A coalition of over 60 civil society organisations converged last Thursday, to address some of the crucial aspects of the seemingly moribund Police Trust Fund Act which had been inoperative since its passage in 2017.
In a media parley organised by the Human Rights Law Service (HURILAWS) and Network on Police Reforms of Nigeria (NOPRIN), the Coalition queried the challenges in the implementation of the Police Trust Fund Act and some of its provisions which need urgent review.
Presentations on the fundamental provisions of the Act were made by the Programs Manager of HURILAWS, Mr Collins Okeke, National Coordinator of NOPRIN, Mr. Ikule Emmanuel, and former Managing Director of Lagos State Security Trust Fund.
In a statement at the end of the programme the Coalition said: "An effective criminal justice system is one of the key pillars upon which the rule of law is built, because it serves as a functional mechanism to redress grievances and bring violators of social norms to justice; and how well a country manages its criminal justice system affects its overall performance on the governance index.
"Unfortunately, the Nigerian criminal justice system is fundamentally flawed, and the defects manifest at different stages of the criminal justice process, which is why HURILAWS alongside other civil society groups have been involved in advocacy for the passage of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law.
"Having achieved substantial passage of the laws (ACJA/ACJL has been passed in the FCT and more than 25 States in Nigeria), we have taken the next logical task of working with our partners to increase awareness on provisions of the ACJA/ACJL including other legislation like the Anti-Torture Act 2017, the Nigerian Correctional Services Act 2019, and Police Force Order 237, amongst others. We are also advocating adequate funding for criminal justice agencies like the courts, the Police, and the Correctional Service.
"We are especially excited about the Police Trust Fund Act 2019. The Trust Fund as you know is designed to, among other things, provide funds for the training and retraining of personnel of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), provide them with state-of-the-art security equipment, to improve the general welfare of the personnel of the NPF, and enhance their preparedness.
"The National Assembly has approved a budget of N74 billion, for the Trust Fund. We will monitor to ensure monies appropriated, are disbursed and efficiently deployed.
The Correctional Services Act 2019 has established the Nigerian Non-Custodial Service, which is responsible for the administration of non-custodial measures including community service, probation, parole, restorative justice measures. This suggests a paradigm shift from punitive or retributive justice simpliciter, to restorative justice. Laudable as this is, it needs well-equipped non-custodial officers, community service centres etc, to administer it to positively impact the State criminal justice system. Regrettably, this has not been put in place, and where they exist, they have limited capacity. No special fund has been made available to ensure effective implementation of this important part of the law, and so we propose like for the Police, a Trust Fund for the Nigerian Correctional Service.
"We support all current efforts at criminal justice reforms. But, these reforms must be supported with the required human and material resources. If resources are effectively deployed, it will mitigate prison congestion, end the abuse of the remand system, improve the delivery of criminal justice services by the courts, enhance the capacity of law enforcement agents to act responsibly, accountably, and professionally, as well as ensure better safeguards for the rights of persons who are processed through the criminal justice system."