Press Statement on Nigeria’s Criminal Justice SystemCISLAC Admin
THE CIVIL SOCIETY LEGISLATIVE ADVOCACY CENTRE PRESS STATEMENT ON NIGERIA’S CRIMINAL JUSTICE (CRIMJUST) SYSTEM
- Over the years, Nigeria has been the centre of a number of transnational crimes. West Africa is also conveniently situated for drug and illegal weapon’s trade between South America and Europe. Porous borders and the free flow of arms in and out of Nigeria has contributed to the increase in the number of violent conflicts in the country.
- Nigeria accounts for about 70% of the illegal small arms in the West Africa sub-region.
- Human trafficking, including its worst forms such as child trafficking in Benin and Nigeria, is one dominant form of increasingly sophisticated regional trend in cross-border crime that extends through West and Central Africa into several European cities. Needless to say, human and drug trafficking has been, and still is, a constant challenge to various authorities including Nigeria.
- It will be glad to note that CISLAC is currently implementing a project titled ‘’CRIMJUST,’’ which runs from 2016 – 2020 and is currently being implemented by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), INTERPOL and Transparency International (TI), with support from the European Union (EU).
- The project aims at strengthening criminal justice institutions to combat drug and organised crimes along the cocaine route from Latin America, the Caribbean to West Africa. As such, the Nigerian Police Force, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) and the Federal High Court have been selected as target institutions based on their mandates to investigate prosecute and adjudicate these core offences.
- We have been working with these institutions on this project since 2017 and we commend their openness and willingness to collaborate with us.
- We acknowledge that these institutions are under resourced to carry out their mandate and there is a lack of political will to effectively change the status quo.
- Our aim in this press briefing is to bring to focus and address issues surrounding Nigeria’s Criminal Justice System especially as regards the above selected institutions.
- It is also important for us to state that Civil Society Organizations should not only criticise these institutions but appreciate their difficult operating environment and give support in a collaborative manner.
- There is no doubt that the system of patronage and political corruption undermines institutions and the rule of law. Therefore, the CRIMJUST project aims at strengthening institutional integrity of these three institutions.
CAPACITY OF INSTITUTIONS
- The lack of adequate resources for institutions, especially those in the criminal justice system is a sad reality. We now have agencies relying on foreign aid for substantial amounts to carry out their activities. In the last three years, there has been a decline in the budget of the NDLEA.
- For example In 2015, the budget of the agency was 0.20% of the National Budgetaround NGN 9 billion, 0.14% in 2016 around NGN 8.5 billion and 0.12%, around NGN 9 billion in 2017. With about 5,000 officials, this budget is not sufficient for the Agency and its various commands.
- Astonishingly, there has been a decline in the budget of the police force in the last three years. In 2015, the budget of the police was 7.16% of the national budget. This budget is grossly inadequate to purchase basic equipment talk less of modern equipment for a force of about 370,000 personnel.
- From the World Internal Security & Police Index released in 2017 there are 219 police officers and men for every 100,000 Nigerians, which is well below both the Index median of 300, and the sub-Saharan Africa region average of 268. The report noted that this limits the capacity of the force to measure up to its law and order mandate.
- As regards the judiciary, in 2015, the budgetary allocation was 73 billion representing 1.62% of the national budget while there was a decline in 2016 as the budgetary allocation dropped to 70 billion 1.15% of the national budget.
- However while 2017 recorded an increase in the budgetary allocation to the judiciary which amounted to 100billion, it is important to note that this is still insufficient for effective and efficient administration of justice.
- It is equally significant to note that despite these amounts being budgeted, most times not all appropriated funds are released, and especially for the Nigerian Police and the NDLEA that are not in the first line charge.
- Prompt payment of the complete salaries and allowances of police officers is very essential. Law enforcement agents should not be forced to the street to protest for the payment of their salaries and allowances.
- We therefore call on the government to increase funding to these institutions to enable these organisations to deliver on their mandates.
ADHERENCE TO CODE OF CONDUCTS AND ETHICS
- We find the unlawful arrests of journalists and other Nigerians disturbing. We also commend the directive of the government to the Inspector General of Police on the restructuring of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
- It should be recalled that Amnesty International had, in its 2017/2018 report,accused the unit of torture, ill treatment and unlawful detention.
- We will therefore like to see this directive followed strictly. The overhaul of the Force should be extended well beyond SARS and to cover the entire policing architecture as human rights’ violations, corruption and poor discipline are widespread.
