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Police and rights violation

Posted by The Punch on 2005/08/05 | Views: 253 |

Police and rights violation


The impunity and brutality that characterise policing in Nigeria were spotlighted last week, when Human Rights Watch, HRW, an international rights watchdog, accused the Nigeria Police of routine involvement in extrajudicial killings, torture and rape of suspects in detention.

The impunity and brutality that characterise policing in Nigeria were spotlighted last week, when Human Rights Watch, HRW, an international rights watchdog, accused the Nigeria Police of routine involvement in extrajudicial killings, torture and rape of suspects in detention.

The dawn of democracy in 1999 and ongoing government reforms, the body says, have not changed the trend. Part of the report states: “Both senior and lower level Police officers commit or order the torture and mistreatment of criminal suspects. Majority of the victims are ordinary criminal suspects arrested for crimes ranging from petty theft to armed robbery. Many of these arrests were unlawful and arbitrary, because the Police failed to inform the suspects of their reasons for arrest or produce evidence against them.”

The Federal Government was, nevertheless, swift in dismissing the report as false, despite the weighty evidence in favour of the report. Mr. Frank Nweke Jnr., the Minister of Information and National Orientation, claimed that torture was not a routine Police practice in the country. According to him, the HRW report was based on the “accounts of a few unnamed, unidentified persons.” But HRW said it based its report on more than 50 interviews with victims and witnesses of the inhuman treatment complained about in Lagos, Enugu, Kano, Anambra, Benue and Katsina states, as well as Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory.

Indeed, the same day Nweke was defending the Police, the FG panel probing the summary execution of the “Apo 6” by policemen in Abuja was told how a Deputy Commissioner of Police, DCP, Danjuma Ibrahim, allegedly twisted the neck of the only female among them until she died. The Civil Liberties Organisation, CLO, had likewise declared recently that a conservative estimate of about 14,000 Nigerians were killed in extrajudicial circumstances mostly perpetrated by the Police from 1999 to date; while Police torture and sundry rights violations were on the increase. Even a United Nations’ Human Rights Rapporteur recently remarked that the killing, by the Police, of innocent citizens and labelling them as armed robbers, and the Police’s denial of wrongdoing when they commit such atrocities, were recurring decimals in Nigeria.

The Police Mobile Force is nicknamed “Kill and Go” because its members are notorious for extrajudicial killing. For refusing to part with a N20 gratification, they have sent many commercial vehicle drivers to their early graves, while on daily basis, policemen harass law abiding citizens and boast that they can “waste you” and “nothing will happen.” When the Police arrest bandits or illegally raid streets, drinking parlours and joints, most of those arrested, who could not bribe their way to freedom, are often tortured and dumped in the prison for years on holden charges, without any credible evidence to prosecute them. Suspects not so lucky are rounded up and “wasted,” like the alleged killing of about 19 fuel price hike riot victims in Kaduna, whose secret burial in the Tudun Wada area of the city last year almost sparked violence. There are hundreds of such or related instances nationwide.

Nweke’s hasty response, without finding time to reflect on or probe the grave allegations, obviously represents government’s insensitive verdict on Police impunity. It is no surprise, therefore, that no remarkable progress has been made on Police reform. The minister’s unfortunate response shows how far removed the government is from the people who suffer Police atrocities daily. Most baffling, too, is the seeming impotence and insensitivity of the National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, an FG agency that should monitor and curb rights violation.

The government must realise, however, that the world is now a global community that can hardly be deceived. Nigeria’s image will continue to be tarnished as a country where brutality and rights violation thrive, until the Police force is truly reformed and humanised.

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Fay(Katy, Texas, US)says...

Actually translates to bravehearted.