The Role Of Police On The Administration And Criminal Justice System In Nigeria

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Abstract


Crime has been a major subject of concern throughout human history. No society is free of crime and criminals. The Nigeria Police Force is an agency established by law to ensure preservation of public order and law enforcement as well as prevention and detection of crime. The police plays vital role in the administration of justice in any society. The police present the entry point into the criminal justice system either through reports from the public or its own investigation and surveillance. It is therefore a fact that an average citizen has contact with the police more than with any other agency for administration of criminal justice. This thesis examines the role of Nigeria police in the administration of justice. The main objectives of this thesis are to critically analyse the role of the police in the administration of justice; to identify challenges militating against the police in the areas of crime control and detection.

The thesis observes that some legal provisions on the operation and function of police have negatively affected the operational capacity of the police for example, section 214(3) and 4 of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria just to mention a few. The thesis equally observes that corruption in the Nigeria police has been exacerbated by poor working conditions, inadequate logistic and working facilities. These have greatly undermined the operational efficiency of the police to prevent and control crime in Nigeria. Consequently, the thesis recommends amongst other things the amendment of section 214(3) of the constitution to effect that a governor of a state being the Chief Security Officer can give lawful directives to commissioner of police. Similarly, the police must be properly trained, and adequately equipped and well remunerated. The police must also collaborate with other law enforcement agencies sharing intelligence to facilitate crime prevention and detection in Nigeria.


Chapter One


1.0 Introduction

1.1 Background To The Study

Nigeria as a political entity is bedeviled with a myriad of socio economic and political problems, which are inherently multifarious in nature (Ubeku, 1991). Some of these problems include political instability or uncertainty, corruption, poverty, moral decadence, and various forms of economic crimes such as currency trafficking, product adulteration and piracy among others (Musa, 1991).

The administration of justice refers to the maintenance of right within a political community by means of the physical force of the state. It is the state’s application of the sanction of force to the rule of right (Garner, 2004). But in its broad sense, the administration of justice is involved in the exercise of every governmental function, be it legislative, executive or judicial. It is one of the vital functions of state, for the aim of state and government is the welfare and happiness of the citizens (Ewelukwa,1980). In this regard, the organs involved in the administration of justice include the police, the legal profession, the court and the prisons.

It is a well-known fact that the prime object of the criminal law of which the police form an essential part is the protection of the public by the maintenance of law and order. To this end, it has been stated that the general purpose of the criminal law and the establishment of the police force, amongst others, is to forbid and prevent conducts that threaten harm to individuals and the public at large, as well as to subject to public control, persons whose conducts indicate that” they are disposed to commit crimes (American Law Institute’s Model Penal Code, 1968). It includes the control of those who have manifested their dangerousness sufficiently enough to generate fear in the minds of reasonable members of the society. This is because every responsible society takes appropriate measures to protect lives and property of people living within its boundaries. This leads us to the concept of crime control which has been said to refer to a host of activities including all efforts designed to hold the volume of crime in effective check, to keep it from spreading, to restrict and prevent crime infection and continuation, to prevent crime from breaking and spreading to new areas, and to protect society against the activities of habitual and abnormal offenders (Ugwudike, 2002).

The existing patterns in criminal activities show that criminals are getting more organized, sophisticated and brutal in the manner they carry out their dastardly acts, either in the way they physically attack individuals with dangerous weapons or the method they use in taking advantage of their official positions to steal and stash away millions of public funds in foreign and domestic accounts. Equally worrisome is the new dimension in organized criminal behaviour in Nigeria involving acts of terrorism and sabotage against individuals and public places. Recent incidents, in which some individual were stalked and eventually trapped in the volley of bullets from assault weapons, depict the viciousness of violent criminals. These acts are usually well-planned, orchestrated, syndicated and organized in the mafia-type fashion. In addition to these new patterns of violent crimes against persons, there is also the equally disturbing criminal behaviour against the Nigerian economy leading to the collapse of financial institutions and government parastatals. In short, we are witnessing the emergences of dangerous trends in the nation’s social and economic well-being.

Three bodies are responsible for the administration of criminal justice in Nigeria. These bodies are: the Courts, the Police and Prisons. This research focuses on the police functions in the administration of justice and the manner in which such functions are carried out.

