By Peter Nkanga
Hundreds of activists in Nigeria are gearing up to fan across Nigeria to visit select 265 police stations in six Nigerian states to assess the quality of services the Nigeria Police renders to the public.
Most police stations in Nigeria are dirty, shambolic and maddening, and the 795 activists will attempt to assess the level of service and human rights abuses in the stations.
At training sessions organised during the week by CLEEN Foundation, a non-governmental organisation working to improve public safety and justice, to kick-start the 5th Police Station Visitors’ Week, participating visitors across Nigeria, drawn from civil society groups, government agencies, market traders associations, school children, persons living with disabilities, albinos, amongst others, were briefed on the merits of the annual event taking place in 21 countries in five continents.
“The merit of these visits is to improve police service delivery, accountability and community relationship with members of the public,” said Chigozirim Odinkalu, a programme officer with the CLEEN Foundation. “Furthermore, public presentations from the visits will help in policy making especially as there is an ongoing clamour for the review of current Police laws.”
The trainees who were divided into teams were given five observation areas – community orientation; physical conditions; equal treatment of the public without bias based on age, gender, ethnicity, nationality, minority status or sexual orientation; transparency and accountability; and detention conditions – on which to assess stations to be visited in the states of Akwa Ibom, Imo, Kano, Lagos, Rivers, and Abuja.
The police stations would be scored on a scale of 1-5 based on several guidelines in a training kit which was provided to the visitors; the least score of 1 indicating the station is wholly inadequate while 5 points shows the visitors rank the station excellent in an observation area.
Chinenye Odemene, a 100-level Pharmacy student at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, said she is looking forward to the experience of visiting a police station for the first time.
“What comes to mind when I think of the Police is bribery and corruption,” Miss Odemene said. “I fancied the idea because I have never been to a police station. So I decided I want to experience it for myself and not judge the Police by other people’s word of mouth.”
For Martin Obono, the executive director of Cyber crimes and Fraud Awareness Foundation, this will be his second time around having visited the Utako Divisional Headquarters in 2010. He says he is returning there to see the measure of improvements one year on.
“One thing I observed last year was that police officers bring their own personal property to use in the station. The station had obsolete computers sent from the Police Equipment Fund which could not being used. So we are hoping the station performs better this year,” Mr. Obono said.
Giving more insight into the Police Stations Visit holding globally from the 31st October – 6th November, 2011, as organised by the Altus Global Alliance, a network of several international civil society groups, a director with CLEEN Foundation, Kemi Okenyodo, said the visits over the years has helped to share best police practices amongst participating countries.
“For example in Nigeria the names of Police officers are sewn on their uniforms. It was not the case in some other countries,” Mrs. Okenyodo said. “Like about two months ago in Sierra Leone we made representations to the Sierra Leone Police board on how this promotes accountability. Their Inspector General of Police in September has now taken the decision to start sewing their names on their uniform. So there are best practices we can share which make our police more pro-active.”