Stun Guns: Group Calls For Caution, As Reps shelve Introduction | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Stun Guns: Group Calls For Caution, As Reps shelve Introduction

Enugu, Police, herdsman
Posted: May 28, 2016 at 6:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Chukwudi Nweje


Civil society organizations (CSOs), have called for caution as the House of Representatives passed a resolution that asked Mr. Solomon Arase, Inspector General of Police (IGP) to shelve his planned introduction of stun guns for policemen in the metropolis.

The House of Representatives had recently passed a resolution that urged Mr. Arase to put on hold the proposal until such a time when the state of insecurity in the country would have abated reasonably.

The House resolution followed a motion by Hon. Ayodele Oladimeji, representing Ado Ekiti/Irepodun Ifelodun federal constituency of Ekiti State. Oladimeji had argued that introduction of stun guns would expose police officers and the citizenry to danger in the hands of hoodlums.

“The current high rate of robbery, kidnapping and general insecurity of lives and property in Nigeria needed concerted efforts of well-equipped police force,” he said.

He added that Nigerians presently live in fear, arising from insecurity and that withdrawing firearms would heighten the state of insecurity. He urged the police authorities to regularly train and retrain its personnel on the use of fire arms.

It could be recalled that Mr. Arase, as part of police reforms, had announced in February, at the Commissioners’ of Police conference held in Abuja that the Force will introduce stun guns to reduce the causality figures from misuse of firearms by policemen, “as persons who resist arrest and behave violently can be shot at without grievous bodily harm.”

The proposal was in response to widespread cases of ‘accidental discharges’ across the country, a phenomenon that have become a source of concern within and outside Nigeria.

The Nigerian Police seem to live the ‘Force’ in Section 3 of the Nigerian Police Act, that “There shall be established for Nigeria a police force to be known as the Nigeria Police Force (in this Act referred to as “the Force”) more than the general duties of “prevention and detection of crime, the apprehension of offenders, the preservation of law and order, the protection of life and property” as enshrined in Section 4 of the Act.

Article 4 of the Code of Conduct of the Nigerian Police that further stated that: “a police officer will never employ unnecessary force or violence and will use only such force in discharge of duty, as is reasonable in all circumstances. The use of force should be used only after discussion, negotiation and persuasion have been found to be inappropriate or ineffective. While the use of force is occasionally unavoidable, every police officer will refrain from unnecessary infliction of pain or suffering and will never engage in cruel, degrading or inhuman treatment of any person.”

However indications are that the Police have neither conformed to the Police Act nor complied with their Code of Conduct.

A 2009 report by Amnesty International (AI) had described the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) as executioners.  The report entitled “Nigeria Police kill at will” alleged high level of extra-judicial killing by the police. The report endorsed by Erwin van der Borght, Director of Africa Programme, claimed that “the Nigeria police are responsible for hundreds of unlawful killings every year.

“Police don’t only kill people by shooting them; they also torture them to death, often while they are in detention.”

As Nigerians who celebrated the February announcement of the IGP condemn the House of Representatives position, Mr. Okechukwu Nwanguma, National Coordinator of the Network on Police Reforms in Nigeria (NOPRIN) has called for caution.

He noted that both Mr. Arase and the House desired the same thing but only differed in approach.

“My reading of the resolution of the House of Representatives in response to the IGP’s plan to introduce stun guns is that both the IGP and the House share common concerns about abuse of firearms by police officers and the need to ensure that the capability of the police to effectively fight crime is not compromised.

“But the IGP and the House only seem to vary in approach. And I think this issue calls for hard thinking and public debate to clarify issues and reach a common understanding.

“Expert opinions are needed and the best way to aggregate and articulate  opinions is for the House to call for a public hearing on  the whole issue of reducing extrajudicial killings and strengthening the operational capability of the police to discharge their functions of providing public safety and security without violating human rights,” he said.

Nwanguma, argued that: “Most of what police claim to be ‘accidental discharges’ are actually premeditated cases of extrajudicial killing.”

He questioned why trained policemen “so frequently kill, accidentally, the people they are employed and paid to serve and protect,” and concluded that the Police only try to cover the act by calling it accidental discharge, “due to the rarity of police investigations into these frequent cases of killings by their personnel, with a view to determining if any killing was intentional or accidental.”

In 2014, Emmanuel Ojukwu, then Force Public Relations Officer (FPRO) had also said at a Forum of Spokespersons of Security and Response Agencies (FOSSRA)/I-Nigerian Initiative media briefing in Abuja, that “there is nothing like accidental discharge because every gun has a safety lever. You must have cocked the gun before it fired and you only cock a gun when you have the intention of firing…”

The position of the House of Representatives has created anxiety considering that Mr. Arase is due for retirement in June, and it is not clear whether his successor will share his passion for checking abuses by police officers. Mr. Arase also introduced the Complaints Response Unit (CRU), a platform through which members of the public can report abuses by police officers in the discharge of their duties.