The primary functions of the police are detection and prevention of crime as well as preservation of law and order. The police has constitutional powers of ensuring the prevalence of law and order and the preservation of public peace.

The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria confer on the police force powers and duties for effective oversight and accountability

Similarly, the Police Act charge the force with the general duties of:

  1. The protection of life and property
  2. Detection and prevention of crime;
  3. Apprehension of offenders;
  4. Preservation of law and order
  5. The due enforcement of law regulations with which they are directly charged.
  6. Performance of such other military duties within and without Nigeria as may be required of them by or under the authority of any other Act.

The law has clothed the Nigeria Police with enviable powers in the sphere of administration of justice, preservation of law, order and maintenance of national tranquility. The section from the 1999 Constitution provides that the Police shall be organized and administered in accordance with such provisions as may be prescribed by the Act of the National Assembly. In exercise of the constitutional powers conferred on the National Assembly, the National Assembly enacted the Police Act.

In the exercise of its primary powers, the Police also act in other spheres which are necessarily incidental to the exercise of the actual powers of the police. For instance, in the exercise of the primary duty of the police under section 4 of the Police Act, the Act gives the Police the power of public prosecution. By these powers, the police can charge and prosecute any person suspected to have committed a crime before any court of law in Nigeria.
In the bid to create a favourable condition for the discharge of the duty of the police; the Police Act has also given the police the power to arrest any person suspected to have committed a crime with or without warrants.

The Police by the provision of the Act is also empowered to detain any person reasonably suspected to be in possession or carrying stolen property, or property that is reasonably believed to be unlawfully obtained. For the purpose of forensic investigation, the law empowers the police to take finger prints. It should, however, be noted that the exercise of these numerous powers conferred on the police has to be discharged with due regards to reasonability and decorum. Any exercise of such powers in contravention of procedures accepted practice and the rights of individuals would be rendered ultra-vires null and void. This is importantly so as individual rights are also fundamentally guaranteed by the same Constitution that confers powers on the police.


1.2 Statement of the Problem

Evaluation of the effectiveness of the Nigeria CJS is an issue that apparently requires attention; given the seemingly unchecked lawlessness that pervades the nation, the phenomenon and increased rate of recidivism in Nigeria, as in most other societies, and the general opinion and perception of justice as a mirage. Nigeria criminal justice system ought to connote an orderly system within which rights of the citizens are protected and those who err on the side of the law are prosecuted. Thus, it would be an aberration for this same system to be characterized by ineptitude and injustice. Because glaringly, a system whose principal constituents demonstrate utter disregard for the office and purpose for which they are sworn to uphold is an aberration.


1.3 Aims and Objectives

The aims and objectives of this research work are:

  1. To examine the role of the Nigeria Police in the administration of justice.
  2. To identify the inadequacies of the police in the discharge of their functions.
  3. To proffer practical solutions for combating crimes in Nigeria.

1.4 Justification

The importance of this research work cannot be over emphasized. It analyses the role of Police in the Administration of Justice in Nigeria in order to give the public clearer views on police administration.
Also, the research is necessitated to show case the indiscriminate violations of human rights by the police and the gross increase of crime rate in the country which often leaves much to be desired.

With the above issues, this research will serve as a viable source of information to all and sundry. First, it will benefit the police, those engaged in the administration of justice, law enforcement agencies and the court. It will also provide relevant suggestions on how best to curb the increase of crimes; it is also of immense benefit to policy makers, government officials, academicians, students and anyone interested in the peaceful co-existence of the Nigerian populace.


1.5 Scope of the Research

This research is limited to the role of Nigeria Police in the administration of justice. It will also look into the issues of crimes prevention and mechanisms for control crimes in Nigeria. But, reference shall be made to the former colonial master (United Kingdom) who introduces police administration in Nigeria. Analysis was also made to other police organization to enhance more knowledge on this area.


1.6 Research Methodology

The methodology employed in this research is doctrinal. That is, both the primary and secondary sources shall be employed such as the examination of statutes, Case laws, law reports, textbooks by renounced scholars. Other library materials such as journals, newspapers had been made reference to. Of course, internet sources were considered for current trends on crime detection and prevention. Encyclopedias, thesaurus and police diaries have been made reference to.


