OrderPaperToday – Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila has expressed readiness to partner with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) on a proposed law that would ensure holistic police reforms.
The speaker made the announcement at a courtesy call by the NBA and NHRC leadership in his office on Wednesday.
The House during the week announced intention to budget a compensation fund in the 2021 budget for victims of police brutality in the country. Last week, the reps made far-reaching resolutions on the police reforms issue, including a plan to convene a public hearing.
The speaker has been involved in a series of interventions on the #EndSARS nationwide protests, including meeting with music sensation, David Adeleke, popularly known as Davido in the national assembly.
At the meeting with the NBA team, Gbajabiamila, who is also a lawyer, said the provision of Section 215 (5) almost gives the police absolute immunity against their excesses, as he congratulated other Nigerians for provoking the ongoing police reforms in the country.
“I want to use this opportunity to congratulate Nigerians out there, who have been part of this struggle, and I want to appeal at the same time that we should apply the brake, perhaps, a little and see what will be done.
“In the House, before the protest, we made a statement, I made a statement on the floor of the House. We made far-reaching resolutions. We’ve been very proactive on this issue. We’re determined to pursue the resolutions of the House forcefully, for want of a better word.
“Our resolutions included that we discovered section 215 (5) almost gives absolute immunity to the police over what they do. So, for a start, we feel we should begin with amending the constitution and delete that offensive section.
“I believe it was well-intended but now it’s obnoxious. From that, we can raise any other reforms to look at the complaints from the public, from the NBA, the civil societies etc.
“We’re waiting for the IGP to send us the list of policemen that had complaints against them in the last five years. We’re also waiting for the list of the victims so that they can be compensated. We’re beginning the budget process, and we want to make sure that there’s a line item that ensures they’re compensated.
“The resolutions also talked about police reform. We already passed the Police Reform Act, but we need to do more. We need to look at the conditions of service, etc.
“Suffice it to say that this House is determined to bring this to fruition. We gave ourselves 30 days to come up with a piece of legislation. We’re working assiduously to achieve the timeline we set for ourselves,” Gbajabiamila said.
Meanwhile, the Speaker, at several foras, announced that the House would set up an adhoc committee to work with NBA and NHRC other stakeholders on the issue of police brutality, misconduct and others.
Speaking earlier, the NBA President, Olumide Akpata, stated that the visit was to discuss the issue of police brutality and see how the contentious issues could be addressed, saying Nigerians were agitated over the menace and wants to see how best it could resolved.
“We at the NBA are resolute to collaborate with you on the issues,” he said.
Akpata raised the issue of some Nigerians being detained at different police stations unnecessarily, calling on the Speaker to intervene.
In his response, Gbajabiamila asked the NBA president to identify all the police stations where people were detained for the House to raise a delegation that would meet with the NBA and get them released.
“I think you should identify the stations where people are being held. I will be more than happy to set up a crack team of members to go with you and pursue vigorously those issues. This should be part of the collaboration. We’ll expect your response on this,” Gbajabiamila said.
Similarly, the Speaker also met with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), led by its Executive Secretary, Tony Ojukwu, where he raised the same issues relating to police brutality and what the House is doing about it.
The Speaker also sought a partnership with the commission as part to efforts to find lasting solutions to human right abuses.
On his part, Ojukwu informed the Speaker that it was important to come up with an investigative panel that would consider the cases of human rights violations by the police and listen to victims of police brutality.
He also sought the setting up of a Human Rights Fund, to help finance cases concerning human rights violations in the country.