Friday, 20 November 2015

Nigerians, Let's Hold The Police Responsible And Accountable Through The Complaint Response Unit (CRU)




Henceforth Nigerians have the rare opportunity to channel instances of malfeasance by officers and men of the Nigeria police force or queries via phone lines, SMS, WhatsApp, Blackberry Messenger (BBM), Emails, Facebook, Twitter and get feedback in real time.



As the trite saying goes - in every twelve, there’s a Judas, so it is with the Nigeria Police and other organizations. The good news is that the Inspector General of police, Mr. Solomon Arase, on 13th November, 2015, launched an Information and Communication Technology compliant department within the Nigeria Police, a Complaint Response Unit (CRU) it is called, where queries, complaints and concerns about unprofessional conducts of errant or unscrupulous officers and men of the Nigeria police can be channeled to, and be rest assured of a response in real time. This multi-platform community based complaint reporting mechanism promises to be interactive and will cut existent red tape involved in reaching out to the top hierarchy of the Nigeria police to report concerns or to obtain specific information from them.
The Head of the Police Complaint Response Unit, CSP Yomi Shogunle says the CRU will ‘’bridge the gap between the police and citizens’’. According to Mr. Shogunle, ‘’every complaint will be assigned a computer generated tracking number, acknowledged, verified, investigated by the Unit and feedback offered’’. 

Kudos to the Nigeria police for this innovation; Nigerians appreciate the onerous task they are encumbered with. We urge them to play by the rules and be role models. We earnestly hope the Complaint Response platform is sustainable and does not end up as a public relations stunt, a paper-tiger.

Matters Arising, Recommendations:
At the risk of pre-empting the workings of the Complaint Response Unit, we ask, beyond encouraging the public to make complaints, the Nigerian public will appreciate clarifications on what transpires where there’s a conflict of interest, say a complaint is made against the boss of the Police Complaint Response Unit, will it be ethical for him to superintend or adjudicate in a matter where he is the accused? Certainly, the appropriate thing to do here is to invite or channel the complaint to an independent ombudsman, possibly the Police Service Commission (PSC) which is empowered to inter alia dismiss and exercise disciplinary control over police officers and rank and file. It will also help if there are in-built processes for anonymity or protect the identity of the complainant, weeding out frivolous complaints and quick dispensation of justice given that justice delayed is justice denied. 

In the spirit of repositioning the Nigeria Police to meet the challenges of the 21st century, it will do a lot of good if the Inspector General of police, all DIG’s, AIG’s, state commissioners of police and other senior police officers are ICT and social media savvy. Firstly, open-source intelligence abound in the Social media and cyber world and can be gleaned with minimal effort. In January 2014, Social media played a critical role to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in arresting one William Holt, a wanted criminal. Secondly, social media is increasingly popular and faster for information dissemination and will cut off bottlenecks in reaching top hierarchy. One recalls former IGP Mohammed Abubakar publicly made available, a phone number to reach him. More often than not when innocent folks are detained and extorted on trumped up charges in a Police Command the DPO’s, CPs, are seldom aware of such. A Tweet to the DPO, CP would have exposed the goings-on, rot under his nose and saved the situation. A few classic scenarios: there’s this dude that operates a drugstore (Chemist as we call them) in my area. Policemen from a particular police division routinely raid him and eateries in that vicinity and extort money from them. Folks are released immediately they ‘settle’ and the cops come again after four months or so. Dudes are helpless because they don’t even know who to complain to. One won’t have misgivings if these cops are attached to or come with NAFDAC (National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control) but they come on their own. Wondering if it is now the responsibility of the police to regulate drugstores, eateries in Nigeria? Another example, someone was allegedly murdered in my village a while ago and that incident became a cash cow for the police command in that area. Indiscriminate arrest was the order of the day. As we say in Nigerian parlance, I no follow na N10,000 or more. Nigerians are told bail is free but this is a fallacy in reality. Please it is high time the Nigeria Police Code of Conduct is also re-launched with ongoing awareness and vigorous enforcement. 

