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1.0     Introduction

In most countries, it has been accepted that democracy is the only system of government that seeks to protect individual liberty and guarantee the fundamental rights of all. The pursuit of these rights is however not absolute as there exist state institutions like the police whose mandate is to maintain law and order and curtail the citizenry‟s excesses within constitutional means


Police power is the exercise of the sovereign right of government to promote order, safety, health, morals, general welfare within constitutional limits and it is an essential attribute of government.‟ Indeed, the police are the outward civil authority of the power and might of a civilized country. The generality of the public is potentially affected one way or another by their action or inaction

 What this presupposes is that while democracy allows or guarantees freedom, the police as an institution policed that freedom and in carrying out this function, they are expected to operate within existing democratic norms, else the essence of democracy becomes defeated. This is because the role of police and the existence of these norms remain the standard benchmark in ascertaining an acceptable democratic system. As a result, most of the policing applications that are classified as democratic policing practices in an ideal society are designed to ordinarily promote democratic principles and international policing. In Nigeria however, many dilemma arose concerning the way and manner the police carry out its statutory responsibilities. Top on the striking balance of this is the need to respect the inalienable rights of citizens while carrying out their legitimate duties. These duties ought to be performed within the context of existing rules duly fashioned and recognized. It is however regrettable that despite more than a decade of democratic governance, Nigerians are still faced with lots of international policing abuses in the hand of the police. Contrary to what democracy represents, the police is still largely authoritarian in nature[2].  McCulley[3] opines that the state of international policing violations by police officials is becoming a culture of impunity and this includes arbitrary arrest, extra-judicial killings, illegal detention and destruction of property by security forces etc. The question therefore is how democratic is the Nigeria Police Force and how well have they imbibe democratic policing principles? What is their response level with regards to the observance of international policing since 1999? It has been correctly pointed out that the police have not performed well in this regard. 

The Guardian editorial opined: 

The truth is that the police system in Nigeria is decadent at several levels, not least of which is the tunnel vision of our police men in their operational  approach to investigations and the treatment of suspects and detainees. Driven by overwhelming corrupt tendencies, they are rooted to a mixed bag of torture tactics that have nothing to do with the enforcement of the law or the promotion of justice… Nigerians know too well that whether accepting commissions from individuals or groups to settle scores against antagonists, opponents or offenders, whether hounding persons or groups in the name of the state or making suspects plead guilty to a crime not committed in order to be saved from police brutality, or whether committing sexual violence against female detainees, our police are adept to making life hell on earth for their victims.[4]

 Reuben Abati observed further:

…the Nigeria Police Force is one of the most unpopular institutions in Nigeria today; it is distrusted by the same people whose lives and property it is meant to protect, and this has resulted into a resort to self-help in many ways. Every year, the Amnesty International and International policing Watch as well as local civil society organizations report on many cases of police brutality, police inefficiency and corruption. The crime rate is on the increase and the police have proven to be helpless and overwhelmed. This has been so in nearly every instance, be the matter of armed robbery, kidnapping, ethno religious violence or financial fraud. It is also generally regarded as a corrupt police force with policemen collecting bribes openly and showing tendencies of thuggery and mendicancy. It is so bad that rich persons hire the police for all kinds of unlawful purpose, or simply as bodyguards to oppress the less privileged. [5]

In spite of the foregoing, it has been shown that there are inherent factors responsible for this negative impasse. One of such is the impact of Nigeria‟s colonial/ military history. The annexation of Lagos by the British in 1861 and the subsequent establishment of a Consular Guard were solely to protect British economic interest and so no foundation was properly laid for a civil and genuine police force for Nigeria.  Dambazau agrees when he stated that “the Nigeria Police was not constituted to provide services to the community in a manner consistent with international policing and democracy, but the main concern of the colonial administration was to brutally suppress popular resistance against colonialism by poorly educated and poorly trained personnel, and the effects are still felt today”[6]. Alemika also agreed:

