Questions Arising And What To Know About The New Police Bill 2020 Signed By President Buhari


Weeks ago, exactly September 16th 2020, President Muhammadu Buhari signed into law the Nigeria Police Bill, 2020 but here are things to know.

According to Vanguard, a statement issued by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Chief Femi Adesina explained that the Act repealed the Police Act Cap. P19. Laws of the Federation, 2004, and provides for a more effective and well organized Police Force, driven by the principles of transparency and accountability in its operations and management of its resources.

The statement in part reads, “Among others, the Act establishes an appropriate funding framework for the Police in line with what is obtainable in other Federal Government key institutions, enhances professionalism in the Force through increased training opportunities, and creates enduring cooperation and partnership between the Police Force and communities in maintaining peace and combating crimes nationwide.”

However, since the new bill has been signed, Nigerians have pointed out how much more power has been handed to the police and how much terror they now wield. While all these have been forgotten in recent times, a new tweet by Mavin youngster, Rema has brought everyone’s attention to the bill once more.

The tweet read, “I bet y’all don’t know that the Nigerian government signed a new Law enabling the police to arrest and search your phones without warrant. THE TWITTER TRENDS ARE NOT ENOUGH, MY GENERATION WAKE UP!!!

Many youths have complained bitterly about the mishandling in the hands of Federal SARS operatives in the past and more have come out to reveal they’ve had their mobile phones or cars searched by the police because they “look” like criminals.

While going through the new police bill 2020 (pdf can be downloaded below) one can only wonder what the meaning of some words regularly used in the bill means as there are no clear definition of what those terms mean.

For instance, the Part VII of the bill which is the “Power of the Police Officers” talks about “Investigation and Arrest” and there are places where the police has the power to arrest a suspect basically based on assumptions or “suspicion on reasonable grounds”.

Take for example, section 34 of the same Part VII, says a suspect can not be handcuffed by the police officer unless “there is reasonable apprehension of violence or an attempt to escape”, while this looks logical at first, thinking about our Nigerian police, what does “reasonable apprehension” mean? Does it mean if a police officer suspects me of a criminal activity and I smirk at him, considering he thinks this is a “reasonable apprehension of violence” I’ll be handcuffed?

Still on the same Part VII, this time section 38, it says a police officer can arrest any one without a court order or a warrant provided the Police officer “on reasonable grounds” suspects that the person has committed an offence. What the “reasonable grounds” on this? Does this mean if I’m wearing a dreadlock and using a brand new luxurious Samsung model phone and the police office “thinks” I’ve committed an offense I can be arrested?

Now, to the part Rema pointed out, “a new Law enabling the police to arrest and search your phones without warrant” this is very much true to some extent in the new bill.

Take for instance section 46 where the bill talked about the power of the police to search and detain at will, the second point claims the police has the power to detain and search a vehicle or a person if on “reasonable grounds” the police suspects the person or the vehicle is carrying an unlawful article. Once again the issue of “reasonable grounds” is a question but on section 50, the bill made it clear that a police officer executing the search should ask questions about the person’s behavior which gave rise to the suspicion.

Also, still on the same page, the bill says “before” the search, the police officer executing the search should tell the person his name and station his attached to, the object he/she wants to search and most importantly his grounds for the search. The follow up is something to applaud but like a common saying amongst Nigerians “soldier no dey hear come, na only go”, can I argue with a police officer and question why he wants to search me? Can I ask which police station he’s attached to in the country we’re in at the moment? These and more are questions arising from my little read into the new police bill 2020, adopted by the senate and signed by President Muhammadu Buhari.

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