Waiting For Fruits From Police Station Visitors’ Week

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The results of the 2013 Police station Visitors’ Week pulled some surprises with Karu Police station located in an Abuja suburb scoring 100 per cent in each of the five categories of assessment. CHIKA OTUCHIKERE writes on the impact of the 10 year old project. 

The Police Station Visitors’ Week, PSVW, may not be popular to many Nigerians. Nearly every police station as well as officers and men of the Force, however, are quiet familiar with the project.

The objective of the Police Station Visitors’ Week, according to CLEEN Foundation, the Nigerian coordinating agency for the Altus Global Alliance, coordinators of the world Police Station Visitors’ Week, is to bring the police community and the general public to meet one-on-one and see eye ball to eye ball.

Beyond that, however, the project also presents to the public the typical Nigeria police Force that has the onerous responsibility of protecting life and property while maintaining law and order.

According to CLEEN executive director, Ms Kemi Okenyodo, planning the project began in 2004 and the pilot carried out in 2005. The first actual Police Stations Visitors’ Week began in 2006 with only Lagos State participating from Nigeria.

In 2013, however, 21 Nigeria police state commands participated. 1115 visitors comprising 556 females and 549 males visited 369 police stations, cut across the six geo-political zones of the country.

Okenyodo further disclosed that the CLEEN Foundation singlehandedly coordinated the programme from its inception until 2013 when it handed the coordination to the National Human Rights Commission, NHRC.

“In 2013, we commenced the institutionalisation of the project. We found an agency that can take care of the project so that it doesn’t die and we are glad to find in the NHRC, a ready partner.

“NHRC has automatic access to visit all detention centres in the country. NHRC’s presence in 24 states of the country has helped us to go into the northeast unlike in 2012 when we couldn’t visit it,” Okonyodo said.

Presenting the result of the 2013 police station visitors’ week, the executive secretary of NHRC, Dr Ben Angwe noted that the finding was a clear departure from the commission’s previous reports which centred mainly on prisons. The executive secretary said the commission embarked on the project in order to carry out a clear audit of police stations.

“Most Nigerians today are not happy with police station detention centres. Most Nigerians today are so scared of police detention. Given the fact that they represent the primary authorities which restrict people when they go contrary to the law, the NHRC decided to embark on the promotion and carry out a clear audit of police stations with a view to ascertain the conditions of persons detained in those places.

“We are here to ensure that the security agencies are held accountable to how they relate with the Nigerian people,” he said.

According to the NHRC, “the PSVW promotes accountability and transparency. It also enhances accessibility of the police stations by the public in which their interactions aid in finding a lasting solution to the relationship issue between the police and the public.

“The visit is a mechanism aimed to achieve community policing, building and fostering police community interactions, identifying good practices that can be shared and replicated by other police formation in the country and the region”.

The 2013 PSVW was conducted with the same assessment kit designed by the Altus Global Allaince and used in previous editions. The kit contained 20 questions which addressed the five categories used for assessing police stations and the services they render to the public, including community orientation, physical conditions, equal treatment of the public transparency and accountability and detention conditions.

A summary of the result finding for the 2013 Police station visitors’ Week showed that Karu Police Station, located in an Abuja suburb, emerged the top scoring police station in the country. The station not only surpassed all the other stations visited, but scored 100 per cent in all the categories of assessment.

Other stations which came out tops included Illupeju Police station, Lagos with 97 per cent, Ikoyi Police station, Lagos with 96 per cent, Adatan Police station, Ogun 95 per cent, Victoria Island Police station, Lagos, 94 per cent, New Haven police station, Enugu, 93 per cent and Badargy and Life-camp Police station in Lagos and Abuja respectively scoring 92 per cent.

Karu police station all round 100 per cent scores painted a Nigerian police station that is flawless and spotless. Some participants at the presentation of the result queried whether one would find a police station in Nigeria that is faultless. One of the participants gave an instance where an officer who was allegedly indicted in a crime was found in Karu police station within the period under review.

The chairman of the commission pointed out that it was not a case of being flawless or without blemish. If a police station met the requirements in the categories then the full marks would be allotted to the station. According to him, Karu Police Station stood out among all the other police stations when the visitors came to the station.

Some critics of the Police Station Visitors’ Week say the project would not reflect the true and accurate physical and psychological conditions of police stations and the officers and men assigned to them. According to the participants, the condition of the Nigeria police is worse than has been reflected by successive findings of the PSVW.

A security expert, who pleaded anonymity, citing his relationship with the police, averred that one of the ways the project could bring out that best result and expose the actual condition of the Force to Nigerians is to adopt a ‘surprise visit’ method.

He noted that, most times, when the visit is pre-arranged, police officers in some of the targeted station, who care, would begin to carry out a facelift exercise to improve the physical condition. They make the physical condition of the station look a bit more habitable and also put the conditions of the cell room to meet the visitors’ requirement.

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