.”
The Deputy Speaker, Ahmed Wase, who presided over the process, had however said there was “a general advice on this particular matter.”
The committee had in the explanatory note on the clause, said, “The provision on constables’ recruitment is in the principal Act and now modified to meet standard and best practice.”
The House, in Section 21, titled ‘Recruitment, Appointment and Service,’ transferred the power to recruit constables from the PSC to the IG, who will chair a Nigeria Police Recruitment Committee to be created under the new law.
The section partly read, “(1) The responsibility for the recruitment of recruit constables into the Nigeria Police Force and recruit cadets into the Nigeria Police Academy shall be the duty of the Inspector-General of Police.
“(3) The Police Recruitment Committee is responsible for the recruitment of recruit constables into the Nigeria Police Force.”
The PRC would be made up of the IG as chairman, all serving DIGs, Force secretary; commandants of Staff College, Jos, and Police Academy Wudil, Kano; a representative of the police colleges; and the officer-in-charge of the Legal Section of the Nigeria Police Force.
The section further stipulates that, “The recruitment of recruit constables into the Nigeria Police Force shall be of national spread across each state of the federation.
“The members of the Police Recruitment Committee shall have power to delegate officers, not below the rank of Chief Superintendent of Police, to represent them at any meeting or recruitment exercise.
“The decision of the Police Recruitment Committee is final on any matter concerning the recruitment of recruit constables into the Nigeria Police Force.”
The amendment bill also gives the powers of training and retraining of cops to the IG under Section 22.
On arrest, investigation and arraignment, detention and prosecution of suspects, the House, as recommended by the committee, resolved that the police should comply with the provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015.
The House committee said, “Considering the extensive powers usually exercised by the Police, this is not clearly laid out or regulated in the Police Act or proposed bill. Furthermore, the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 contains extensive police powers. It is recommended that these be replicated in this bill for the purpose of coherence and consistency.
“The subject matter should also be arranged in sequence for ease of reference i.e. from investigation, arrest, search, to warrants.”
The House also deleted the provision in Section 6 of the bill, which empowers a governor to direct the commissioner of police in a state.
“It is recommended that Subsection 3 of the bill, which says that a state commissioner shall be subject to the directions of the state governor, be deleted,” the committee said.
Section 10(2) of the old Police Act reads, “…the commissioner of police of a state shall comply with the directions of the governor of the state with respect to the maintaining and securing of public safety and public order within the state, or cause them to be complied with: provided that before carrying out any such direction, the commissioner may request that the matter should be referred to the President for his directions.”
The IG will also be empowered to recall officers from retirement whenever the need arises, while those recalled could be in service for another four years.
The House particularly introduced a new Section 12(3) under the ‘Powers, Duties and Functions of the Inspector-General of Police,’ which prescribes that, “Subject to the approval of the Inspector-General of Police, a retired police officer may be re-engaged for service for a period of two years and upon further application may be retained or re-engaged for another term of two years.”
The House also amended Section 5, which establishes the Nigeria Police Council and prescribes its membership, roles and functions. Members of the council include the President (as chairman), governors, chairman of the PSC, and the IG.
While the functions of the council include “organisation and administration of the Nigeria Police Force and all other matters relating thereto – not being matters relating to the use and operational control of the Force, or the appointment, disciplinary control and dismissal of members of the Force,” the lawmakers deleted 5(2)(b) which added “the general supervision of the Nigeria Police Force.”
According to the House, the clause was deleted “because it conflicts with functions of the Police Service Commission”
The House, however, stated that the NPC is “the highest policymaking body in matters relating to the Police Force.”
The House especially inserted a new 5(4) that prescribes that the council should sit “at least twice in a year and may hold emergency meetings when necessary.”
According to the committee, the new subsection was inserted “to provide for regular meetings of the Nigeria Police Council.”
Amending the duty of police to enforce certain constitutional provisions, the House inserted the new section, which reads, “(1) The Police Force is responsible for promoting and protecting the fundamental rights of persons in police custody as guaranteed by the Constitution.
The House also amended Section 4, containing the general duties of the police. The old Subsection 1(a) reads, “The Police shall be employed to perform the following duties: (a) protect the rights and freedom of every person in Nigeria as provided in the Constitution, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and any other law.”
The new version now reads, “The police force shall prevent and detect crimes, and protect 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.”
In a move to prevent clashes between the police and other security agencies, the House changed Section 4(d) from “enforce all laws and regulations with which they are directly charged” to “enforce all laws and regulations without prejudice to the enabling Acts of other security agencies.”
On remuneration of cops as contained in Section 20, the House resolved that men of the Nigeria Police should not earn less than their counterparts in other security agencies. They are, however, barred from debts.
The section reads, “(1) The police officer shall not be paid salary below what is payable to officers in other security agencies.
“(2) A police officer shall not get himself involved in indebtedness of any kind while still in service, and where he does, he shall be disciplined and the debt or liability shall be recovered from his remuneration if the creditor can prove the indebtedness by withholding from the police officer’s remuneration an amount not exceeding one-third of his monthly remuneration until the amount of the debt or liability is made good.”