The outgoing 8th Senate yesterday gave Nigerians a parting gift as it repealed the archaic 76-year-old colonial Nigeria Police Act and replaced it with the Police Reform Bill 2019.
When the bill is assented to by President Muhammadu Buhari, the Nigeria Police Act, which came into force in 1943 under the colonial administration of Great Britain, will cease to be in operation in the country.
The law, which is 17 years older than Independent Nigeria in 1960 has never been amended by any administration in the 59-year-old country.
The Senate, which yesterday gave itself thumb-up for taking the bold initiative to repeal the law said that the proposed Police Reform Bill, was designed to make the Nigeria police more people-friendly.
Among the novel provisions in the bill, is empowering the Senate to confirm the appointment of the inspector-general of police (IGP). The bill also provides for a fixed term of five years for the IGP. At present, the president appoints the IGP, whose appointment is confirmed by the Council of State.
The proposed law provides for the creation of a Nigeria Police Council to be chaired by the president, former presidents and serving state governors, who will decide before a serving IGP can be sacked.
The Senate also made it an offence for anyone to slap a police officer. Such offenders, according to the bill, upon conviction, will be liable to two years’ imprisonment and a fine of N5 million.
Similarly, anyone that impersonate the police or illegally wear police uniforms is also liable to two years’ imprisonment and a fine of N5 million.
LEADERSHIP learnt yesterday that since 1943 when the Police Act was enacted, it has not been considered for repeal until the 8th Assembly took the gauntlet to undertake the task in only 13 months.
Presenting the report of the Senate Committee on Police Affairs on the Police Reform Bill, 2019 (SB 683), the chairman, Senator Tijjani Yahaya Kaura (Zamfara North), said that if the president signed the bill into law, Nigerians will have a people-friendly police.
“There will be a clear departure from the old ways of policing,” Kaura said of the bill, adding that the passage of the Police Trust Fund Bill is also designed to make the Nigeria police more effective.
Kaura said: “In the last couple of days, we have passed three important bills in the Senate. The Police Trust Fund Bill was passed because year-after-year, budge after budget, funding was not enough for the police because of increasing demands. Now, if passed into law, 0.05 per cent will be given to the police from the statutory allocation.
“Also, 0.005 per cent of profits made by companies in Nigeria, will go into the Police Trust Fund. The amount the police will generate a year will be five times more than what they were getting,” Kaura said.
According to him, “attempt is being made to make police people-centred. When we were young, if we saw a policeman, we will run. We thought then that the function of the police is only to arrest people. But today, we now have a people-friendly Police Act. When you see a policeman, you can run to him.”
“Some policemen have not received training for many years. But the reform bill has taken care of that. The welfare of the police is well taken care of under the bill. That is why people say they (police) are corrupt because the police are not well catered for,” Kaura said.
The lawmaker explained that the “appointment of the IGP must be confirmed by the Senate. We feel that there should be ample time for the IGP to plan. There is a need to fix the term of the appointment of the IGP so that it won’t be at the discretion of the president alone. We’ve made the tenure of the IGP secured because adequate policing is needed in every corner of the country.
“Two years’ jail term and N5 million fine have been prescribed for anyone who slaps a police officer. But for the policeman who uses excessive force on a civilian or causes damage or death, the police have a way of punishing their officers. But if that officer is taken to court, he is also liable to the same punishment of two years’ jail term and N5 million fine.
“Impersonating a policeman or the illegal wearing of police uniforms also attracts a fine of N5 million and two years’ imprisonment,” Kaura added.
Kaura said Nigerians should be happy today because they have improved the law to make police people-centred.
The senator said that if the House of Representatives concurred on the bill, it will be transmitted to the president, adding that President Muhammadu Buhari won’t find it difficult to sign the bill because of the way and manner it was packaged.
The committee had in their report, recommend that “it should be made binding on the Inspector- General of Police to adhere to National Policing Plan. The National Policing Plan should be made with inputs from the Police Force Headquarters and all the various police formations. That the name ‘Nigeria Police’ proposed in the draft bill should be changed to ‘Nigeria Police Force’ presently in use in view of the failed constitution alteration attempt to amend the name.
“That the police abide and enforce certain constitutional provisions particularly fundamental rights of persons in police custody under Chapter 4 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and other international instruments on human rights to which Nigeria is a signatory (including provisions that reiterate the importance of fundamental human rights and advocating for their observance.
“That on the appointment and removal of the Inspector-General of Police the provisions of the constitution in line with Section 2l5 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) should be studied, as any proposal contrary to this provision will require constitutional alteration for it to be viable.
“That the establishment of Community Police Forum is strongly recommended. That the tenure of office of the inspector-general of police should be a single five-year term, which will make for a secured tenure,” the report, which was adopted by the Senate, stated.
On the passage of the Police Reform Bill, the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, said that the Reform Bill would go a long way to show the responsiveness of the 8th Senate.