1.7 Literature Review

This work examines an institution of great historical and political interest and significance. Together with the judiciary, civil services and the military, the police constitute one of the key institutions of a modern state. In particular, the origins, development and role of the police have not only prevented, detected and crime, they have also maintained law and order, preserved public safety and generally buttressed the existing governments, which were at first British and later Nigerian.

Alcock, R.N. in his book, “Police Instruction Book” discussed very fundamental issues on crime prevention and detection. His work is indepth on the role of police in the prevention of crime, but failed to address to the minute detail of issues of enforcement of law. Also, his work, though relevant for this research, it is not in tune with contemporary issues as they obtain in Nigeria.

Gerber, S.B. and Schroeder, O, also wrote on Criminal Investigation and Interrogation, Cincinnati, 1962 , where they elucidated on Investigation and Interrogation in the Maintenance of Law and Order and of curbing the rising tide of crime, yet their work has its short comings as most of the investigatory and interrogatory methods do not address the issues of Cyber Crime in the contemporary world.

Jeffries, C. in his book: ‘The Colonial Police, London, 1952 , only made reference to the function of the police in the colonial era. His work is relevant for this research only, in that it gives a historical background of the police, but is silent in contemporary role of the police.

Okonkwo, C.O, in his book: ‘The Police and the Public in Nigeria’ raised invaluable issues of the role of police in the prevention, detection and enforcement of crime. Though he addressed the Nigerian issue in his book, there are certain grey areas he failed to enunciate and examine, such as the role of the police as it relates to court proceedings.

Ibiziako, S.M. also in his book: ‘Police Powers in Nigeria’ which is a London University Ph.D Thesis, 1963 , addressed the scope of the powers of the police in the prevention and detection of crimes; an enhancement to the identification and appreciation of the powers of the police, but only relevant to a large extent in four decades, as there is little relevance to the present police institution in Nigeria.

Shirley gave an outstanding historical antecedence of the Nigerian police. The work, in its class has addressed succinctly the emergence of the Nigeria police.

Ottenberg gave very useful tips on police investigation. His work is relevant to the situation as it obtains in Nigeria in the past, and gave a clue to the present. Though, a foreign book, it enhanced the richness of this research.
Palmer, discusses fundamental issues of the police in prevention of crime. The issues raised in this work are indispensable.

Other materials consulted include Journals of Criminal Law, Criminology and Police Science 1948-1960, Federal estimates 1974/1975, Journal of the International Commission of Jurists, 19591967. All discuss particular issues on crime and the Future in combating crime.

The internet was also consulted where the researcher got very useful information and update of the role of the police in the twenty first century. This source, gave an indepth description of the role of the police in the modern world and the rising tide of crimes and ways to put a halt to them.

It also raised issue of Cyber Crime that is now on the increase, and how to detect, prevent and even arrest offenders and make them face the law.


1.8 Organisational Layout

  • Chapter one deals with the general introductions. It consists of introduction, statement of the problems, aims and objectives, justification, scope of the study, methodology, literature review and organizational layout.
  • Chapter two deals with the history and development of the police force, organisation of the police force, the objectives of the establishment of the police force, the statutory powers, duties, functions of the police and conclusion.
  • Chapter three focuses on the police in the administration of justice, the concept of crime and the role of the police in combating it, detection and prevention of crime, the power of arrest, legal seizure and use of force, prosecution and interrogation of suspects, informers and entrapment and conclusion
  • Chapter four examines the modern trends, issues and challenges in the police force, discipline in the police force, the Nigerian police and challenges of the modern world, cyber and computer crimes, modern equipment in crime detection and prevention, the police and quest for better services, the future of the police in Nigeria and conclusion.
  • Chapter five concludes the research by way of observations, findings and recommendations.

Chapter Five


Conclusion, Findings and Recommendations

5.1 Findings and Observations

From the proceeding study, it is clear that the Nigerian Police more than any other agency has important role to play in administration of justice. Consequently, this study observed that the attitude, mentality and training of the Nigerian police force are fashioned at taming and intimidating Nigerians. This was the legacy of the colonial era who trained the police force to tame and intimidate native with “primitive impulse and criminal intent .

