Ugwuonye Petitions Senate President, Speaker, IGP On Police Atrocities
Petition on the menace of the Nigerian Police: (police atrocities, extra judicial killings, crimes against humanity and more)
On October 10, 2019, on the direction of the Founder and management of The Due Process Advocates Foundation (DPA), we submitted to your office a petition against the Nigerian Police, particularly the FCT Command. The said petition focused extensively on the persecution of the leader of DPA, Barrister Emeka Ugwuonye.
In view of the fact that there is an active adjudication involving Emeka Ugwuonye, albeit one initiated as an act of gross abuse of power, we could foresee the argument that Ugwuonye’s rights and some aspect of the complaints raised in our earlier petition are matters subjudice, to the effect of precluding any immediate inquiry by the National Assembly.
May we submit upfront that the view that a matter pending before the court cannot be inquired into by the legislature is totally erroneous. The essence and purpose of a legislative inquiry are totally different from those of a judicial inquiry through adjudication. And the constitutional bases for the respective arms of government to conduct inquiries and the rules of procedure governing the processes of such inquiries are totally different.
However, to forestall any possible confusion over the matter, we decided to submit this separate but related petition that focuses exclusively on the atrocities committed by the Nigerian police against the citizens of this country.
THE NATURE OF THE PROBLEM:
The police are supposed to safeguard lives and property, maintain law and order, enforce the laws in accordance with the laws and the constitution. However, the contemporary experience in Nigeria shows the direct opposite of these objectives. Today, Nigerian police officers are likely to be involved in every major crime. (Apologies to the honest officers who are increasingly a marginalized minority in the police).
Be it armed-robbery, kidnappings, banditry, even terrorism, you will find the fingerprints of Nigerian police officers all over it, even if it be only in supplying weapons and arms used in such crimes. Recently, when we read in the press about how some soldiers gunned down some policemen on duty in Taraba State, and even as the police waged open media war against the military over the incident, we believed that some police officers would have their fingerprints on that crime. And indeed, the board of inquiry that was mandated by the President of Nigeria recommended, at the end of the multi-agency investigation, that two soldiers and three police officers be indicted for that crime. So, even when the police are the victims of a serious crime, a police officer is likely to be implicated in such crime.
Since the end of military rule, some members of the Nigerian police have gradually constituted themselves into a most dreadful and a most pervasive crime-gang in Africa. Nowhere else is the harm more devastating and the effect more prevalent than in the area of human rights abuses. These abuses have exceeded levels where they become crimes against humanity. There is thus an urgent need for a full legislative intervention. Our organization, DPA, calls on the National Assembly for such intervention.
TYPES OF ATROCITIES AND HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES COMMITTED BY THE POLICE
(1) ABUSE OF PROSECUTORIAL POWERS: The most pervasive and pernicious form of rights abuses by the police occur in the exercise of their prosecutorial discretion and powers, i.e,the authority to present a controversy before a court for criminal adjudication. Because the Nigerian law gives the police the power to arrest, investigate, indict and prosecute a person for a crime; police officers have arrested people they know to be totally innocent, indicted and prosecuted them for serious offenses, even when there is absolutely no evidence to justify indictment. They do this, fully aware of the tendency of some Nigerian judges to presume an accused person guilty until the end of trial, at which point such a person might be lucky to prove his innocence. They also understand that given Nigeria’s peculiar circumstances, criminal cases take many years to conclude and that merely accusing a person of committing a crime could result in the person losing his liberty for years.
The unchecked power to arrest, formulate charges against a person, and then prosecute such a person, is an awesome God-like power. When exercised under the influence of corruption, its consequences are total and most devastating. As has been seen recently, no critic of the police is free from this power. Senators Dino Melaye and Bukola Saraki either faced or nearly faced charges for capital offenses under circumstances that were too persecutory in nature. If that could happen to senators, the ordinary man is totally without any protection. And given the near absolute reign of corruption within the police force, the situation poses existential threat to this nation, if not immediately redressed.
There is strong evidence that the police attempted to use the Offa bank robbery case to implicate the then Senate President. The real suspects were pressured to implicate the Senate President and when that failed, the leader of the robbery gang, the person pressured, died mysteriously in police custody. The implication of this is shocking, but glaring: the police could use its prosecutorial power to bring down the leader of the legislative arm of government. That could also be used on the head of the judicial arm. The abusive use of the prosecutorial power of the police can lead to a regime change.
(2) EXTRA JUDICIAL EXECUTIONS: The most dramatic and most obvious forms of police atrocity are the extra judicial executions and outright murders and assassinations carried out by the Nigerian police officers, for which the Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS) units are most notorious.
SARS men kill in ways and on scales that defy imagination. There is no excuse for their extreme violence. They are largely poorly educated officers on the borderline of serious psychosis. The orgy of violence and killings by SARS officers is unprecedented even when compared to any other police or paramilitary unit in contemporary global history. In the absence of mental health evaluation or serious background checks prior to being hired into the police force, some criminal-minded individuals with psychopathic dispositions manage to join the police.
Further, given the total absence of accountability for the use of weapons, the impact of the SARS has been quite devastating, far outweighing any benefits in form of reduction in crimes that might have been expected. The lack of accountability made it easy for SARS units to morph into a monstrous killing machine. They arrest people and take them straight to ATMs to withdraw money for them under gunpoint. They suddenly transform into criminals and kidnap people and extract ransom. They also falsely accuse innocent people of crimes and use that as a pretext to rob them.
Aside SARS, other special units of the police, envious of the awe that SARS inspire in the civilian population, have increasingly adopted similar brutality and cold blooded violence practiced by SARS. By November, 2018, because of the increasing public outcry over the menace of SARS, that unit was no longer the most violent in the Abuja areas. Other units such as Anti-Cultism, Anti-Vice, Anti-Kidnapping, etc units are getting just as violent and abusive of rights as the SARS has ever being. Indeed, the practice of breaking the police into units operationally confined to different types of crimes does not seem to have helped in crime fighting. Rather, they merely created spheres of influence and carving up of territories, a method typical of major crime gangs in the world.
The case of Charity Aiyedegbon is a startling example of the inefficiency of these crime-typological confinement of policing. In that case, because the file was assigned to the anti-kidnapping unit in the FCT Command on the belief that it was a kidnapping case, that unit was not able to relate the case they were investigating to the case of an unidentified body opened by the Bwari police division also under the command. The anti-kidnapping unit did not see the case of unidentified person as being within its remit and the Bwari police station saw kidnapping cases as something for a specialized unit. Radio messages from Bwari to the Command reporting the discovery of an unidentified body were ignored. The whole error started with the estranged husband of the deceased who misled the police by reporting the case as a kidnapping case which got the case confined to the anti-kidnapping unit. To avoid losing or surrendering the file to any other unit, the anti-kidnapping unit held onto the file even after it became obvious that it was not a kidnapping case. And the anti-kidnapping unit lacked the skill and tools to investigate the real facts of the case.
(3) EXTORTION AND INTIMIDATION: The Nigerian police of all units engage in various forms of extortion and intimidation. They randomly detain people going about their businesses and force them to turn on their phones. Any foreign number on a person’s contact list is a basis to accuse such person of being a fraudster. The same will happen if a person has a laptop in his bag. Any such encounter with the police will result in extortion and/or unlawful arrest, detention and/or beating.
(4) INTERFERENCE IN CIVIL DISPUTES: Another area where the police engage in massive abuse of rights is in their involvement in civil disputes and debt collection, rent collection. An average Nigerian police officer does not believe there is any difference between a civil case and a criminal case. The main purpose of any such interference is to extort.
ABATTOIR DETENTION CENTER AS AN EPITOME OF POLICE ATROCITY
We attach hereto a report on Abattoir. (See the ANNEX A).
COMPARISON BETWEEN ABATTOIR AND LIBYAN MIGRANT/SLAVE DETENTION PLACES:
On December 4, 2017, in a report titled “The Libyan Slave Trade Has Shocked the World. Here’s What You Should Know”, by Casey Quackenbush, Time Magazine, stated as follows:
“Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari expressed shock at how his compatriots were being treated “like goats.” On Wednesday, 242 Nigerian migrants were flown out of Libya back to Nigeria.”
The irony today is that the conditions of detention of thousands of Nigerians at the Abattoir detention ground are worse than what happened in Libya. The following is the comparison between Abattoir and Libyan migrant detention centers.
(1) Abattoir is a secret detention center in that the true conditions of detainees inside the building where people are detained are known only to inmates and the guards. Whenever an organization like Red Cross visits the center, the guards would come early in the morning and match the inmates away and hide them in buildings and areas where the Red Cross representatives would not see them. The Abattoir detention center with 1200 detainees can be downsized to 300 inmates just to fool the visitors. To the extent that Libyan immigrants detention centers shocked the world when discovered, their existence could be said to have been hidden from the public, just as the Abattoir.
(2) In Abattoir, the building was designed as a place where butchers killed, cut and sell cow and goat meat. It was never intended for human habitation. Yet, over one thousand people at a time are jammed into the space with poor ventilation, and in squalid and unsanitary conditions that is simply horrific. This is worse than what obtained in the Libyan detention houses.
(3) Like the Libyan detention houses, Abattoir is so inhumanely congested. Detainees are packed like sardines. At night, they are packed on the floor in such a manner that it is impossible for an inmate to turn his body on the floor. Diseases such as tuberculosis, Hepatitis, and other infectious diseases are rampant and inmates are dying unaccounted for. As seen in the pictures attached, the inhumane congestion in Abattoir is extreme.
(4) Like in the Libyan detention, life in Abattoir is worthless. Inmates or detainees die like chicken in a poorly managed poultry. The Abattoir inmates are dying either from torture injuries or diseases. Each morning, one or two inmates will be noticed dead and no one handy would have information on the true identity of the inmates that passed away. Other inmates will simply take the body to the gate and the police would remove the body, and that would be the last to be heard of such people.
(5) Like the Libyan detention, Abattoir does not have proper documentation about inmates. Only the particular police officer that detained a person knows the identity of the person detained. So, if an inmate dies in Abattoir, it may be impossible to identify him, especially if it is new arrival who died from torture injuries.
(6) Like the Libyan detention, the main purpose of the police detaining people in Abattoir is to extort money from the families of such persons. So Abattoir is an extortion machine, like the Libyan detention places.
(7) In the Libyan detention places, the detainees are sold as slave labourers for $400 a person. In the case of Abattoir, an inmate will be charged to court if his family pays N200,000 which is equivalent to $550. Being charged to court is the path to freedom. So, if an Abattoir detainee wants freedom, his family members will pay $550 equivalent to the police for him to be charged to court.
(8) People are detained in Abattoir for up to three years, totally outside the rule of law. We have no clear record how long migrants were detained in Libyan detention houses.
(9) In Libyan cases, only foreigners/migrants were detained. But in Abattoir only citizens are detained.
(10) In Libyan detention, the detainees were fed in order to sell them for the highest amount as slave labourers. But in Abattoir, the inmates are not fed. Starvation is used to pressure the families of detainees for them to pay for their relative to be charged to court.
(11) The Libyan migrants detention centers were controlled by gangs and human traffickers. The Abattoir is controlled by Nigerian policemen. Hence, while the Libyan detention centers are outrightly criminal, the Abattoir operates under the color of law.
PICTURE EVIDENCE OF ABATTOIR:
DPA has both still pictures and video evidence of people in detention in Abattoir. We obtained the evidence from inmates who risked their lives to obtain the evidence and from some police officers whose conscience prompted them to obtain the evidence.
There are two buildings where people are detained in Abattoir. The pictures attached are pictures of the main building. It is an open hall with four smaller rooms on each side of the hall. There is a total of eight such smaller rooms. One of them serves as a storage, while the remaining seven serve as cells. Each cell is just an open concrete floor. Each cell is jammed with about 120 inmates who would barely have a standing space. About 300 to 400 other inmates who couldn’t get into the 7 cells are left in the open hall. Pictures A – F (in ANNEX A) show the hall where the inmates that couldn’t get into the 7 cells are left.
Abattoir is an illegal prison maintained and operated behind the rule of law.
DEATH OF SUSPECTS IN POLICE CUSTODY
It is estimated that 196 persons arrested and detained in Abattoir were killed by the police between January 2017 and December 2018. This is restricted to those killed after they have been taken into the detention facilities. If we include those killed during initial encounter with the police, though not resisting arrest or posing any threat to the police, the figure will run into thousands. See ANNEX D.
The killings covered under this subheading occurred in three different ways:
(1) ‘Traveling’ the Suspect: To travel a suspect means to execute the suspect either by gunshot, strangulation or asphyxiation. The main feature of traveling a suspect is that the police officers involved came to the decision to immediately end the life of the suspect. Many detainees in Abattoir, interviewed separately, consistently narrated specific cases where police officers would come to the cell around 6pm to call out suspects. Those suspects would never come back. The following day or the next, information would trickle in through some police officers that those suspects have been traveled.
In few occasions, the selection of those to be traveled is done slightly differently. The police will call out a certain number of detainees, usually casemates. These are called out in the morning time usually for further interrogation or investigation of an incident. If the police officers decide to travel some but not all the suspects in the group, they will return to the cell those that will not be traveled that day. In a day or next, information would trickle in that those who were not returned were traveled.
This practice had become so standard that each time suspects are called out in the evening or each time only some of the detainees called out in the day return to the cell in the evening, it was understood by all that the detainees called out or those not returned would be traveled immediately.
After a suspect has been traveled, his status would be kept from his relatives that might come to ask of him. The police will continue to accept money and even cooked food for the suspect, but without letting the relatives see the suspect. This may go on for up to six months until the police would lie to the relative that the suspect had escaped from detention. Meanwhile, the suspect had been traveled.
Sometimes, the police will discourage the relatives in different other ways. They are known to have threatened some relatives with arrest and detention or accuse them of involvement in whatever offense is alleged against the person they came to see. That instantly scares away the relatives and forces them to stop coming. These are average and poor people who feel totally powerless when faced with police officers that could kill with impunity.
Also, the police have been known to take advantage of the relatives of suspects in detention in various other ways. A wife, fiancée or sister of a suspect will often be asked to agree to the sexual demands of officers. Believing that such would facilitate the release of the husband, fiancé or boyfriend, these yield, thinking it will be one-time or a brief affair. Equally, the police would be demanding money from relatives on the promise that such would facilitate the release of the suspect. The logic of it is that to prolong the period of obtaining such payment by money and sex, the police would prolong the detention of the suspect. From the accounts of Abattoir detainees, there were cases of officers who continued with the affairs with girlfriends and fiancées of traveled suspects months after the suspects were traveled.
(2) Deaths Occurring During Torture: The police are totally lacking in basic skills for interrogation of suspects and they lack the ability to build up the investigative process toward generating valuable evidence that is required for successful prosecution of a case. Instead, the police focus on obtaining confession at all cost. In such a situation, the only way forward is to torture the suspect until he confesses. They understand that with a confession from a suspect, conviction will be as good as guaranteed.
The torture process has no moderation. The violence and pain are extreme. The following are known torture techniques used by the Nigerian police:
(a) HANGING: According to detainees who survived it, the most painful and dangerous torture technique is called ‘hanging’. In this, the police will suspend a victim on a pole passed between his legs shackled with chains or rope and between his arms in handcuffs or tied behind with a rope. The victim will face downward while suspended on a horizontal pole. His entire weight is suspended on the handcuffs and shackles, which cut deep into the wrist and ankles. This horrific condition cuts off circulation to vital organs of the body. A person in such position will lose consciousness in less than 30 minutes, followed by paralysis and death.
(b) Gunshot wounds: Many Abattoir detainees and those tracked to prisons (Keffi and Kuje Medium Correction facilities) gave accounts of how the police fired live ammunition on their legs and feet, including the thighs just to get them to confess to whatever crime the police suspect them of. Many Abattoir inmates have visible gunshot wounds to show. And many have bullets lodged in their body. They received these gunshots during interrogations in places like Abattoir. Sometimes, these gunshots result in the death of the suspect during interrogation. To avoid death, the suspect will confess accordingly.
(c) Induced Paralysis Leading to Death: Under this technique, the police will use wide rubber band and tie it around the suspect’s arm from wrist up to the shoulder. Blood circulation to that arm will be instantly cut off. In 15 minutes, the arm is paralyzed and the police would leave the arm tied up for hours. When the rubber is taken off, the arm is damaged and totally paralyzed. DPA observed many Abattoir inmates whose left arms were paralyzed. Those people all narrated how it was caused by the police tying up their arms during interrogation. There was one striking observation; in all the people with this problem, only the left arm was paralyzed. However, we encountered two men whose right arms were paralyzed. The startling discovery was when we realized that those two men were left-handed, while the majority we had seen initially were right-handed. The implication was shocking. The police spare the arm the victim would use to write or sign a confession after the torture. So, right-handed people had their left arms tied up and paralyzed while left-handed people had their right arms paralyzed. This leads to the inference and conclusion that this tying of the arm is not random or a coincidence or a spontaneous decision by individual officers. Rather, it is a systemic procedure approved and authorized from the top. Torture by inducing paralysis do lead to complications that result in death.
(d) Beatings that result in fatalities: The police torture suspects by beating. Extreme cases involve beating a suspect with a machete. The police will beat the suspect as part of interrogation with the flat side of the machete. This has been an effective torture technique because each time the machete is raised, the suspect will fear being hacked to death with the sharp edge of the machete only for the flat side to strike him. The fear of that machete coming down on you while you are in handcuffs could be most terrifying. That fear causes the suspect to confess to anything whatsoever. The greatest danger in this is that sometimes, it is not the intended flat side of the machete that lands on the victim. Sometimes, the skull is opened with a machete cut or a limb cut off.
The police also use other dangerous objects such as iron rods to beat suspects as part of torture during interrogation. These beatings sometimes result in serious injuries that result in death. Example, James Jimoh.
(3) Deliberate acts of assassinations: The police have deliberately killed people in their custody purely as well planned acts of assassination. In such a case, the entire arrest or detention is only a pretext to assassinate him. Inmates in Abattoir narrated cases in which the police will arrest a person, take him to the bank the next day for him to withdraw all money in his account, and the person is traveled immediately afterwards. There have been cases where the police would arrest a person, take him to his house and steal all his property and kill him. These are pure armed robbery operation done under the pretext of policing.
Another reason for such assassinations is to cover up evidence. Note that the motive here is quite different from the “Traveling” cases mentioned above. In normal traveling case, the police believe that the suspect committed the crime, but they fear that if charged to court, the suspect might not be convicted. In other words, the police do not trust the judges to do their work. To avoid compromising a case by the court, they try to short-circuit justice by killing the suspect. In the outright assassination cases, the motive is not to inflict capital punishment on a person believed to be guilty, but to achieve the more sinister goal of covering up a crime, protecting a paying criminal or to suppress evidence.
Based on interview with Abattoir inmates, DPA believes that the ring leader of the alleged Offa armed-robbery suspects was assassinated in police custody to leave a permanent doubt about his alleged relationship with Senator Bukola Saraki, as the man was said to have adamantly denied even under torture that he was sponsored by Saraki.
Also, the police parade suspects to set the stage for traveling them or to assassinate them. The purpose of such parade is to get the world to believe that the suspect openly confessed to the crime. Those suspects are not allowed to have lawyers or to meet their relatives before the parade. They are usually subjected to repeated torture before the parade. The journalists called to cover the parade are carefully selected and they are teleguided on the questions they can ask the suspect during parade. This is why these journalists never ask suspects on parade if they had lawyers and why not. Even when marks and injuries are visible on the bodies of the suspects on parade, the police-selected journalists will never ask the suspect how he got those injuries.
Having successfully paraded a suspect and having convicted him in the opinion of the public, the police can kill the suspect without much protest from his family. After all, they have been manipulated into believing that the suspect actually committed the crime. Many Nigerian parents will feel too awkward to beg or fight for the life of their son who has taken someone else’s life. DPA believes that the parading of Paul Ezeugwu and Emmanuel Adogah over the murder of Charity Aiyedegbon was a classic example of this practice. This was why DPA began to demand that the two men be charged to court.
(4) Killing by injection: Accounts by inmates have disclosed an additional method of killing used by the police. This is by sending a suspect to a place where arrangement has been made for him to be injected with poison that will induce death within 36 hours. This method is used when the police believe that the suspect’s body cannot be hidden from his family and that there should be no evidence of physical trauma on the body of the suspect. One facility that was identified for such operation is the police hospital in Area 10, Abuja.
AVOIDABLE DEATHS OF SUSPECTS AND NON-SUSPECTS BEFORE ARREST AND WHEN NO ARREST WAS INTENDED
DPA observed a high incidence of death caused by the police either during arrests or in other police-civilian encounters where no arrest is being made.
LIST OF PEOPLE KILLED OR PRESUMED KILLED IN POLICE CUSTODY IN ABUJA ALONE BETWEEN 2017 AND 2019
1) Sunny Momoh: This man was killed by the police while in detention at Abattoir. Sunny Momoh, from Edo State, had a car stand in Abuja. He had a wife and two young children. Sunny was suspected to be involved in armed robbery and he was captured in a CCTV while robbing the house of the son of the former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. (We have no reason to assume that the Atiku Abubakar’s family knew that the police executed Sunny Momoh). The fact that the victim of the alleged crime was an influential personality could have been a factor in the decision by the police that he deserved to be killed extra-judicially.
However strong the evidence against Sunny Momoh, the fact is that it was not for the police to try a person, convict him and carry out the sentence of execution by gunshots. Sunny Momoh’s execution was presumed to have been ordered from the top.
2) John Doe and five others: In this case, 11 people were arrested for kidnapping between March 25 and 27, 2017. They were arrested and detained initially at Force CID in Area 10, Abuja. Between April and June 2017, 6 of them were moved to Abattoir where they were executed. One of them was released on the orders of the IGP. He and the IGP were from the same village in Niger State. (So six were killed while one was released). The remaining four were finally taken to court in February 2019. The 11 men were paraded, but only 4 made it to court. (6 were killed and 1 was released).
No matter the strength of the evidence against these men, it was never for the police to take it upon themselves to try and condemn these men and execute them. By so doing, the police usurped the powers of the courts and the powers of the Nigerian Correctional Service.
3) In September, 2018, eight Abattoir inmates were executed: According to the accounts of inmates, in October of 2018, seven Abattoir inmates were caught with phones (smuggled into the cells by police officers. There is no way a phone can enter the cell without a police officer bringing it in. They kill any inmate with phone without ever asking about the officer that brought in the phone). They were removed from the cell, tortured and executed by gunshots. Among the 9 inmates killed in September 2018 was one called (Names withheld, but available to the lawyers).
4) In October 2018, a set of 11 inmates were executed. Among them were (names withheld, but available to the lawyers).
5) Those that kidnapped the wife of CBN Governor: 11 men were paraded. 7 men were executed while 4 are standing trial.
6) James Jimoh: was tortured too badly he died in Abattoir from injuries sustained from torture.
NOTE: The goal of this report is not to indict any particular officer. The problem is too pervasive and probably thousands of police officers have been involved in this.
WHAT HAPPENS TO DEAD BODIES AFTER THEY ARE KILLED?
This has been a major concern to DPA. According to sources, the bodies of those killed are moved quickly to Gwagwalada General hospital. Though not confirmed, it is believed that there is a syndicate involving police and some medical personnel in organ harvesting and processing.
We have considered other cases within Nigeria and elsewhere for comparable levels of impunity and atrocities as we have seen recently with the Nigerian police. We also considered how history has viewed each case.
(1) It may not be a coincidence that one of the most blatant extra judicial killings by the police in Nigeria occurred in Abuja in the Apo-6 case where 7 policemen ranging in ranks between Constable to Deputy Police Commissioner murdered six civilians (5 men and 1 lady) and poisoned one police officer. The Apo incident generated a wide outcry and a trial that most people believe was compromised to protect the culprits. Nothing was done to ensure that the police would end the ‘Apo 6′ kind of incident. Instead, the situation got worse and the police improved their ability to cover subsequent cases of extra-judicial killings and outright murder.
(2) We compared the activities of the Nigerian police and they turn out worse than the Afrikaner police under the apartheid regime of South Africa. It will be recalled how Afrikaner police admit to killing Stephen Biko. While in police custody in Port Elizabeth, Biko was brutally beaten and then driven 700 miles to Pretoria, where he was thrown into a cell. On September 12, 1977, he died naked and shackled on the filthy floor of a police hospital.
The judgment of history has remained harsh upon the brutality of the Afrikaner police in the 70s and 80s. It is regrettable to say that the atrocities by Nigerian police in the present time are worse. The Nigerian police kill more, for less and by more vicious and more diversified means.
(3) Another parallel is the dangerous chain of events that occurred during the Argentinian dirty war. In that period, the junta dubbed left-wing activists “terrorists” kidnapped and killed an estimated 30,000 people. Victims who died during torture, were either machine-gunned at the edge of enormous pits, or were drugged and thrown from airplanes into the sea.
In the Argentinian and South African examples, there were political objectives that led to atrocities and repression. In the Nigerian example, the killings are motivated by criminality, corruption and greed on the part of the officers.
(4) A more recent comparison is what happened in Mexico in 2014. On September 26, 2014, 43 male students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College were forcibly abducted and then disappeared in Iguala, Guerrero, Mexico. They were allegedly taken into custody by local police officers from Cocula and Iguala, in collusion with organized crime. This is a one-occasion atrocity involving collusion between the police and criminals. In the Nigerian situation, it is a continuing system of depression that tends to corrode and pervert our entire system of administration of justice.
In every of the above examples, the world is united in the condemnation of police abuses. The Nigerian examples should not enjoy the silence of the Nigerian lawmakers.
The indiscriminate killings of civilians by Nigerian police are worse than what occurred recently in the Philippines. Yet, the case of Philippines attracted more local and international condemnation. It means that Nigerian political elites have higher tolerance for police atrocities.
NOTE: The list of cases of extra judicial killings by Nigerian police is quite long and growing.
WHY THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY MUST ACT AGAINST POLICE ATROCITIES
A) The failure of the courts
Normally, the Nigerian courts should be able to check the excesses of the police in two major ways: (1) vigorous enforcement of fundamental rights and (2) effective application and observance of due process standards as contained in Sections 35 and 36 of the Constitution.
Unfortunately, the courts have abandoned these standards and taken positions that amount to complicity in the abuse of rights. This is evident in the fact that about 80% of the inmates in our correctional facilities all over the country are only awaiting trial. See attached DPA Policy Statement for October 2019.
Rather than act as counterbalance to stop abuse of rights by the police, our courts have increasingly acted as rubber stamp for the actions of the police. This is why these judges have chosen to subvert the Constitution of Nigeria and presume anybody accused by the police guilty of the alleged crime. It means that it takes just a mere allegation by the police for a judge to jail a person for years. The courts then become an extension of the police and the courts are automatically infused with the corruption and atrocities for which the police are known. We present the following three examples:
1) IDUMAKO was charged with murder 14 years ago. He was a pharmacist accused of dispensing drugs to a person, who later gave the drugs to another person, who died after using those drugs to self-medicate. When the police did not get from Idumako the money they asked for as bribe, they charged him with murder. The judge denied bail and remanded him in prison. Idumako spent 14 years in prison until he was discharged and acquitted in April of 2019. If you compute 14 years under the prison calendar, Idumako spent equivalent of 20-year sentence, while supposedly presumed innocent. Note that Idumako did not change judge. His case stayed with the same judge from beginning to the end. If there was a change of judge due to any cause such as death, retirement, promotion or transfer of judge, he would still be in prison for the next five years. Idumako was a family man with wife and young children. How patriotic would you expect Idumako and family members to remain after the ordeal caused by a judge?
2) CHINEDU EZE in Inspector General of Police vs. Isaac Mangs and Chinedu Eze, FCT HIGH COURT, CR/119/2006. These men were charged in 2006 (13 years ago) with armed robbery that they adamantly denied committing. The judge denied bail and remanded him in prison. For 13 years, Chinedu Eze and Isaac Mangs languished in prison until May 2019 when Chinedu was discharged and acquitted. His 13 years in prison awaiting trial is equal to 20-year prison sentence. In other words, if the court had sentenced Chinedu to 20 years in prison in 2006, he would complete his 20-year sentence by October 2019. That is the period he spent in prison as an innocent man. In both Dimako and Chinedu cases, the ground given for acquittal was because there was no evidence. Indeed, if the judges were not acting as rubber stamp for the police, the judges would have acknowledged 13 years ago that there was no prima facie case to charge them.
What about Isaac Mangs, Chinedu’s casemate? Isaac is still in prison awaiting trial. This is so because Isaac got tired of the delays in the case and last year, he asked that his case be transfered to another judge. His case was not transfered. The judge, out of anger for the fact that he dared to request for a transfer, just ignored Isaac and proceeded only with Chinedu’s case. Today, Isaac is in a limbo. He is still in prison and his case has been suspended. That is the extra punishment for daring to request that his case be transfered after 12 years of no progress in the hands of one judge.
3) PAUL JIMOH is a 28-year old man. His younger brother, James Jimoh, was killed by SARS at Abattoir. He died in October 2018 from torture injuries he received from SARS. While under torture, James was not only forced to confess to a robbery he knew nothing about, he was also forced to name his elder brother, Paul Jimoh. Paul was arrested and detained along with James in Abattoir. James’ two arms were paralyzed from torture. He was in a terrible pain. He suffered badly. While he lay on the concrete floor of Abattoir dying, Paul begged the SARS officer to get any medicine for his brother. They ignored his pleas. Unfortunately, James died in Abattoir from injuries received during torture. He was 23 when he died. Immediately James died, the SARS officers hurriedly charged Paul to Court, to get him off their sight. James was arrested on February 14, 2018. Paul was arrested on February 17, 2018. They were detained indefinitely in Abattoir. But once James died, Paul was charged to court the next day.
Paul Jimoh was charged with robbery after eight months in Abattoir. Like others, the detention was without any court order. The case was at FCT High Court in Kuje, Abuja. The Judge denied bail but ordered accelerated trial. However, the judge died in February 2019. Paul’s file was transfered to the FCT High Court in Gude. After many delays caused by the transfer process, on July 3, 2019, Paul’s application for bail came up for argument. This time the police prosecutor did not oppose bail. The judge asked the defense lawyer to persuade the Court on why the defendant should be granted bail. In effect, the judge turned the Constitution on its head and assumed loss of liberty as the default state of the law. Rather than presuming Paul Jimoh innocent and demanding to know why he must lose his liberty, she demanded to know why Paul, a man that had not been tried, should not be in prison.
It is remarkable that Paul Jimoh’s 27-year old wife and their two children (5-year old daughter and 3-year old son) were present in court. The defense lawyer pointed at the wife and children and explained the hardship they had had to endure for the past two years that Paul had been in detention. On July 5, 2019, the judge denied Paul Jimoh bail and remanded him in the same prison where he has been. The judge gave no reason for denial of bail except that she felt she had the discretion to grant or deny bail.
We cited only three out of thousands of examples of how the courts fail to check abuses by the police.
B) Failure of the Bar
Every indication shows that the organized bar and individual lawyers have been unable to challenge the abuses by the police. More and more lawyers have been intimidated by the police. Most lawyers in Abuja are terrified by the prospect of going to visit their clients in Abattoir. They are afraid of being arrested unlawfully and harassed by the policemen if they were to go to Abattoir. And with a judiciary that increasingly rubber-stamps every police action, the individual lawyer is totally helpless.
At this rate, even if the organized bar were to exert its weight as a pressure group, the result will be too slow and too little to make any tangible difference.
C) Failure of the police internal control mechanism
The Nigerian Police Force has repeatedly failed to come up with standard ethics and security doctrines that police officers could obey. Instead, each time a new Inspector General of Police (IGP) is appointed, there will be several positive pronouncements that are soon ignored. After the tumultuous and controversial tenor of IGP Idris, it was believed that IGP Adamu would initiate transformative changes within the force upon coming into office in January of 2019. The new IGP showed his good intentions in the pronouncements he made immediately upon assuming office. But not much of those pronouncements have translated into solid changes in the behavior of the Nigerian police. The dangerous SARS units expected to have been disbanded and reformed are still operating with impunity the same old ways. The present crisis over recruitment in the police further shows that the necessary reforms cannot be expected to occur solely through an internal police process.
Hence, only the legislature with its law-making powers can cause realistic changes and stem the crisis.
D) The implications of international community
Human rights issues are a matter of international law concerns, as well as they are fundamental constitutional question. It is important for Nigerian government to show the world that it is capable of addressing fundamental human rights challenges in Nigeria without international interventions. The absence of adequate remedies within Nigeria for victims of gross human rights abuses by the police is a key jurisdictional predicate for foreign courts to intervene in Nigerian cases. An illustration of this is the case of Abiola v. Abubakar, USDC, EDIL, before Hon. Matthew Kennelly. The American court assumed jurisdiction over a Nigerian case because Nigeria lacked adequate remedies for victims within Nigeria. Similarly, one of the factors that trigger the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court is the absence of adequate remedies within the domestic jurisdiction or the inability of the host state to redress the abuses.
By intervening through its legislative powers, the Nigerian lawmakers will be creating remedies for victims of rights abuses within Nigeria and demonstrating to the world that the Nigerian State is capable of redressing claims emanating from these abuses. And hence there will be less justification for the intervention of foreign or international tribunals in Nigeria’s domestic cases.
HOW THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY CAN AND SHOULD INTERVENE
The Nigerian legislature has a vast number of options open to it by way of intervention against police atrocities. The following are among those options:
(1) A resolution calling for a public hearing and guaranteeing victims that they will not face retribution or retaliation from the police for coming forward to testify.
(2) A public hearing should be held for Nigerians whose relatives disappeared and were never heard from after being arrested by the police, those who were victims of police atrocities, extortion, intimidation, harassment, etc should come forward.
(3) The Legislature should consider passing a targeted piece of legislation aimed at the following:
(a) Punishment for police officers involved in human rights abuses. In particular, police commanders shall be held equally accountable and be punished for abuses committed by their subordinates.
(b) Obligation on every police officer to report human rights abuses by other officers, and punishment for failure to report abuses.
(c) Duty of the police commissioners to report every arrest made within his command within 24 hours of such arrest, as well as duty to provide status report each week until the person has been either released or charged to court.
(d) Adequate compensation for victims of police atrocities.
(e) For every arrest that occurs on Friday, weekend or public holiday, the police shall be required to swear an affidavit to attest that such arrest could not have been made 48 hours before the weekend or holidays or after the weekend.
(f) No police officer shall be a prosecutor in criminal cases. All the present police prosecutors who want to remain prosecutors should be moved to the Ministry of justice as state counsel, if qualified.
(g) A statutory mandate compelling a judge hearing a criminal case to first inquire about the date of arrest and detention of the accused prior to arraignment. And if it is shown that the person has been detained longer than 36 hours, the person shall be admitted to bail immediately and a fundamental right enforcement proceeding shall be initiated prior to the continuation of the criminal trial. A court shall not have jurisdiction to try a criminal case without conducting an inquiry into the arrest and detention of the accused prior to arraignment.
(h) There should be statutory mandate to compel the judge to automatically review every bail it granted every 30 days until the he has signed the release warrant. The purpose of such mandatory monthly review is to consider the need to vary the terms of bail.
(i) Changes in the law should aim to prevent situations where wealthy complainants fund police investigations or where police officers fund criminal investigations. The harm in such practice was made abundantly clear in the case of Charity Aiyedegbon.
Charity Aiyedegbon’s husband who ought to have been the prime suspect in the case, given the overwhelming evidence against him, was the one that funded the entire investigation and naturally, he was the one that directed the police on every step taken. He directed the police to arrest every male friend of his estranged wife out of personal envy and grudge. And the police obeyed. He directed the police to arrest the lawyers that represented his estranged wife in suits against him. When one Paul Ezeugwu (Charity Aiyedegbon’s friend), was arrested in Benin City, Mr. Aiyedegbon provided his personal vehicle and driver to move Ezeugwu from Benin City to Abuja. He was allowed by the police to interrogate Ezeugwu. He directed his staff to torture Ezeugwu in the presence of the police. His personal video cameras were used by him to record the interrogation of the suspect and he was allowed to keep the video recording and to determine whether to make such recording available.
There should be specific legislative measures against such a condition where the police operate as private employees of a wealthy complainant.
HOW DPA OBTAINED INFORMATION FOR THIS REPORT
DPA gathered information for this report from the following sources and methods:
(a) Human right abuses investigated by DPA on behalf of clients and members, such as the case of Charity Aiyedegbon.
(b) Public information on numerous cases of extra judicial killings by the police such as the Apo Six of 2005 and many others.
(c) Interviews of 600 inmates in Abattoir detention center.
(d) Eye witness observations of Emeka Ugwuonye, DPA Founder for the period of three weeks he spent in Abattoir in July, November and December of 2018.
(e) Interviews of relatives of victims of police atrocities.
(f) Interviews of police officers.
(g) Interactions with police officers and observation of their activities.
(h) Interviews of court officials.
(I) Media reports on police atrocities.
Given the mounting record of police atrocities, with more and more innocent citizens being taken in cold blood by the Nigerian police;
Given the increasing public outcry against police brutality and atrocities in this country;
Given the increasing failure of the courts to control these abuses, even when known to the judges;
Given the absence or failure of internal controls against police atrocities;
The National Assembly, the representatives of the Nigerian people, remains the key organ of Nigerian government to take up the challenge and stem this dangerous descent into a full blown crisis and the ultimate failure of the Nigerian State.
By undertaking to expose the murderous campaigns being carried out by elements within the police, DPA and its leadership have by no doubt placed themselves on the death wish of the committers of atrocities within the police force. But we hope that the National Assembly and the IGP Adamu will protect DPA’s leadership from harm from some elements within the police.
Finally it boils down to one thing: How will history judge us? How will history judge this Senate or House of Representative if its members learned about the grave impunity and atrocities by the police and did nothing?
(1) That the National Assembly should take every step to abolish Abattoir detention center and to ensure that every detainee is either freed or charged to court.
(2) That there be a public hearing on police atrocities.
(3) That there be new legislation to address gaps in the administration of criminal justice in Nigeria, which will also involve the amendment of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act of 2015.
1) ANNEX A: The Abattoir, A Five-Billion Naira Annual Revenue Business
2) ANNEX B: Report by an undercover journalist on Nigerian police, TheCable.ng
3) ANNEX C: DPA Policy Statement for October 2019.
4) ANNEX D: Report by Premium Times on the Offa bank robbery, titled:
“Offa Robbery: Suspect accuses police of forcing him to indict Saraki”,
March 16, 2019, by Evelyn Okakwu
The Due Process Advocates Foundation (DPA)
Kevin Oteiku Asekome, Esquire
On behalf of:
Ephraim Emeka Ugwuonye, Esquire
Founder and CEO; and Management of DPA
This petition and supporting attachment have been forwarded to the attention and notice of the following:
1) President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
2) Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
3) Chief Justice of Nigeria
4) Relevant committees of the National Assembly
5) The Human Rights Commission
6) Inspector General of Police
7) Attorney General of the Federation
8) The President of the Nigerian Bar Association
9) The relevant agencies of the United Nations
10) The United States Department of State
11) The Embassy of the United States
12) The British High Commission
13) The European Union
14) Office of The Prosecutor, The International Criminal Court
15) Human Rights Watch
16) Amnesty International
17) The AIT
18) The Guardian Newspaper