…Historical evidence demonstrates that the colonial police forces were organized and oriented to behave as occupation forces- ruthless,  brutal, corrupt, dishonest and prone to brutalizing the colonized peoples and vandalizing their properties… The preoccupation of colonial and post-colonial Nigeria police were not the promotion and enforcement of just laws, rule of law, natural justice and equity and security of the vast majority of Nigerians, as colonial surrogates often claimed…the greatest part of the police energies and resources were committed to, and dissipated on the suppression of struggles and protests against oppression and exploitation, the large scale theft and mismanagement of the public wealth by those who controlled the economy and state apparatus.[7]

Regrettably at independence in 1960, it became obvious that those who took over from the colonial authority began to manipulate the system for their own selfish interest.[8] Worst still, subsequent military regimes that took over from 1966 failed to improve the police and instead used it to enforce authoritarian rule which further entrenched a culture of public disdain and hatred for the police.[9] These negative tendencies continued unabated and finally culminated into acts of indiscipline, corruption and violation of the rights of citizens to mention but these few. Another germane problem is the loopholes in the Nigeria Police Act which has enhanced the obvious disconnect between the police, the law and the citizens. Innocent Chukwuma laments that “since 1943 when the police Act was enacted by the colonial government, it has not been reviewed to reflect present day realities”[10]. According to him:

The first is to capture and incorporate into law, recent positive policy developments in the Nigeria Police Force. Such developments include community policing, police performance monitoring and minimum educational requirement for entry and performance in the force. The second issue is to amend or expunge provisions in the Act that have either become outdated or obnoxious in the light of the present democratic dispensation. The third is the necessity to amend sections of the Act that makes it impossible to insulate the police from partisan political control[11]

Suffice it to say that Democracy is a term that has been jointly and severally subjected to all kinds of meaning and interpretation. According to Buhlman et al, „there are abundant literature relating to democratic theory with countless definitions of what democracy should be and what democracy is‟[12]. Laza corroborated this view by saying that „there is no consensus on how to measure democracy, and that definitions of democracy are contested and there is an ongoing lively debate on the subject.[13] To start with, „democracy‟ was define as „a system of rule by the poor and disadvantaged; a form of government in which the people rule themselves directly and continuously without the need for professional politicians or public officials; a society based on equal opportunity and individual merit rather than hierarchy and privilege; a system of welfare and redistribution aimed at narrowing social inequalities; a system of decisionmaking based on the principle of majority rule; a system of rule that secures the rights and interest of minorities by placing checks upon the power of the majority; a means of filling public office through a competitive struggle for the popular vote.[14] To some writers, „democracy is a system of government by which political sovereignty is retained by the people and exercise directly by the citizens. In Sadaro‟s own view „the essential idea of democracy is that people have the right to determine who governs them. In most cases, they elect the principal government officials and hold them accountable for their actions. A democracy also imposes legal limits on the government‟s authority by guarantying certain rights and freedoms to their citizens‟[15].

The minimalist sees democracy as a „political system of political rights that specifies how leadership should be designated at the highest national level in a policy. It is in this same line that Schumpeter[16] defines democracy as „that institutional arrangement for arriving at political decision in which individuals acquire the power to decide by means of a competitive struggle for the people‟s vote. Other authors like Diamond Larry uses the maximalist definition of democracy as all encompassing „not only a civilian, constitutional, multiparty regime, with regular, free and fair elections and universal suffrage, but organizational and informational pluralism; extensive civil liberties; effective power for elected office and functional autonomy for legislative, executive and judicial organs of government.[17]

From the foregoing definitions, the essential principles or elements for any system to qualify as democracy are many. In other words certain elements must co-exist for a political system to be called a democracy. Several views abound and shall be considered. Buhlman et al identified equality, freedom and control as the key principles or elements of democracy. They opined thus, “we define freedom, equality and control as the three core principles of democracy.