Unfortunately, this attitude, mentality and training has not changed over the years, the most often than not apply unreasonable and sometimes illegal force in the discharge of their role in administration of justice in Nigeria2.The research also revealed that the foregoing assertion about the nature and character of the Nigerian police from the colonial era to date made it a well fashioned available instrument for human rights violation with grave impunity. Human rights violations by the police is a common phenomenon in Nigeria, it ranges from police brutality, extra-judicial killing to extortions, torture, rape as well as unnecessary restraints such as handcuffs and leg chains .
Another common illegal practice by the police in Nigeria is arrest by proxy. For example, arresting the father for crime alleged to have been committed by his son. This practice was codermn by Justice Niki Tobi in the following terms:

I know of no law which authorized the police to arrest a mother for an offence committed or purportedly committed by the son. Criminal responsibility is personal and cannot be transferred. A police office who arrests “A” for the offence committed by “B” should realize that he acts against the law .

This study equally observed that there exist legal and constitutional problems with regard to the role of crime prevention by the Nigeria Police Force. For example, section 215(1) of the 1999 Constitution provides that “there shall be Inspector-General of Police who subject to section 216(2) of the same Constitution shall be appointed by the President on the advice of the Nigerian Police Council from among serving members of the Nigeria Police Force.
Section 215(1) of the same Constitution empowers the President to exercise control over the Inspector-General of Police, while subsection four subjects the power of a State Governor to issue directives to a Commissioner of Police to the approval of the President or his delegated minister. This is rather curious because State Governor is the chief Security Officer of his State, subjecting the power of the State Governor to issue directives to a Commissioner of Police to the approval of the President or Minister will under mine the power of the Governor who may be required by circumstance to take action to prevent the breakdown of law and order. In this regard Prof Mwabuze rightly said:
In a situation of danger to public safety and public order in a state, whereby on the part of the police commissioner to comply or not to comply with the governor’s directions as he likes is incompatible with the autonomy of the state government, and is a recipe for trouble and eventual collapse of the system .

The problem created by this arrangement is manifest in states that did not belong to the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) such state governor has several complaints against the police ranging from misuse of the police by the ruling party to the police refusal to comply with court order. Recently, the former governor of Anambra State Dr. Chris Ngige while he was sitting as governor was abducted and forcibly removed from government house by an Assistant Inspector General of Police as a result from order from the above. It took widespread condemnation and breakdown of law and order as well as the Supreme Court decision before the governor was reinstated .

This study also observed that the Nigeria Police lack adequate working too in term of logistic and equipment. Equally deplorable, is the welfare and condition of the police in Nigeria. The police is very critical in administration of justice unfortunately, this institution which is expected to be a front runner in administration of justice has over the years been neglected in Nigeria. For instance, there is widespread belief among the general public that most policemen are frustrated in their jobs. The mere physical appearance of the police officer of lower ranks, in worn out uniforms and tattered boots lend credence to this assertion. The Nigerian police force is characterized by lack of adequate modern tools to fight crime, addition, policemen live in poorly maintained and over crowded barracks. And these combine to affect, negatively, the morals of the police which in turn has encouraged corruption. Police corruption in Nigeria has been exacerbated by poor working conditions, poor training, inadequate pre-recruitment screening, and non compliance with merit in promotion, inadequate supervision and weak leadership.

This research also observed that there is unnecessary rivalry among various security agencies in Nigeria particularly between the police and the Armed Forces. The relationship between policemen and soldiers is hardly ever friendly. Soldiers exhibit contempt for policemen. An attitude encouraged by better treatment and working conditions of soldiers as well as the advent of military rule. Alozie Ogugbuaja one time Lagos State Police Public Relation officer, while testifying before the Justice Akanbi Panel that investigated students crisis in Nigeria educational institution in 1986 declared that the neglect of the police force by successive military administrations was deliberate. This, he said was because a well equipped police force may have the capacity to stop military coups in Nigeria . Nigeria has enjoyed more than a decade of constitutional democracy but relationship between the police and the members of Armed Forces has not significantly changed for the better. This is not good for a administration of justice in Nigeria. All the security agencies are expected to complement one another and present a coordinated effort at prevention and control of crime in Nigeria.

It is also the finding of this research that the police in Nigeria has in most case abuse their statutory power, particularly the powers of arrest. The police powers of arrest are indeed wide justifiable only on reasonable suspicion that an offence is committed or likely to be committed. While the object is to ensure effective crime prevention and detection, there is an underlying assumption that the police would apply these powers judiciously.

