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Police Brutally and Nigerian Democracy: An Appraisal of Buhari’s Administration


Ever since Nigeria returned to democratic rule in 1999, there appears to be a general consensus that the true tenets of democratic policing and observance of human rights has not been fully realized. Democratic policing emphasized responsive and representative policing, accountability and transparency to the public, preventive and effective in crime control, possessing the requisite education and training as well as professionalism in all respect. All these are sourced from international best practices of what is good policing and given credence by the United Nations and other international instruments. For example, the Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials serves as the model for every police organization that seeks to operate in a free democratic society. Here individual rights are guaranteed even though they are not absolute, but the police, in carrying out its duties, try to balance the equation and follow the “rules of engagement” permitted by law and not otherwise.  In Nigeria however, our research findings established that the Nigeria Police Force has not completely detached itself from the apron string of police brutality as a result of ever increasing acts of Torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, extra-judicial, summary and arbitrary executions arbitrary arrests, excessive use of force, unhealthy detention centers and other human right violations.  Nigeria‟s colonial past and the lacunas of the current Police Act have been identified as the militating factors inhibiting effective democratic policing. These obstacles must therefore be jettison in favour of innovative attributes that can boost democratic policing in Nigeria. For this to be achieved, behavioral, administrative and most importantly, legislative reform initiatives must be put in place. This will in no small measure enhanced and sustain good policing, democracy and the observance of human rights.




  • Background of study

In most countries, it has been accepted that democracy is the only system of government that seeks to protect individual liberty and guarantee the fundamental rights of all. The pursuit of these rights is however not absolute as there exist state institutions like the police whose mandate is to maintain law and order and curtail the citizenry‟s excesses within constitutional means hence:

Police power is the exercise of the sovereign right of government to promote order, safety, health, morals, general welfare within constitutional limits and it is an essential attribute of government‟ Indeed, the police are the outward civil authority of the power and might of a civilized country. The generality of the public is potentially affected one way or another by their action or inaction.


What this presupposes is that while democracy allows or guarantees freedom, the police as an institution policed that freedom and in carrying out this function, they are expected to operate within existing democratic norms, else the essence of democracy becomes defeated. This is because the role of police and the existence of these norms remain the standard benchmark in ascertaining an acceptable democratic system. As a result, most of the policing applications that are classified as democratic policing practices in an ideal society are designed to ordinarily promote democratic principles and human rights. In Nigeria however, many dilemma arose concerning the way and manner the police carry out its statutory responsibilities. Top on the striking balance of this is the need to respect the inalienable rights of citizens while carrying out their legitimate duties. These duties ought to be performed within the context of existing rules duly fashioned and recognized. It is however regrettable that despite more than a decade of democratic governance, Nigerians are still faced with lots of human rights abuses in the hand of the police. Contrary to what democracy represents, the police is still largely authoritarian in nature .  McCulley  opines that the state of human rights violations by police officials is becoming a culture of impunity and this includes arbitrary arrest, extra-judicial killings, illegal detention and destruction of property by security forces etc. The question therefore is how democratic is the Nigeria Police Force and how well have they imbibe democratic policing principles? What is their response level with regards to the observance of human rights since 1999? It has been correctly pointed out that the police have not performed well in this regard.


The Guardian editorial opined:

The truth is that the police system in Nigeria is decadent at several levels, not least of which is the tunnel vision of our police men in their operational approach to investigations and the treatment of suspects and detainees. Driven by overwhelming corrupt tendencies, they are rooted to a mixed bag of torture tactics that have nothing to do with the enforcement of the law or the promotion of justice… Nigerians know too well that whether accepting commissions from individuals or groups to settle scores against antagonists, opponents or offenders, whether hounding persons or groups in the name of the state or making suspects plead guilty to a crime not committed in order to be saved from police brutality, or whether committing sexual violence against female detainees, our police are adept to making life hell on earth for their victims.


Reuben Abati observed further:

…the Nigeria Police Force is one of the most unpopular institutions in Nigeria today; it is distrusted by the same people whose lives and property it is meant to protect, and this has resulted into a resort to self-help in many ways. Every year, the Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch as well as local civil society organizations report on many cases of police brutality, police inefficiency and corruption. The crime rate is on the increase and the police have proven to be helpless and overwhelmed. This has been so in nearly every instance, be the matter of armed robbery, kidnapping, ethno religious violence or financial fraud. It is also generally regarded as a corrupt police force with policemen collecting bribes openly and showing tendencies of thuggery and mendicancy. It is so bad that rich persons hire the police for all kinds of unlawful purpose, or simply as bodyguards to oppress the less privileged.