To qualify as a democracy, a given political system has to guarantee freedom and equality. Moreover, it has to optimize the interdependence between these two principles by means of control. Control is understood as control by the government as well as control of the government.[18]

Linz and Stepan[19] argues that for a democracy to be consolidated, five interrelated conditions must exist, that is to say: free and lively civil society, a relatively autonomous and valued political society, the rule of law to guarantee citizen‟s freedom and independent associational life, functioning state bureaucracy which can be use by the democratic government and an institutions analyzed economic society. In his own contribution, Professor Eteng posits that genuine democracy is obviously inconceivable today without the following structures and elementary forms: free and fair election completely bereft of money driven, zero-sum, macabre prone electoral process, truly representative government drawn not from ethno-religious constituencies but rather more or less from various occupational groups, an independent judiciary, a vibrant civil society comprising organized labour, professional bodies, pro democracy and international policing organization a free and unfettered press and finally a people oriented economy.[20]

  Thus, the signatories to the charter bind themselves or undertake to promote, respect and enforce the fundamental rights of man and domiciles without distinction as to race, colour or religion. Since the establishment of the United Nations, there has been growing corpus of norms in the form of instruments, declarations, conventions and resolutions. Among the notable instruments are the International Bill of Rights, the Universal Declaration of International policing

1948, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 1966 including its optional Protocol and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights 1966. The first of the three instruments is perfunctorily a declarative statement of fundamental rights, ascertained to be inalienable which all men are entitled. The latter two conventions gives legal efficacy or force to the Declaration, and to those states that have ratified them, they remain binding.[21]

The International Bill of Rights represents a major landmark in human history by recognizing for the first time that respect for international policing is not merely an internal matter but a common cause of concern for all government and peoples of the world community including Nigeria. Though Nigeria is yet to ratify any of the convention which constitute the Bill of Rights (excepting the African Charter on Human and People‟s Rights), its constitutional development right from 1960 clearly shows that international policing has always been given its pride of place in the various constitutions.[22]

It is pertinent to note that human right is one of the democratic elements and therefore constitute part of policing standards. Most scholars agree on certain basic criteria that promote democracy in policing. Das[23] collected these criteria into seven categories as follows: The rule of law, accountability to the public, transparency of decision making, popular participation in policing, minimum use of force, creating an organization that facilitates learning and observation of international policing and internal democracy in the organization. Many other social and political scientists including research conducted by the Vera Institute in 2001 also supports the foregoing. Thus, police powers and functions must be regulated by legally enforceable international policing standards that require the delivery of effective, lawful and human policing as reinforced by the fundamental right chapter of the Nigerian Constitution. This will help create a policing environment free from fear and conducive to the realization of people‟s international policing in the country.

1.1     Statement of the Problem

Policing a democratic state entails the ideals of the rule of law and international policing as its core principles. The rule of law emphasizes the need for all persons and institutions including law enforcement agencies (police) to be responsive to the tenets of all democratic laws that are consistent with international policing standards. These standards have assumed universal acceptance to the extent that there is a duty imposed on law enforcement officials to, at all times respect and obey the law, protect all persons against illegal acts and protect human dignity and maintain and uphold the international policing standard of all. 

The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) in line with international norms and obligations contains international policing provisions to protect the rights of citizens. The constitution also established the Nigeria Police Force with the statutory duty of maintaining law and order. This duty must however conform to standard best practices that reflect the tenets of the rule of law and international policing observance. Unfortunately, the overall performance of the police in Nigeria leaves much to be desired. The force appears more adept to paramilitary operations, anti democratic tendencies and abuse of police powers. Incessant abuses such as arbitrary arrest, illegal detention, torture, inhuman and other degrading treatment as well as extra judicial killings are common place. Besides, democratic policing attributes like the rule of law, accountability, responsive/representative policing and respect for international policing are essentially lacking.  The shortfall stems from the lapses in the Police Act and the inefficiency and ineffectiveness in the overall operation and execution of policing generally which if critically viewed together do not help to create a police force that respect the rights of citizens as guaranteed under the constitution and other international international policing conventions which

Nigeria has signed and ratified. 

