Torture: New Haven Police station most notorious!

October 21, 2020
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*as officers bemoan abysmal welfare, working conditions
*appeal for system overhaul

From Chuks Collins, Awka

The New Heaven police station in Enugu state has been discovered to be reeking with filthy/inhuman and unhygienic cells intentionally designed to force suspects/detainees and their families pay any amount as gratification to avoid entering there. This was found to be a form of torture!

This was revealed during question and answer (Q&A)session at a One Day “Capacity Building Training Workshop for Senior Police Officers on the Anti-Torture Act(2017) and Other Legislation that Prohibit Torture” held in Awka, Anambra state capital.

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The workshop which was organized by a non-governmental organization under the aegis of Access to Justice and sponsored by the European Union and the British Council drew participants from different police formations across Anambra State.

The unfortunate discovery was made by one of the Resource Persons and Deputy Director(Investigations) Human Rights Commission, Mrs Uche Nwokocha while throwing more light on the Anti-Torture Act pointed out that notable sections of the Nigerian Constitution made “torture” an offense.

She noted that in the course of their duty, officers from the National Human Rights Commission toured various police detention cells and found the New Haven station in Enugu to be outrageously terrible. She therefore asked the participants in the workshop who are all senior police officers why they find it normal to make their cells filthy and nauseating. She said that virtually no cell visited could be accessed without covering noses with double masks. Using quoted relevant sections of the Nigerian Constitution, and the United Nations Conventions, she insisted that no one should use torture as a means of extracting information from anyone under whatever condition. That such was unlawful.

Sadly, none of the participating officers could give reason why they keep their cells so dirty and inhabitable for any human being, unlike one station in Uwani Enugu which was an award winner for its neatness. It was such that the Divisional Officer(DPO) normally give out mats to suspects and treats them as human beings whose rights and feelings must be respected.

However, poor working conditions and welfare for law enforcement officers and their dependents have been disclosed to be the greatest threat to a serving police officer in putting his best in the course of his duty.

The officers disclosed that despite observed efforts by the government to improve their emoluments and working conditions, more still need to be done in order for any officer especially those usually in the frontline.

According to her, Secs 33, 34 and 35 were very clear and sacrosanct about the rights of all persons. These include rights to life, human dignity, Liberty, fair hearing and freedom of association. She also noted the key line which states that “No one should be subjected to torture, degrading or inhuman treatment”.

Representative of Access to Justice -the facilitators of the workshop, Mr Deji Ajare, who is the Project Director assured the officers to remain above board in the discharge of their duties always, that a lot of grounds have been covered in tackling challenges they face on the job, including welfare.

He reminded the participants that no one should be criminalized in the course investigation, pointing out how a senior officer cried out publicly when his own son was extrajudicially killed without opportunity to defend himself. That they should not wait until it affects them personally before they know it’s pangs.

Participants also told another resource person, a Human Rights expert in Peace and Conflict Resolution, Austin Onuoha has indeed helped to deepen their knowledge on the provisions of the Torture Act(2017) and would surely play key role in the discharge of their duties henceforth.

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