Since the critical goal of the Complaint Response initiative is to discourage unethical conduct and by extension punish culpable personnel, it follows that prevention is better than cure. We recommend that the police proactively weeds out bad eggs even from the point of recruitment into the force by carrying out stringent background checks on prospective enlistees into the police. Establishing a nation-wide computerized national crime database accessible in real time will help in this regard. Similarly, the police hierarchy must ensure that excellence, passion for the job is not sacrificed in the altar of godfatherism, cronyism during recruitment. Please while you are at it, with due respect, we implore the Nigeria police to overhaul the internal weapon handling system of the police. The current system where there are no stringent checks and balances as regards to custody of weapons is not fit for purpose and subject to abuse. It is an anomaly for police officers, men attached to private and commercial premises to go home with their weapons. No wonder there are allegations of criminals ‘renting’ weapons from unscrupulous police officers/men. A very robust weapon chain of custody will check the aforementioned tendency. 

In the light of this, we call the federal government and the National Assembly to take a step further and bring about a Whistleblowers Protection Act, law that will protect insiders who opt to report misconduct, corruption within the police or any other organization. Such an Act will go a long way in fighting entrenched corruption, malfeasance beyond public view.

See Something, Say Something, Do Something!!!
We urge Nigerians not to keep mute or look the other way when they witness an anomaly in the society or when their fundamental human right, that of their neighbor is trampled upon by uniform personnel or any individual no matter how highly placed. God will not physically descend from heaven to instill decorum and perfection in our polity or sort out issues we can do ourselves. Don’t say e no concern me, it certainly does either directly or indirectly! Rather than being docile, feeling helpless, trolling and whining how Nigeria, the system is not working or how the Nigeria Police and its personnel are corrupt and unprofessional, you now have a choice, a platform to walk the talk, make a positive impact and change the status quo. Let’s inculcate the culture of holding public officers accountable and responsible. Be the change you want and make your voice heard. As you know, an average camera phone, video pen recorders are veritable tools to record evidence but you must do it discreetly.

Before I unveil the contact details of the Nigeria Police Complaint Response Unit (CRU), please permit me to reconcile the objective of the Police CRU with a couple of scenarios and global best practices. In 2007, the then United Kingdom Home Office minister (equivalent to the minister of interior in Nigeria), one Liam Byrne was stopped, charged to court and fined £100 for talking on a mobile phone while driving. He also earned three penalty points on his driver’s license and subsequently apologized for his action. Still in the United Kingdom, Hampshire Police Authority pleaded guilty and was fined after one of its vehicles was caught speeding at 48mph in a 30mph zone. Can this happen in Nigeria? Your guess is as good as mine. Well, it can happen in Nigeria henceforth if you and I want it to happen. Let’s join hands and make Nigeria great again. We can do it, yes we can! 

If you have a grouse, prima facie or substantiated unethical actions of any police officer, be it: illegal arrest and detention, bribery, abuse of authority, demand for sexual favours in exchange for leniency, corruption, extortion, brutality, torture, extra-judicial killing, harassment amongst others, or you need specific information from them, here are 24/7 platforms you can use to do that:

1.     Twitter: @PoliceNG_CRU
2.     BBM: 58A2B5DE
3.     Email: complaint@npf.gov.ng, or npfcomplaint@gmail.com
4.     WhatsApp: 08057000003
5.     SMS Only: 08057000003
6.     Calls Only: 08057000001 or 08057000002
7.     Facebook: facebook.com/npfcomplaint


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Written By:

© Don Okereke

Follow Don on twitter: @DonOkereke

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Bio:
Don Okereke is a passionate, innovative, Information Technology, Social Media-Savvy and proven Security Analyst/Consultant, researcher, writer/blogger, and change agent with over 17 years combined Military (Air Force), Private Security, entrepreneurial, skills/experience distilled from Nigeria and the United Kingdom. His interest and expertise span Security/Safety/ICT/Cultural Awareness Training, Threat/Travel Advisory, Risk Assessments & mitigation, Security survey/mapping, Loss/Fraud Prevention, Due Diligence and Investigations,  Executive/Asset Protection, Business Continuity & Emergency Planning, Background Screening/Vetting,  Competitive Intelligence, Research and Open-Source Intelligence (OSINT) Information Retrieval, Countering Violent Extremism Advocacy and Public Speaking, amongst others. Don has featured on conferences/seminars as a Guest Speaker and he is routinely consulted by foreign, local, print/electronic organizations for expert opinion on issues impinging national, personal security and geopolitics. His passion, knack for writing has seen his articles published on major Nigerian newspapers such The Guardian, The Nation, NewsWatch, Tell Magazine and various online and social media platforms.


November, 2015