Making a Complaint about the Police in Nigeria
‘Police is your friend’
We have all either heard or seen a radio advert/TV advert/billboard telling us this – ‘police is your friend’…for a lot of people that phrase is an oxymoron. The reality is that almost all of us (or someone we know) has had a bad experience of dealing with the police. So, when we see the PR efforts being employed by the police to tell us they are ‘our friends’, rather than actually change the way they operate and ‘show’ us they are really our friends, a lot of people are sceptical.
In any case, whether you believe the police is your friend is a discussion for another day, right now, we want to share with you how you can deal with the police when they show their ‘not so friendly’ side.
What can you complain about?
You can make complaints for unprofessional conduct carried out by police officers. The complaints must be against a police officer in his/her official capacity or personal capacity, or against actions carried out by the Police generally. This includes when police officers request for people to pay for bail (police bail is free in Nigeria – or at least should be), to demanding bribes and extortion, issues of police officers being inappropriately used as debt collectors, to even more serious things like beatings, brutality and extrajudicial killing.
How to make a complaint?
Below are the steps you should follow when you want to make a complaint about the police:
Step 1 – This is the first and most important thing – DO NOT ANTAGONISE THEM. If you are upset or unhappy do not get into an argument with them, you need to ensure that your safety is paramount. Be respectful, make your point, but don’t insult or abuse a police officer. Most police men are armed and getting into an argument with an armed individual is never a good idea.
Step 2 – Do not threaten them, even if you intend to make a complaint do not use it as a threat to goad them, you are doing the same thing we have just warned you against in (1) above.
Step 3 – Take note of the Policeman’s name, it is written boldly on their uniform. Note down the date, time and place of commission of the issue you are complaining about.
Step 4 – Write a covering letter detailing the nature of your complaint and what transpired. If you have witnesses to the act complained about, have the witness write a statement as well. Put all your contact information (and those of the witness if any) on the correspondence (however, if it is a sensitive issue you may decide to make the complaint anonymously). Include any additional information like pictures, videos, or documents to buttress your complaint. (Do not take pictures or videos of the policeman as it might antagonise them further. You can make the complaint with just the policeman’s name – remember your safety is paramount.)
Step 5 – Send it to the Complaint Response Unit of the Nigerian Police Force. Their contact details are below. (We advise you send it by email, it is easier and quicker):
- Address – First Floor, Force Headquarter, Louis Edet House, Shehu Shagari Way, Central Area, Abuja.
- Email – email@example.com
Step 6 – Ensure you get confirmation of receipt of your complaint, if not follow up with them via their dedicated contact channels:
- Phone calls: 0805 700 0001 | 0805 700 0002
- SMS and WhatsApp: 0805 700 0003
- Twitter: @PoliceNG_PCRRU
- BBM: 5BA2B5DE
If for any reason you are unable to send a complaint letter via email or you do not want to lodge an official complaint but only want to make the Police aware of an issue, then you can just jump to step 5 and contact them using the channel which is most convenient for you.
The CRU have set a timeline of 7 days for the resolution of complaints.
Remember, the Nigerian Police Force exists to protect the safety and security of the lives and property of Nigerians, it is their job! It is your duty to hold them to the standard they have set for themselves in their vision statement – ‘To make Nigeria safer and more secure for economic development and growth; to create a safe and secure environment for everyone living in Nigeria’.
Now although this article is about making complaints, we do know that there are a number of professional and diligent police officers in the Police Force who sometimes go above and beyond the call of duty when dealing with members of the public. When you come across these individuals, thank them and let them know that you appreciate them, and you can also contact the CRU’s channels to commend specific officers, make a note of their names and what they did that was so special, and then let the CRU know. Positive feedback can also help in changing the ‘culture’ of the Nigerian Police Force.
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We hope you have found this information helpful. Please note that this information is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice. No lawyer-client relationship is formed nor should any such relationship be implied. This answer is not intended to substitute for the advice of a qualified lawyer. If you require legal advice, please consult with a qualified lawyer.