• Amnesty Int’l , Global Rights, RULAAC canvass full implementation of Police Act
Despite #EndSARS protests against police brutality nationwide in 2020, Nigeria recorded 164 cases of extra-judicial killing between January and September 2021, Global Rights, an international human rights organisation based in Washington D.C., has revealed in a new report.
With this rising trajectory, according to the report, the federation may record more cases of extra-judicial killing in the current year than about 271 incidents documented in 2020, the year #EndSARS campaign erupted.
This figure was revealed in the latest mass atrocities tracking report, which monthly measures the incidence of violent attacks, clashes, terrorism, kidnappings, and extrajudicial killings across all states of the federation.
In 2020, the report put killings that resulted from communal clashes at 407 (9.13%), extra-judicial killing 271 (6.08%), herdsmen killing 270 (6.06%), cult-gang killings 247 (5.54), isolated killings 185 (4.15), mob action 12 (0.26%), politically motivated killings 7 (0.15%) and pirate attacks 4 (0,09%).
As shown in its new report released to THISDAY at the weekend, the report said nine cases of extra-judicial killing were recorded in October 2020, seven in November 2020 and seven in December 2020.
In 2021, however, the report claimed that the cases of extra-judicial killing increased to 14 in January; plunged to three in February; rose again to six in March; six in April; nine in May; 12 in June; 23 in July; 14 in August and 77 in September.
In a statement by its Executive Director, Ms Abiodun Baiyewu, Global Rights challenged the federal government and citizens of Nigeria to introspect on the definition of nationhood, citizenship and democracy.
“The event, which reached tipping point right after the marking of the nation’s anniversary, was a watershed moment in the nation’s history and must not be forgotten by both the demand and supply sides of governance.
“We remind all Nigerians that at the crux of the #EndSARS protests is a simple cry for dignity. The right to live without oppression in their own country. A right to fair hearing. A right to freedom from discrimination. A right to life. All rights guaranteed by the country’s constitution.
“The right to hold dissenting opinions and the right to protest are constitutionally protected rights for all persons. Governance will be a more productive venture when citizens feel listened to and heard by the elected representatives and public officers.”
Section 14(2) (b) of the Constitution states that the security and welfare of the people “shall be the primary purpose of government” while Section 17(2)(c) stipulated that government actions “shall be humane.
“If the government had simply followed the injunctions of the Constitution, it is very doubtful that the throes of young Nigerians will take to the streets no longer fearing the brutal treatment meted on protesters.”
Baiyewu tasked the government of Nigeria “to live up to its constitutional mandate of ensuring the security and welfare of all citizens by investigating and indicting the hoodlums that disrupted the peaceful protests, implementing the recommendations of the Judicial Panels on Police, and institute reforms to ensure that security forces respect the rights of citizens.”
Speaking with THISDAY yesterday, Country Director, Amnesty International, Ms Osai Ojigho admitted that people “have a lot of hope that things are going to change for the better, especially because the protest was nationwide.”
Despite Lekki shooting and excessive use of force across the federation during the #EndSARS protests, Ojigho said the decision of the government to set up judicial panel of inquiry to review complaints regarding police brutality signaled a lot of hope.
However, she noted that there “has not been a policy shift. The Police Act came into force in 2020. One will have expected by now, even without #EndSARS, some of the changes, should have been made.
“Recently, in Abuja, the police attacked the IMN protesters, who were peacefully going about their procession. We have sting operation across the country. We call it invasion of people’s privacy, violating human rights and people held for a long period of time without recourse to courts.
“When they are challenged, the people will say they are still investigating. What triggered #EndSARS protest against police brutality is more pervasive now because there is insecurity in the land. We are all experiencing it.
“Nearly every part of Nigeria is facing one form of insecurity or the other. The response of the government to it is to put in more force. In putting more force, there is more violence and insecurity has not abated.
“This shows that what people need is justice and accountability. People want to see officers who are terrorizing them or committing impunity, face justice before the law court. But this is not happening,” Ojigho lamented.
In a statement by its Executive Director, Okechukwu Nwanguma, the Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre (RULAAC) urged the federal government to fully implement the Police Act, which came into force in 2020.
Nwanguma noted that the #EndSARS protests should ordinarily propel the government “to see the need to initiate a comprehensive police reform programme to address the challenges and gaps that allowed the egregious misconducts that triggered the EndSARS protests.
One month before the EndSARS protests across the country, Nwanguma said President Muhammadu Buhari had signed into law the Police Act, which provided a framework to commence genuine and far-reaching police reform.
He said the new Police Act “has elaborate provisions for due process safeguards and how police officers should exercise their powers. The federal government acceded to the five-point of the EndSARS protesters.
In response to the demands, he said the Nigeria Police dissolved the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), reaffirmed the constitutional rights of Nigerians to peaceful assembly and protests; affirmed the sanctity of life of every Nigerian and the role of the Police in protecting this right.
In spite of these acknowledgments, the executive director said the federal government, at the same time resorted to vile tactics to suppress the peaceful protests before it eventually deployed naked force to brutally quell the protests by dispatching soldiers to open fire on the assembly of unarmed and peaceful protesters leading to loss of lives and injuries.
He lamented that police abuses “remain widespread with police officers engaging in the same patterns of abuse that sparked EndSARS.”
He cited the arrest and continued unlawful detention of Gloria Okorie by IRT and the refusal by the police to comply with court orders to release her.
He pointed out the indictment of the former head of the IGP Intelligence Response Team, DSP Abba Kyari by the FBI for abuse of power and for lending his police authority and position to aid and abet international fraud and benefitting from the proceeds of crime.
He noted that the instances “illustrate how police abuse and the failure by police authorities and the government to stamp out impunity have continued one year after the EndSARS protests.
“The opportunity provided by EndSARS has been bungled. Police authorities are still issuing Illegal orders banning peaceful protests and assembly- which are constitutionality guaranteed human rights.
“Government has moved from denials to partial admission and attempts to cover up the truth regarding what happened at the Lekki Toll Gate on October 20, 2020.
“There is no accountability yet for the perpetrators of police abuse. Impunity is still rife and the rule of law is in retreat. There have been controversy and disputations over the actual number of persons killed by the military at the Lekki Toll Gate on October 20, 2020.
“This has played out at the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry where the army, police, Lagos State government representatives, representatives of the EndSARS movement and the Chief Pathologist at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) gave testimonies and evidence.
“Different figures have been presented by different groups. One of the witnesses who testified at the Lagos State Judicial panel of inquiry said no less than 10 people were killed while several others were injured.
“But even if it was just one person killed, as Dele Giwa of blessed memory wrote, one life lost in cold blood is as gruesome as a million lives lost in a pogrom,” the executive disclosed.