Posted by News Express | 22 April 2016 | 2,556 times
The rate of human rights violations by the police has reached an unpardonable dimension, especially in the South-East which suffers unprecedented level of arbitrary arrests, extortion on the roads and killing of persons who fail to comply with their demand for bribes. As part of the solution, the National Assembly has been challenged to begin the process of setting up an independent Police Ombudsman that would probe all uses of firearms by police and other security agencies, even as it plans to send a proposal, by way of a bill, for the establishment of an Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).
A non-governmental pro-democracy human rights organisation, the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), which disclosed this during a chat with journalists yesterday, noted that “same breaches are replicated in virtually all parts of the country, while police detention has now become killing fields whereby extrajudicial executions happen at will.”
The National Coordinator of the group, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, who addressed the conference, expressed regret that police officers have not made such detention centres accessible for scrutiny by credible civil society and human rights groups in Nigeria. “The Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation who is the chief law officer of Nigeria should do the needful by partnering with the relevant governmental agencies to liberalise access to all detention centres run by security agencies for open investigation. Nigeria currently is administered as a Police State, even with the promulgation of the Administration of Justice Act of 2015 which outlaws torture.”
On the issue of respect for the integrity of the person, including freedom from arbitrary or unlawful deprivation of life, Comrade Onwubiko rued: “We are painfully aware of the current human rights reports by the United States’ government, which gravely indicted Nigeria for gross human rights abuses. Most of these violations of the rights of Nigerian are committed by men and officers of the police. It is sad to say that more Nigerians are killed by police through extra-legal means than through motor accidents. We agree with the damning human rights report that contains incriminating details of how Nigeria Police Force violate human rights of Nigerians as stressed in the comprehensive and objective report authored by the government of the United States as recently released.
“The Constitution and law prohibit torture and provide punishment for abuses. The Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), passed during the year, prohibits torture, and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment of arrestees, but until its adoption by the states it only applied in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and to federal agencies. As of November only Lagos, Ekiti, and Anambra States had adopted the ACJA. An Anti-Torture Bill, passed by both houses of the National Assembly and awaiting the president’s signature, defined torture and prohibited its use. Reports indicated security service personnel regularly tortured, beat, and abused demonstrators, criminal suspects, militants, detainees, and convicted prisoners. Police repeatedly mistreated civilians to extort money. The law prohibits the introduction of evidence and confessions obtained through torture into trials. Authorities did not respect this prohibition, however, and police often used torture to extract confessions later used to convict suspects.”
HURIWA regretted that despite the foregoing provisions, the US report noted: “The government and its agents committed numerous arbitrary and unlawful killings. The national police, army, and other security services committed extrajudicial killings and used lethal and excessive force to apprehend criminals and suspects as well as to disperse protesters. Authorities generally did not hold police, military, or other security force personnel accountable for the use of excessive or deadly force or for the deaths of persons in custody. State and federal panels of inquiry investigating suspicious deaths did not make their findings public. Security agents’ use of excessive force, including live ammunition to disperse demonstrators, resulted in numerous killings during the year.”
Describing the police as presently constituted as a failed experiment, Onwubiko recalled what he called show of shame displayed by the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mr Solomon Arase in the Oruru matter, “whereby he told Nigerians that police could not rescue the abducted 14-year-old girl, even when they knew she was kept in the Emir of Kano’s palace.”
“As if that scandal is not shameful enough, the IGP reportedly held a so-called peace meeting with Fulani Herdsmen and Agatu indigenous community leaders of Benue State in the wake of the devastation of that farming community by armed Fulani herdsmen; and there was a statement attributed to a leader of the Fulani who confessed that the killings in Agatu took place because 10,000 cows were stolen.
The IGP failed the litmus test of law enforcement and violated the Nigerian Constitution and the Police Act by refusing to arrest for further investigation and prosecution that man who clearly sought to justify the genocide of Agatu farmers by armed Fulani herdsmen.”
Unimpressed with the reported failure of the IGP to do his job, the HURIWA boss said: “The duty of the police is not alternative dispute resolution, but law enforcement in line with the Police Act, which states in sections 3, 4: ‘The police shall be employed for the prevention and detection of crime, the apprehension of offenders, the preservation of law and order, the protection of life and property and the due enforcement of all laws and regulations with which they are directly charged, and shall perform such military duties within or without Nigeria, as may be required of them by, or under the authority of, this or any other act.’”
The group called on the National Assembly to do its oversight roles over the police, even as it proposed the setting up of state and local police as the best model of crime detection and control.
Recommending the policing experience of UK, US and other civilised societies, HURIWA urged the National Assembly to begin the process of setting up an independent police ombudsman that would probe all uses of firearms by police and other security agencies, so as to determine if extra-legal killings have happened any time cases of killings by police or security agents occur.
“We will send a proposal by way of a bill for the establishment of the Nigerian Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), to be patterned after what is in place in the UK.”
•Photo shows IGP Arase.
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