However, this ha not been the case, the power of arrest have become the most abuse of police power.

This study also observed that citizens are not ready and willing to report crime or provide useful information to the police on crime.

There are instances where informants are either killed because information supplied to the police had leaked or the informants become the suspect .


5.2 Suggestions and Recommendations

Consequently the following suggestions and observations are made:

  1. There is need to amend the provision of section 215(3) and (4) of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria. These provisions relate to the powers of the Federal Government regarding the control of the police relative the state governments. These provisions have been a source of controversy as well as conflict between the governors and the federal police authority. The provisions of section 215(4) of the constitution appear to undermine the powers and integrity of the state governor relative to the management of the police. Thus, it is recommended that the provision be amended to confer on the state governors being the chief security officers for their respective states power to be able to give directive to the Nigeria police for the contingent in their states and such directives to be promptly carried out without seeking approval from either the president or ministers.
  2. The selection and screening process for recruitment into the Nigerian police especially at the junior level and the curricula for the training of the police is narrow in scope and should be reviewed presently, the emphasis is more on physical excursive, drill and stamina. The content of the training is limited in subject such as sociology, psychology law, social relation and human rights. These inadequacies associated with selection, screening, testing and training adversely impact on discipline orientation, attitude, performance and conduct of the Nigerian police.
  3. In the course of this study, lack of awareness of the exact power and function of police and general ignorance of the importance of human rights education as well as observance of the rule of law has been implicated as a major fact that has affected the role of the police in the administration of justice in Nigeria. Hence, we recommend that police must be trained and educated in some basic concepts such as rule of law, human rights and limits of the powers of the police. In the part of the general public, there is need for awareness campaign or public enlightenment on the need to support the police in the administration of justice. Once these have been put in place, the public will truly be the police as a friend and will collaborate effectively to fight crimes in Nigeria.
  4. There is the need to establish Police Board at the local and state levels to replace the moribund and weak police community service committee. The new board once established, will promote partnership communication and cooperation between the community and the police ion problem identification, find problem solving. They should monitor police conduct, and performance as well as public complaints against police malpractices, including production of quarterly and annual repot for the Inspector-general of police, police service commission and the Nigerian police council presently, characterized by deep suspicion and sometimes violence.
  5. The police should be properly equipped with modern and sophisticated equipment. Government must provide good condition of service to the police, this include recruitment of adequate number of policemen, attractive salary and accommodation. This will improve the image of the police and thereby boosting their morale.
  6. It is axiomatic that achieving an ideal Nigerian police force can indeed be challenging, particularly that enormous resource is required from the government which has other responsibilities. In this regard, it is recommended that government should ensure sustained political commitment for improving the Nigerian police. By sustained political commitment, government is required to show genuine concern on police problems by enacting workable laws and fully implements police policies to address and deal with the problems.
  7. It is also the recommendation of this research that all the security agencies in Nigeria particularly the police, the armed forces, state security service and so on must cooperate and complement other in the administration of justice in Nigeria. To facilitate this, a coordinating mechanism should be put in place that should
    encourage sharing of security information, tips and intelligence. This mechanism will equally stamp out rivalry which presently is one feature amongst security agencies in Nigeria. Once this is achieved, law enforcement agencies in Nigeria rather than being reactive will become more preventive in their approach as obtainable in other advanced jurisdictions.
  8. Finally, improving the quality of the Nigerian police in the administration and provision of security cannot be resolved by proliferation of ad hoc committee, panels or task force, there is no alternative to putting in place a permanent mechanism as have been recommended herein to address the challenges of law enforcement and administration justice in Nigeria.

5.3 Concluding Remarks

It is axiomatic that the Nigeria Police are striving to maintain peace, order and good governance over the years, but they are seriously saddled with a lot of challenges. The government of the day is very much concern with the issues of security. The general publics are perturbed with lack of efficient maintenance of law and order and blame both the police and the government for not providing adequate security for the protection of lives and properties. Although the government are trying their best to satisfy these yearnings by embarking on several reforms of the Police Force but, it appears as if the problems are insurmountable. The way forward is for the Police, civil society and the government should put all hands on deck to address all matters of security because, the maintenance of law,
peace and order lies on everybody in the country.


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