Gentlemen of the Press, Ladies and Gentlemen,
NOPRIN warmly welcomes you all to this media briefing where we want to present to you our two new books ‘Waiting for Justice’ and ‘Through the Lens of the Media’ which we have published with the support of Mac Arthur Foundation. We also wish to use the occasion to respond to some very disturbing developments in the polity in relation to law enforcement and human rights and how they affect the day to day lives of the majority ordinary Nigerians.
NOPRIN believes that civil society must lead the charge in pushing Nigerian leaders to commit to genuine police reform and the fulfillment of Nigeria’s voluntarily undertaken human rights obligations under the 1999 constitution and regional and international law to which Nigeria is a party.
We have published these books in pursuit of one of our cardinal mandates: to monitor, document and campaign against police abuses in Nigeria. It is part of our contribution towards redirecting and deepening the on-going reform in the Nigeria Police Force.
‘Human Rights in Retreat’: State of Law Enforcement and Human Rights in Nigeria.
President Goodluck Jonathan has lost the confidence, goodwill and support of the Nigerian people who voted him into power. The simple reason is that his government has failed to fulfill the raison-d’être of government which is security and welfare of the people. His government is dominated by extremely corrupt people who have no interest of the country and people at heart. The President has defaulted on and betrayed the social contract which he entered into with the Nigerian people. Having utterly failed to tackle corruption and provide good governance, he has resorted to fear, desperation and panic. The government is now afraid of its shadows. At the slightest move by the people to demand good governance, government rolls out the tanks as we are witnessing now at the Gani Fawehinmi Park, Ojota. Hunted by the success of the January 2012 ‘Reclaim Nigeria’ protests against the so-called removal of oil subsidy, government has turned paranoid and repressive. Human rights have come under attack as free expression and dissent are now suppressed using security agencies. Evidence from the probe report confirms Nigerians’ conviction that the whole episode called subsidy is a fraud. Its corruption. It has exposed how corruption is killing Nigeria and Nigerians. It has exposed how corruption is retarding national development. Nigerians must determine now to fight back corruption before corruption finally decimates Nigerians. Of course, as expected, patrons and beneficiaries of corruption are already fighting back, but Nigerians must remain resolute and seize the opportunity thrown up by the report of the Hon. Farouk Lawan-led House of Representatives Committee and the expressed determination of the House of Representatives led by Hon. Speaker Tambuwal to deal a decisive and mortal assault- once and for all- on corruption.
Return of the Era of Repression
A number of incidents in the past four months have once again, brought to the fore the character of law enforcement in Nigeria. The incidents have reminded us of the extent to which our law enforcement agencies and the political leaders who control them comply with their local and international obligations to respect and protect citizens’ rights. We refer to the several cases in which security forces have been recklessly deployed by the state to brutalize citizens or harass and intimidate critical voices in Nigeria for exercising their fundamental human rights to free expression or fulfilling their obligation to peacefully demonstrate against impoverishing policies. From the undemocratic and unjustifiable deployment of soldiers to the streets of Lagos in January to quell peaceful protests of citizens- including senior citizens- protesting against ‘subsidy removal’, through the illegal police summon on Dr. Chidi Odinkalu, the Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission’s Governing Council, to the current State Security Service (SSS) manhunt on Mr. Jaye Gaskia, the Convener of the United Action for Democracy (UAD): there are clearly ominous signs of a resurgence of a familiar pattern of abuse of power and human rights violations by law enforcement agencies in Nigeria. We are witnessing a regress to the dark days of authoritarian repression and dictatorial closure of the democratic space in Nigeria.
These acts of desperation by a poor performing government are happening within the context of increasing demands by Nigerians for good governance, particularly the demand for a sincere, more serious and vigorous war against corruption. Corruption impacts adversely on human rights and development.
A number of legislative probes have been conducted into the management of public resources by various sectors in the economy. From the probe of the power sector by the House of Representatives- which indicted former President Obasanjo, through the probe of the Halliburton Scandal (which indicted three former heads of State in Nigeria, and for which their collaborators in the US have been tried and sent to prison); corruption allegations against high profile politicians including former governors by the EFCC, to the recent probe of the Petroleum sector by the House of Representatives, Nigerians have been treated to scandalous and mind-boggling revelations of stupendous sleaze and merciless pillaging of the commonwealth by public officers entrusted with public office and resources.
All these probes have revealed the involvement of highly placed individuals within the executive branch in the massive and unconscionable stealing of public funds, including pensioners’ funds. Think of how many pensioners who have died while waiting to collect their pensions after putting in many years in service of their fatherland. Think of the deprivations to which their dependents suffer and which often force them to resort to crime and other debasing means of eking out a living.
Considering the involvement of high profile individuals in the executive branch, including those very close to the president, we are worried that the President may not muster the will and courage to implement the recommendations of the various probes and ensure that all those involved in what Hon. Farouk Lawan described in his Committee’s report as ‘endemic corruption and entrenched inefficiency’ and looting of public funds are effectively brought to book. The president’s body language obviously demonstrates this lack of will and courage.
As we speak, indicted oil firms and top government officials have commenced desperate moves, throwing around the same stolen funds to create confusion in the House of Representatives, blur the issues of corruption with the ultimate aim of unseating the Speaker of House of Representatives, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal who has displayed uncommon courage and bond with the Nigerian people.
We are also concerned by the patent failure of our law enforcement agencies and some of our lawyers to effectively investigate and prosecute offenders. Even more disheartening is the incompetence and the diminishing integrity of our judiciary to effectively dispense justice as exemplified in the Ibori case. How come that a man discharged and acquitted by our own (Nigerian) judiciary later confessed to the same charges for which he was set free in Nigeria and was eventually convicted and jailed in a foreign land!