In spite of the foregoing, it has been shown that there are inherent factors responsible for this negative impasse. One of such is the impact of Nigeria‟s colonial/ military history. The annexation of Lagos by the British in 1861 and the subsequent establishment of a Consular Guard were solely to protect British economic interest and so no foundation was properly laid for a civil and genuine police force for Nigeria.

Consequently, the occurrence of youth’s violence in present Nigeria is on the proliferation and it has generated public worries as the violence is seen as anti-thesis to individual’s and national development. Nigeria has become a violence-prone nation with the youths at the centre of most of it. No part of Nigeria is immune from one form of violence or the other, ranging from Boko Haram insurgency, herdsmen-farmer’s crisis, ethno-religious crises, kidnapping, armed robbery, terrorism, and EndSARS protest among others. Against this background, this paper, therefore examines the youth’s movement, EndSARS protest in particular and challenges confronting youth in the country. Consequently, the paper is divided into seven sections. Section one provides an introduction while section two deals with the conceptual framework. Section three deals with the empirical review, while section four examines youths and Nigerian police on EndSARS protest. This explains the deteriorated relationship between Nigerian youths and NPF. Section five explains the challenges confronting Nigerian youths while section six offers recommendations and section seven provided for the conclusion.

  • Statement of problem

Policing a democratic state entails the ideals of the rule of law and human rights as its core principles. The rule of law emphasizes the need for all persons and institutions including law enforcement agencies (police) to be responsive to the tenets of all democratic laws that are consistent with human rights standards. These standards have assumed universal acceptance to the extent that there is a duty imposed on law enforcement officials to, at all times respect and obey the law, protect all persons against illegal acts and protect human dignity and maintain and uphold the human rights of all.

The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) in line with international norms and obligations contains human rights provisions to protect the rights of citizens. The constitution also established the Nigeria Police Force with the statutory duty of maintaining law and order. This duty must however conform to standard best practices that reflect the tenets of the rule of law and human rights observance. Unfortunately, the overall performance of the police in Nigeria leaves much to be desired. The force appears more adept to paramilitary operations, anti democratic tendencies and abuse of police powers. Incessant abuses such as arbitrary arrest, illegal detention, torture, inhuman and other degrading treatment as well as extra judicial killings are common place. Besides, democratic policing attributes like the rule of law, accountability, responsive/representative policing and respect for human rights are essentially lacking.  The shortfall stems from the lapses in the Police Act and the inefficiency and ineffectiveness in the overall operation and execution of policing generally which if critically viewed together do not help to create a police force that respect the rights of citizens as guaranteed under the constitution and other international human rights conventions which Nigeria has signed and ratified.

The effectiveness of the police is largely dependent upon public support and that support is contingent upon the public‘s view that the police are exercising their authority in a legitimate manner. It‘s thus important to give critical and constant scrutiny to these structures as police are given extraordinary amount of discretional authority. The issue of police brutality must be properly analyzed to ensure law enforcement retains its legitimacy while maintaining public support. This study will focus on the perception of youths towards police brutality, injustice and the endsars protest in Nigeria.


  • Objectives of study

The overall objective study is to assess the police brutality and Nigerian democracy in Buhari’s administration.

Other Objectives

  1. To determine the level of police brutality in Buhari’s administration.
  2. To determine the causes of injustice among Nigerian police officers in Buhari’s administration.
  3. To determine the effect of the endsars protest on police brutality.


  • Research Questions
  1. What is the level of police brutality in Buhari’s administration?
  2. What are the causes of injustice among Nigerian police officers in Buhari’s administration?
  3. What the effect of the endsars protest on police brutality?


  • Hypothesis of study

H01: There is no significant difference in the perceptions of the youths in Buhari’s administration on police brutality and injustice.


H02: There is no significant effect of the endsars protest on police brutality.

1.6 Significance of study

The Nigerian police force is the primary provider of security in Nigeria, the force is saddled with the responsibility of protecting human lives and properties, however, over the years, the police system has been seen to deviate from its core responsibilities and duties. This research work will provide a documentation of the actions of the police force leading to police brutality, injustice and the endsars protest.

This will provide information to policy makers to make changes in the police system in order to arrest the current injustice and brutality meted by the police force to citizens.

This research will serve academic purposes on the subject of police brutality and add context to the argument around the endsars protest.


1.7 Scope of The Study

The study will cover on police brutality, police injustice and the endsars protest in Buhari’s administration

The research will be limited to the Youths of Oyo state.


1.8 Limitation of The Study

Financial constraint– Insufficient fund tends to impede the efficiency of the researcher in sourcing for the relevant materials, literature or information and in the process of data collection (internet, questionnaire and interview).

Time constraint– The researcher will simultaneously engage in this study with other academic work. This consequently will cut down on the time devoted for the research work.


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