The Nigeria Police Force (Establishment) Act, 2020 (‘the new Act’) which came into force on the 17th of September 2020, repealed the Police Act of 2004. The general objective of the new Act is to provide an effective police service that is based on the principles of accountability and transparency, protection of human rights, and partnership with other security agencies. In achieving this objective, the Act did not only improve on the provisions of the erstwhile Act, it has its own novel provisions.
In this article, we will be looking at both the new provisions and the improvements introduced by the Nigeria Police Force (Establishment) Act, 2020.
What is new?
In ensuring that the new Act fulfils its objectives, provisions were made in accordance with international best practices and in tandem with some recent National Laws on Administration of Justice in Nigeria. This is to blur out areas of seeming discrepancies between the old Police Act and other interrelated Federal Legislations. Some of the novel provisions of the new Act are:
1. Arrest on Civil Wrong
The erstwhile Police Act was silent on the power of the Police to arrest for a civil wrong, this void was abused by a lot of police officers and citizens alike as Police meddled in and even became an instrument of torment or oppression in purely civil matters. The new Act has specifically prohibited the Police from arresting a person merely on a civil wrong or breach of contract . This is to further give effect to the provisions of Section 8(2) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 which has a similar provision.
2. Information about Rights when making an arrest
The new Police Force Act makes provisions for certain rights that accrue to a person who is arrested. With the coming into effect of the New Act, the Police officer making an arrest has a duty to inform the suspect of his/her rights to remain silent or avoid answering any question until after consultation with a legal practitioner or any other person of his own choice; consult a legal practitioner of his own choice before making, endorsing or writing any statement or answering any question put to him after the arrest; and free legal representation by the Legal Aid Council of Nigeria or other organizations where applicable .
While this notification of rights was often done discretionarily before now, the New Act has now made it mandatory.
3. Notification of Next of Kin
Prior to now, it was possible, in fact, it was commonplace for a person to be arrested and denied the right to inform his/her people that he has been taken into custody; but not anymore! With the new Act, when a person is arrested and is being kept in custody, the Police have a duty to inform the next of kin or any other relative of the suspect of the arrest, at no cost to the suspect .
4. Arrest in lieu
As part of ensuring that the New Act is in conformity with, and gives effect to the ACJA, 2015 , the New Act has now prohibited the arrest of a person in place of a suspect . Consequently, a son cannot be arrested in place of his father and a wife cannot be arrested in place of her husband where the husband is the suspect.
5. Torture and Inhumane Treatment prohibited
The right to the dignity of the human person is a fundamental right guaranteed in the 1999 Constitution. A person who is arrested must also be granted this right. He must not be subjected to any form of torture, cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment . This provision is also included in Section 8(1) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015.
Before now, when a person is arrested, he is usually compelled to make a statement. In the new Act, a statement should only be made if the suspect wishes to make one; that is, it is now optional to make a statement. Where a suspect chooses to make a statement, the statement must be made in the presence of a legal practitioner of his choice or an officer of the Legal Aid Council or a Justice of the Peace or any other person of his choice. When the suspect does not speak or write in the English language, an interpreter who shall endorse and attest to the making of the statement shall be provided for him .
7. Notification of delayed detention
Section 35 (4) of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (as amended) provides that an accused person who has been arrested on the allegation of having committed an offence must be charged to court within 24 hours where a court of competent jurisdiction is located within a radius of forty kilometres from the police station; and where a court is out of the reach of a forty kilometres radius from the police station, the accused person must be charged to court within 48 hours or such longer period as a court might consider reasonable.
In furtherance of this provision of the Constitution, the New Act requires that where a suspect who is arrested for an offence other than a capital offence is not released on bail within 24 hours, a court having jurisdiction with respect to the offence may be notified by application on behalf of the suspect. While it is unclear whether the application is to be made by a relative or an interested person on behalf of the suspect or by the Police, the New Act provides that the application for bail may be made orally or in writing, and the court shall consider the reason for continuous detention and grant the suspect bail if it is necessary to do so.
The Nigeria Police Force Criminal InvestigationDepartment (FCID) is the highest investigating arm of the Nigeria Police.
Its functions include investigation and prosecution of serious and complex criminal cases within and outside the country. The department also coordinates crime investigations/prosecution throughout the force.
For effective and efficient administration, the NPF CID is divided into sections with most of them headed by the Commissioner of Police. The Department is headed by a DIG JOSEPH EGBUNIKE.
The Sections under the Force Criminal Investigation Department (FCID) include the following: Administration; Ant-Fraud Section; The Central Criminal Registry (CCR); Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS); Special Enquiry BureauX-Squad; General Investigation; Special Fraud Unit (SFU); Legal Section; Forensic Science; Interpol; Homicide; Anti-Human Trafficking Unitas.
This summary of New Police Act of 2020 is a reminder that the laws are unambiguous on the obligations of the Nigerian Police Force to the citizenry.