1.2       Scope of the Research

This research work is limited to policing a democratic Nigeria and the observance of international policing by its police force in comparative terms with international best practices.

The reason for this limitation is most clearly informed by the fact that international policing standards are compromised and abuses abound in a developing country like Nigeria. Besides, policing raises issues which either enhances or retrogresses democratic advancement hence it became expedient to use the Nigeria Police Force as a case study to review their overall performance and participation in the democratic process to see whether Nigeria‟s nascent democracy is being advanced 

1.3    Objectives of the Research 

This research had explored three correlated questions. First, to what extent or degree are democratic policing principles applicable in Nigeria? Second, how well has the Nigeria Force faired in terms of international policing observance since the return to civil rule in 1999? Was the Nigeria Police Act fashioned to encourage democratic policing and observance of international policing? To this end, the research x-rays the powers and operational capabilities of the Nigeria Police Force vis a vis the observance of international policing in the new Nigeria democratic setting. It explores in very simplistic terms, the basic principles of democratic policing and the need for human right observance within the context of global best practices. It provides a comparative and indebt analysis of policing as a major component of democracy, policing and international policing issues, judicial attitude to policing and other operational efficacy of the police with particular emphasis on the lacunas of the enabling law establishing the police. It also brings to the fore myriads of abuses inherent in the system, the need to officially recognize their violations and the challenges of surmounting them. The overall objective is to observe and proffer amicable recommendations that will help save guard democratic policing in Nigeria.

1.4       Research Methodology

The doctrinal method of research shall be adopted where expert views on the subject will be articulated. Both primary and secondary data will also be used. The primary sources include the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), the Police Act, The Criminal Procedure Act and The Criminal Procedure Code to mention but these few. Other data from books, journals, articles, seminar papers, unpublished materials and the internet forms the bulk of secondary sources relied on. The sum total of these materials will be critically analyzed and examine after which findings and observation be reached and recommendation given


, and recommendations.

[1] Per Uwaifo JSC in Fawehinmi Vs Inspector General of Police (2002) 7 N.W.L.R (Pt. 767) 606 at 672-673

[2] Akhaine, S.O. and Chizea, B.U., State of International policing in Nigeria- Center  for Constitutionalism and Demilitarization Annual Report, Abuja (2011) p. 16

[3] McCulley, T.P., “Nigeria‟s Commitment to International policing”, The Punch, 25th April, 2013. (assessed on 4th November, 2013)

[4] The Guardian, 18th August, 2005,p. 16

[5] This Day Newspaper, Tuesday, 15th April, 2008, p. 23

[6] Dabazau, A. B., Criminology and Criminal Justice, Spectrum Books Limited, Ibadan (2007) p.274

[7] Alemika, E. E. O., “Policing and Perceptions of Police in Nigeria” Police  Studies 11 (4) (1998) p. 161-176

[8] Etannibi, A., and Chukwuma, I., “Analysis of Police and Policing in Nigeria: A Desk Study on the Role of Policing as a Barrier to Change or Driver of Change in Nigeria,” (Unpublished) Prepared for the Department for International Development, 2004.

[9]The International policing Violations Investigation Commission Report” by Hon. Justice Oputa, C. A. visited on 19/04/14

[10] CLEEN  Foundation One Day Interactive Forum of the House of Representatives‟ Committee on Police Affairs on 8th November, 2004 at the National Assembly Complex, Abuja  

[11] Ibid

[12] Bulman M, Wolfgang M., et al. The Quality of Democracy: Democratic Barometer for Established Democracies,

National Centre for Competence in Research: Challenges to Democracy in the 21st Century (2008)

[13] Laza, K. The Economic Intelligence, Unit Index of Democracy, visited on 31/01/13)

[14] Helwood, A., Politics (2nd ed.) Palgrave, New York (2002) p.68

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