Two out of every five Nigerians reports being mistreated by the police; one in five says he has been threatened with a gun by the police. Extortion at police checkpoints is common. A recent Human Rights Watch report documented the brutal treatment by police officers of criminal suspects, some of whom died as a result of their injuries. Police reform is critical to promoting human rights in Nigeria. When citizens cannot trust the police, the public face of government, civil society is at risk.
In Nigeria, where spiraling crime and a history of military dictatorship have left the police ill-equipped to respond effectively, the CLEEN Foundation is devoted to police reform by reducing police violations of human rights and setting police accountability standards. CLEEN is reconstructing public confidence in this vital institution of civic society.
With CLEEN’s assistance, Nigeria’s Police Service Commission, a novel civilian-led oversight body, published the country’s first police conduct guidelines during the 2003 elections. CLEEN is also helping to hold police accountable for misconduct, working directly with the police to track and respond to complaints. CLEEN launched community policing forums across the country, where residents now have a direct voice in law enforcement. The Foundation’s outreach effort includes production of radio programming and an award-winning television series on police-community relations.
CLEEN is adept at translating abstract human rights concepts into everyday matters of justice, human dignity, and professional ethics—and in making the Nigerian Police Force a partner in reform. It seeks to constructively engage the police in dialogue to both advance human rights and their own effectiveness. It is also helping to bridge the mutual suspicion that human rights advocates and the police hold toward each other. CLEEN’s quarterly journal on human rights, Law Enforcement Review, is widely read by both police officials and advocates. CLEEN has become a trusted ambassador because it is able to work within the system and not simply agitate from the outside.
A leading policy reform organization, CLEEN is now at a stage where it can more widely disseminate the effective programs it has developed throughout Nigeria and elsewhere. As one of six members of the international Altus network of justice-sector reform organizations, its influence already extends beyond Nigeria’s borders. CLEEN expects soon to host 18 civil society representatives from Liberia, Sierra Leone, Gambia, and Ghana for a training and internship program on public safety and justice. With continued support, CLEEN will remain a catalyst for deeper collaboration and engagement between the police and the people they are meant to protect.
Grantee Profile: Learn more about CLEEN Foundation