- We would like to call on security agents to always ensure that they abide by their code of ethics and conducts. They should also ensure that they carry out their lawful duties in accordance with the rule of law.
- We would like to use this medium to call on the above institutions to strengthen their appropriate compliant channels and publicise them as the public needs to know what these channels are to help ease report of misconduct of officials and non-officials by members of the public. The channels can be in the form of websites, call lines, email and other social media outlets.
- The Nigerian Police has fared better in this area with its Police Complaint Rapid Response Unit (PCRRU) having resolved 5,927 out of 7,216 complaints received in two years between 2015 -2017 via its numerous complaint channels. However, there is need to collectively disseminate the contact of the unit to different nook and crannies of the country.
- CISLAC had visited the unit to this effect and we welcome the cooperation of the unit to work with us in ensuring that complaints are fast tracked.
We call on all well-meaning Nigerians to spread these channels of complaints to others.
- We are also in talks with the NDLEA and the Federal High Court to see how to improve their already existing channels for filing complaints despite the challenge of lack of adequate resources.
WHISTLE BLOWER FRAMEWORK
- The absence of a law on whistle blowing is a setback in Nigeria’s criminal justice system. We have scenarios where individuals with valuable information are scared to speak out for fear of being intimidated. We are aware the Ministry of Finance has developed a whistle blower policy which is commendable. However, this policy is just suited for the recovery of stolen funds.
- We, therefore, call on the National Assembly to fast/ track the passage of the whistle blower legislation before it to ensure the protection of whistle-blowers.
- We also call on Nigerian institutions to emulate the Ministry of Finance by creating institutional whistle blower policies that will suit their respective institutions andensure victim’s protection. The culture of obedience and secrecy needs to be challenged and this can be done by having internal policies that will enable safe and legal way of bringing complaints outside the hierarchy.
EXTERNAL OVERSIGHT ROLES
- We would like to call for increase oversight on criminal Justice Institutions by the necessary organs lawfully mandated to carry out these oversight functions. This will ensure that checks and balances are created for institutions trying to enforce the law, lest they become law breakers instead of law enforcers in the process.
- We call for synergy amongst our institutions, especially the ones fighting crime and corruption. Scenarios where agencies are at arms with each other should not be abhorred by all well-meaning Nigerians.
- We would like to call on the National Assembly to pass the following bills pending before it – the Amendment bill to the Police Act of 2004 and the Amendment bill to the NDLEA Agency Act of 2004.
- We would like to call for an increased transparency amongst our institutions, especially those in the criminal justice system.
- We find disturbing some of the recent revelation contained in the 2016 audit report released by the Auditor General of the Federation, Mr. Anthony Ayine.
- The report shows an increase in the violation of the audit law by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
- For example, the report shows that between 2014 – 2016, there was an increase in the number of MDAs that failed to submit their report in 2014 148 failed, in 2015 it increased to 215 while in 2016 it ballooned to 324.
- This report shows that many MDAs are non-compliant to the financial regulations. We therefore call on these institutions to comply with financial regulations.
- There is need to ensure transparency by putting up a globally acceptable standard mechanism in the promotion of police officers.
- The unjustifiable promotion of officers who work with politicians while ignoring those in the field is unacceptable and against not only democratic norms but terms of engagement.
- The appointment of judges should be more transparent and should not be turned to a thing of inheritance where consideration and preference are given only to those who have biological and other forms of relationship, with heavy weights in the judiciary whether serving or retired.
- We also call for the publication of budgets and expenditure by the Judiciary to pave way not just for public scrutiny, but also to enable the public pressurize for its increase.
- We want to encourage the development of a dialogue policy amongst the various aforementioned institutions with a view to facilitate periodic engagement with CSOs, the media and other non-state actors. This will aid the discussion on challenges in the criminal justice sector and in turn will help to have a better understanding of the challenges confronting the institutions.
- In the final analysis, we call all these government institutions not to perceive or view CSOs, the media and non-state actors as enemies or threats but as partners who are only striving to give support to those institutions and ensuring an effective criminal justice system. It is not unpatriotic to challenge the system. It is unpatriotic to keep silent!
- We, again, thank all stakeholders for their cooperation in this project and encourage them to continue doing so.
- We call on all well-meaning Nigerians and the media not to relent or be discouraged in their supervision, tracking, monitoring and reporting of developments in the above-mentioned institutions to ensure effective and efficient service delivery.
Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani)
Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC)