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SARS inhumane detention centre at Abattoir, a crime against humanity – DPA

DPA Victory And Achievement Must Be Acknowledged

DPA has been fighting for justice, focusing on police atrocities and abuse of citizen’s rights. By sheer accident (providence), the police helped DPA in the pursuit of its mission. How did the police help DPA?

On July 6, 2018, the Abuja police command, headed by Mr. Bala Ciroma, CP, decided to detain the Founder of DPA, Barrister Emeka Ugwuonye (Emeka), at the Abattoir detention center in Abuja between July 6 and July 10, 2018.

When Emeka arrived at Abattoir, he was shocked to see a police-run detention center that held over 1000 detainees in a terribly congested space and in squalid and inhumane conditions, many for 2 years and longer.

Also, Emeka saw that the police have carried out several atrocities in Abattoir, including extra judicial executions of suspects, torture, starvation, extortion, drug distribution, and probably human body parts trading. Police officers at different levels were involved in these illegal acts.

Finally, spending time in Abattoir made it easy for Emeka to discover that Mr. Ciroma and his men have been embezzling 100% of money meant for the feeding of the detainees. As a result, many detainees starved to death in Abattoir.

While in Abattoir, Emeka interviewed hundreds of detainees and learned about the horrendous experiences they went through. The long detentions were mostly because the detainees could not afford either to buy their release on bail or to pay to be charged to court. (The police charge about N200,000 for a suspect to be charged to court).

Emeka immediately noted that the Nigerian police actually had more people in custody than the country’s prison service. Emeka concluded that these police detention centers were a form of illegal prisons in violation the Nigerian Constitution.

Upon his release, Emeka linked his observations and discoveries about Abattoir to DPA’s mission to end police atrocities in Nigeria. He therefore decided, as a first step, to expose what was happening in Abattoir.

He understood that Abattoir atrocities were possible mainly because the police managed to maintain secrecy around it. So, he reasoned that if Abattoir atrocities could be exposed, that might lead to ending the atrocities. With this in mind, Emeka got DPA to start the making of a documentary about Abattoir.

The documentary angered Mr. Bala Ciroma and his men. They were so scared of the consequences of the world discovering the crimes they committed in Abattoir. They moved to silence Emeka Ugwuonye and DPA by filing various fabricated criminal charges against Emeka.

They finally filed a phony murder and armed robbery charges against him and induced the judge to deny him bail. But it was too late. DPA already had the evidence and information it needed to fight to stop the Abattoir atrocities.

Remanding Emeka in prison actually helped DPA more than the police could have imagined. It placed Emeka in the midst of the victims of Abattoir, including those he did not meet in Abattoir.

Also, with contact with victims of Abattoir whose cases had progressed to the courts, DPA has been able to understand how the courts aid the police atrocities. We now have a better picture of a system of injustice and abuse in which the police and the courts are hands in the same gloves.

DPA sent petitions to the National Assembly regarding Abattoir atrocities and indulgent attitude of the courts. Also, DPA sent the petition to the Chief Justice of Nigeria, and the Chief Judge of Abuja, (Justice Ishaq Bello). The petition was forwarded to the international community and representatives of foreign governments.

Upon becoming aware of DPA advocacy and activism on the matter, the Chief Judge had to send magistrates to Abattoir to “decongest’ it. (The magistrates went to Abattoir as from November 4, 2019). And the Chief Judge now makes new rules against unlawful detention by the police.

While, these can be seen as progress, DPA is not satisfied. A lot more has to be done. In fact, what the Chief Judge has done is a cover-up.

Whether he intends that or not, he is covering up the fact that he contributed to the atrocities in Abattoir by his failure to perform his duties under Section 34 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, which required him to send the Magistrates to Abattoir “at least once every month” to “decongest” it.

The Chief Judge did not perform this duty (or could not perform this duty) until after the petitions of DPA were out. DPA demands to know why such important duty was not performed for the four years that the law demanded it.

The fact is that thousands have died in Abattoir and similar places in the hands of the police. An earlier statutory intervention by the Chief Judge would have saved the lives of many.

The Chief Judge is therefore covering up evil, if he just brushes aside the past with statements such as what he has been making in the press. This country must have a full inquiry into what happened, before we can really know how to move forward.

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