Critical security stakeholders in the country, have called for the proper funding of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), as the key to ending money for bail syndrome.
Speaking at a one-day Civil Society Organisation/Media Engagement on ‘ Police Bail Process and Citizens’ Rights’ , organised by the Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre(RULAAC), in partnership with the Nigerian Policing Program (NPP), stakeholders noted that for the practicality of ‘ bail is free’, the government must adequately fund the operations of the police.
While commenting on the reason for the engagement, the Executive Director of RULAAC, Mr Okechukwu Nwanguma said the engagement was aimed at increasing public awareness on the NPF bail process and to clarify the rights of citizens and powers and duties of the police within the bail process under the law.
He said without allocation to police formations, it may be difficult to implement bail is free. According to him: “ The issue of bail is free or not is an everyday discussion.
It is boldly inscribed at police formations, but people who go to secure the release of their loved ones or friend, still complain that they are made to pay for bail.
While many people have been complaining about bail money collection by the police, the police officers themselves, have also complained of lack of funding.
“ We also know there are a lot of abuse associated with the collection of bail. People are detained and not released because they didn’t pay bail money. People are even charged to court for offenses they did not commit because they could not pay bail money.
Police officers are also not denying that this things happen, but the problem is with funding, and it has become a systemic challenge, and the police has come to see them as normal. So this conversation is in search of solution.
“ If we don’t address the root cause of corruption, which includes funding, welfare and equipping the force, bail is free may only be a cliche. The police don’t even have the basic funds to do the basic things.
We should go beyond making laws but providing the basic facilities to comply with laws, so that they are less prone to corruption, and we will also reduce human rights violations.
You don’t expect Divisional Police Officers (DPOs) and Area Commanders to use their salaries to run their stations.”
Nwanguma noted further that at the end of the interaction, the report will be sent to the appropriate police quarters to address the issues raised.
Similarly, Mr Malachy Ugwummadu, President, Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), said that the police may be underfunded, yet, that does not give them licence to collect money for bail as the law of the land stipulate free bail.
Ugwummadu said underfunding of the force should not be an excuse to run fowl of the law, calling for sanctions for any police officer who errs.
He said, “ First is to appreciatee that there is gross underfunding in the entire police operation in Nigeria and I think that has created some impact on the processes and procedures adopted by the police generally, including the granting of bail.
What is not very clear is to what extent that insufficiency and lack of adequate funding impact on the express fundamental right of citizens.
There is also lack of knowledge on this matter, and not having the capacity to challenge the system, people just give in rather than seek redress.
On human rights, Ugwummadu said the law that stipulated for the detention of suspect was still in force, stressing that no police officer has the power to detain any person beyond 24 hours, except through court authorization.
In her submission, Mrs Ene Sarah Unobe, Executive Director, International Centre for Human Rights Nonviolence and Safety Awareness, the police should not be blamed alone for collecting bail money, as she also accused the court of same offence.
Unobe revealed that some persons preferred to give bail money to the police, rather than court for obvious reasons.
She noted that many people are in different prisons today due to lack of capacity to meet bail conditions, calling on those in authorities to also look into the court bail conditions.
Present at the event were DPOs, representative of various police formations, lawyers and media practitioners.
The police officers revealed that they do not get allocations form the police high comand to run the operations of their units, ‘ not even for fuelng and stationeries’, they said.
They added that they sometimes depend on bail money and goodwill to run their units