“This bill will go a long way to show that we are a listening parliament and a listening Senate. There is nothing better we can do in honour of those who have lost their lives along the way due to the fact that our laws at that time were not in line,” Saraki said.
Senate Repasses 7 Bills Rejected By PMB
Meanwhile, the Senate has repackaged seven of the 11 bills it promised to work on and resend to the president for his assent.
The bills were among the 17 rejected by President Buhari which were reintroduced and sent to a committee for action for onward transmission to the president.
The bills are “The Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB), the National Institute for Hospitality and Tourism Bill 2019, the National Research and Innovation Council Bill 2019, the Stamp Duties Act (Amendment) Bill 2019 and National Agricultural Seed Council Bill 2019.
Others are the Agricultural Credit Guarantee Scheme (amendment) Bill 2019 and Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Act 2010 (amendment) Bill 2019.
Following the president’s refusal to assent to the bills, the Senate set-up a seven-member technical committee headed by Senator David Umaru, chairman of the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Legal Matters to look into the constitutional and legal implications of withholding assent to the bills by the President and to make appropriate recommendations on the way forward. The Committee reviewed 6 Constitutional Amendment Bills and 11 private member bills.
In its 34-page report, the committee recommended that the Senate should re-consider and pass again the 11 Bills, including the five Constitutional Amendment Bills; override the president’s veto of the Constitutional Amendment Bill, and the Industrial Development (Income Tax Relief) Amendment Bill, 2018; and that the Senate should entirely withdraw four other bills.
At the unusually extended plenary yesterday, the Senate voted on a motion moved by the Senate leader, Senator Ahmed Lawan, where he noted that the technical committee worked on Buhari’s observations and re-drafted the affected clauses, thereby addressing the rationale for his withholding assent.
The Senate unanimously passed the seven re-drafted bills at the Committee of the Whole, chaired by Saraki.
The bills will be sent to the House of Representatives for concurrence before it is re-transmitted to the President for his assent.
Also yesterday, the Senate laid the 2019 budget which is to be considered clause-by-clause on Wednesday next week when they returned from the Easter holidays.
Buhari had in December 2018 presented N8.83 trillion 2019 budget to the National Assembly for deliberation and passage.
After laying the budget, the Senate adjourned till Wednesday, 24th April, 2019. It, however, adjusted its rules to stay in the chamber beyond 3pm.
Also yesterday, the Senate rejected a bill seeking to phase out petroleum vehicles by 2035 and introduce electric cars in the country on the ground that the introduction of any innovation does not require legislation.
This is just as the bill seeking to amend the 1999 Constitution to allow persons of African origin to acquire Nigerian citizenship for purposes of re-integration and development failed to pass second reading on the floor of the Senate.
The two bills which were sponsored by Senator Ben Murray-Bruce (Bayelsa East) could not see the light of the day because they were seen as utopian and at best only good for academic purposes.
Senator Murray-Bruce had in his lead debate said that engine cars have caused deaths through pollution, adding that the country had been paying subsidy on petrol.
“No fuel or gas is required, requires less maintenance cost because one just requires to charge electric cars, as fuel stations would be replaced with charging places. Some countries have begun to ban the production of petroleum cars. Car pollution causes global warming.
“’Gasoline and diesel will continue to cause a lot of harm. Electric cars shall be cheaper to maintain in Nigeria since the country is blessed with sunlight,’’ he said.
In his contribution to the debate, the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, said that Murray-Bruce brought a brilliant idea but that the bill to introduce electric cars when the country still relies on crude oil sale was not encouraging.
“We were using donkey before as a means of transportation. We never required a law to use cars. There is freedom of movement. Murray-Bruce should consider taking back the bill and do some work. In economic sense, we are an oil-based country. We should frustrate the manufacturing of cars in order to sell our oil and Gas,” he said.
On the bill for the people of African origin to acquire Nigerian citizenship, Murray-Bruce said that no nation is independent, adding Nigeria suffered from a brain drain in the 80s.
He said that if we allow African-American to reside in Nigeria, it will boost the productivity and the country would earn more remittances if the bill is passed.
“Nations that want to be great must move from dependence to independence. The category of people that should be given citizenship should be people that have no African citizenship,” he said.
Senator Ibn Na-Allah (Kebbi) said the bill is covered in Sections 25, 26 and 27 of the 1999 Constitution.
He said that what is missing is that they cannot by parliamentary Act alter the provision of the constitution, adding that they must apply and meet the requirements.
Senator Dino Melaye said that if Murray-Bruce’s bill is allowed it shall be economically catastrophic because the country is already finding it difficult to manage its current population explosion.
“This will be catastrophic. Nigeria is about 200 million people with over two per cent growth rate. We fund our budget through borrowing. Nigeria cannot open its borders for more influx of people. If that happens, Murray-Bruce who is a successful businessman might be a corporate beggar in the street of Lagos,’’ he said.