A Coalition of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) has called on the Nigerian government to live up to its responsibility by ensuring effective and efficient implementation of the laws on torture.
The CSOs comprising Prisoners Rehabilitation and Welfare Action (PRAWA) and 15 others, noted the need to focus on prevention, protection, accountability and access to justice for torture victims and provision of requisite rehabilitation services to victims/survivors of torture.
This was contained in a statement signed by the CSOs on the celebration of the UN day in support of torture victims, titled, ‘Need for civil society organisations to stand in the gap for humanity.’
Nigerians were called to pay attention and kick against all acts of torture by the CSOs, who also charged them to be part of interventions targeted at prevention of torture, protection and rehabilitation of torture victims/survivors.
The statement reads: “The CSOs should take up the mantle of leadership in terms of advocacy and awareness creation on issues of torture, especially the amendment of our laws to accommodate the rights of victims/survivors of torture to rehabilitation.
“CSOs should lead by providing support and strengthening capacity of the relevant institutions saddled with the responsibility of implementation of the Anti-Torture Act 2017, especially regarding the implementation of section 10 on ensuring that the function of overseeing the implementation shall be specifically assigned to a particular office or unit of the agency concerned.
“Section 11 ensures that education and information regarding the prohibition against torture are fully included in the training of law enforcement personnel, civil or military, medical personnel, public officials and other persons, who may be involved in the custody, interrogation or treatment of any individual subjected to any form of arrest, detention or imprisonment and Section 12 of the Act on the making of rules and regulations for the effective implementation of this Act.”
Arresting agencies were urged to allow oversight agencies and civil society organizations unfettered access to detention facilities and to also keep a central database that provides real-time statistics of the number of persons in their custody.
The group also emphasized the need for collaborations to ensure there are no duplication of efforts and waste of resources.
According to the statement, the celebration of UN Day in Support of Torture Victims should be utilised for sober reflection on the progress Nigeria has made in the fight against torture. There are unfortunately obvious indications that Nigeria, they said, is losing previous milestones seemingly achieved in the fight against torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.
“The response of law enforcement agents to the COVID 19 pandemic lockdown, the security sectors’ response to the #EndSARS campaign and general policing in the face of deteriorating security situation in the country, including responses to activities of armed bandits, kidnappers, ‘unknown gunmen’, separatist agitators, have exposed in glaring terms, the consistent and incessant resort to torture by law enforcement agents in the course of performance of their duties,” the statement emphasised.
The CSOs however, noted that in spite of the robust legal framework, incessant use of torture in Nigeria remains the order of the day, raising genuine concerns regarding the willingness and capacity of responsible government institutions and agencies to effectively and efficiently implement the several laws prohibiting torture and bring perpetrators to book.
This, they said, had ensured accountability for perpetrators of torture remained a mirage. Though the law clearly provides for the liability and punishment of perpetrators, the general public is yet to see cases of torture successfully prosecuted in the country, the group said, adding that perpetrators still get away with their crime, a situation, which further emboldens others to engage in torture.