#NigeriaDecides2023: UNODC and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights partner with the Nigerian Police Force to enhance police accountability during the 2023 Elections

As Nigerians head to the polls tomorrow to exercise their democratic right, most will interact with security agencies responsible for policing the elections and ensuring that citizens are able to cast their votes freely and safely. As the lead security agency supporting the electoral process, the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) is tasked with ensuring the safety and security of persons and property, ensuring strict compliance and enforcement of the Constitution, the Electoral Act, the Police Act and all other laws, managing crowds and generally providing a conducive environment for the peaceful conduct of elections.[1]

But who polices the police, particularly during the elections? The Police Complaints Response Unit (CRU), the internal oversight body of the NPF, has, since 2015, managed a public-facing, technology-based complaints system designed to respond to all cases of police misconduct that might occur during police-citizen interactions.  Once complaints have been investigated, the Unit makes recommendations to the Inspector General of Police who then directs the cases to the NPF’s disciplinary bodies. CRU officers then report back to complainants about the status of their complaints and how they have been resolved. There are also  external oversight bodies such as the Police Service Commission (PSC) and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), working to promote greater police transparency and accountability in their interactions with the public.

The Police Service Commission (PSC) is charged, amongst other things, with the responsibility for appointing and promoting persons to offices (other than the office of the Inspector-General of Police) in the Nigeria Police Force, as well as to dismiss and exercise disciplinary control over persons (other than the Inspector-General of Police) in the NPF.[2] The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) is tasked with the promotion, protection and enforcement of human rights. Through their offices in all 36 states and a toll-free hotline, NHRC is equipped to receive, investigate and make recommendations regarding complaints on alleged police misconduct, irrespective of the issue.

In addition to these formally mandated police oversight bodies, there are a number of civil society organizations engaged in police reform and oversight processes, including the CLEEN Foundation, the Network on Police Reform in Nigeria (NOPRIN), the Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre (RULAAC), among many others.

UNODC, in partnership with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), has recently launched two police oversight and accountability projects, with support from the United States Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs and the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund. The projects aim at strengthening the capacities of the CRU, PSC, NHRC and CSOs to effectively handle complaints of police misconduct, and strengthen cooperation and referral mechanisms among police oversight institutions and between the CRU and internal disciplinary bodies. The projects will also support the CRU’s expansion to additional states, namely in Enugu, Kano, Lagos and Rivers.

In the context of these projects, UNODC and OHCHR were recently able to bring together approximately 40 representatives of the CRU as well as state and civil society l police oversight institutions to discuss their mandates, clarify their complaints referral mechanisms and formulate key messages for dissemination to the public on the role of police on electoral duty, and how they can report police misconduct to police oversight bodies.

A key output of the workshop was the creation of a referral contact list to facilitate communication and collaboration among stakeholders and identify phone numbers and social media handles through which the public can report police misconduct. Workshop participants were also able to formulate strategic messages for dissemination to the public on social media, radio and other platforms, to encourage reporting of police misconduct during the elections.

For the elections to be free, fair and credible, it is important that Nigerians support the Nigeria Police in carrying out their lawful duties. However, Nigerians should not hesitate to report any police misconduct during the elections to the CRU via 08057000001/08057000002; PSC via 07034072677/07034072676; or NHRC via 08006472428/6472

[1] Source: Revised Standard Operational Guidelines/Rules for Police Officers and other Law Enforcement Agents on Election Security Duties, Nigeria Police Force, December 2022.