NOPRIN salutes the House of Representatives Committee led by Hon. Farouk Lawan for conducting the probe of the petroleum sector with such forensic precision and patriotic efficiency. We salute that Committee’s patriotism in resisting dubious pressure to compromise, and its courage to eventually submit the report. We also welcome the House of Representatives’ avowed determination to ensure public debate on the report and its call on the executive to ensure the full implementation of the recommendations without fear or favour. Civil society organizations in Nigeria stand together with the leadership of the House of Representatives in their quest to ensure that the report of the petroleum sector probe is not swept under the carpet, as has been the case with previous similar reports.
We are however worried by the increasing propensity by the federal government to resort to the use of security agencies, particularly, the police and the State Security Service (SSS) to harass and intimidate patriotic voices calling for the full implementation of the various probe reports and urging the government to demonstrate genuine- rather than rhetorical- commitment to fighting corruption and delivering good governance.
We condemn the hardly veiled attempt to muzzle free speech and the right to dissent as demonstrated by the deployment of tanks and soldiers in January and again yesterday at the Gani Fawehinmi Park, Ojota; the use of the police to harass and attempt to intimidate Dr. Odinkalu, and now, the SSS man- hunt on Jaye Gaskia, the Convener of the United Action for Democracy after he announced the intention of the UAD to commence mass mobilization of Nigerians to prevail on the Executive to ensure the arrest and prosecution of all persons and bodies implicated in corruption.
Hunted by the success of the January 2012 ‘Occupy Nigeria’ Protests, the federal government appears to be baring its fangs against Nigerians at the slightest indication of resistance to its oppressive policies, actions or inactions.
The SSS manhunt on Jaye Gaskia since Sunday April 22, a few days after the police summoned and sought to intimidate Dr. Chidi Odinkalu, for stating the obvious and self acknowledged fact that Nigerian Police routinely kill Nigerians extra judicially, and rarely bring perpetrators to account reinforce our fears that human rights, freedom and liberty are in retreat in Nigeria.
President Jonathan will only undermine his own legitimacy by placing himself above the collective will of the people who put him in power. NOPRIN calls on Nigerians to gird their loins to fight and defeat this budding dictatorship before it becomes full blown.
NOPRIN calls on President Jonathan, as the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces and the operational head of the NPF to put his security hounds on the leash and work towards addressing the security challenges that confront this country under his leadership.
Security forces have failed to tackle crime and insecurity in Nigeria because they suffer neglect. They are poorly trained, under-motivated and ill-equipped to tackle crime and insecurity. Their remuneration and other benefits are not only inadequate but are hardly paid promptly. Police pensions are also stolen. The lives of officers and men are daily exposed to grave risks, and fatality rate among personnel is unacceptably high.
Government only finds the police useful in using them as tools to repress critics and opposition. This was the hallmark of military dictatorship and cannot be allowed under constitutional rule.
President Jonathan must renew his commitment to genuine police reform, work towards guaranteeing public safety and welfare and the full enjoyment of human rights by all Nigerians. He must genuinely commit to fighting corruption by aligning with the House of Representatives and civil society to ensure the full implementation of the various probe reports. The resort to the harassment of Nigerians who call for probity, transparency and accountability (which are the hallmarks of genuine democracy) must end.
THE BOOKS: ‘Waiting for Justice’ and ‘Through the Lens of the Media’
‘Waiting for Justice’ is the summary report of the zonal public hearings on torture, extrajudicial killings, rape and sexual abuse by the police in Nigeria which NOPRIN, in collaboration with the National Human Rights Commission and the National Committee on Torture, held across the five of the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria between 2010 and 2011.
The Public Tribunal provided opportunity for survivors, witnesses and relatives of victims of police abuses to testify before a public tribunal about the abuses they suffered in the hands of the police and other law enforcement agencies and to seek redress and justice through mechanisms of internal control and external accountability. The Public tribunal was presided over by eminent Nigerians drawn from the judiciary, human rights experts, National Human rights commission and democracy activists.
Public Tribunal on Police abuse of human rights is NOPRIN’s initiative and contribution to civil society’s effort to assist agencies of government statutorily charged with oversight of the police to discharge their functions effectively and timely. Broadly, the Public Tribunal is aimed at mobilizing a sustainable national opinion against the culture of impunity in Nigeria. The public tribunal provides a transparent and open means of exposing abuses and naming and shaming which are necessary to deter abuses and combat impunity. The tribunal also provides a platform to demonstrate the need for the federal government to comprehensively and meaningfully address the dire welfare needs of members of the Nigerian Police and to provide them with adequate training based on human rights principles.’
The objectives of the Public Tribunal:
1. To provide opportunity for victims of police abuse or their family members/ legal representatives- on their behalf, to testify about their experiences with the police, and to seek and secure redress and remedies through mechanisms of internal control and external accountability; as well as to seek sanctions against perpetrators of abuse or violation.
2. To awaken and assist institutions of government charged with oversight of the police, particularly, the Police Service Commission, to carry out their duties effectively and timely
3. To mobilize eminent Nigerians to join the campaign against police abuses and impunity.
4. To provide a platform for interaction between the police and members of the public to promote mutual understanding, cooperation and partnership in safety and security in Nigeria.
In 2010, a total of 36 persons testified at three zonal public tribunals. In 2011, 17 persons testified at two zonal public tribunals. Several others who did not get the opportunity to testify, owing to constraints of time, had to submit their petitions and cases in writing to NOPRIN. The testimonies bothered mainly on torture, extrajudicial killing, disappearances, and rape.
As would be seen in the report, the tribunal achieved significant results such as leading to disciplinary actions against police and other law enforcement personnel involved in or responsible for abuses; reopening of investigations into cases of crimes and abuses that had been abandoned or shoddily investigated or covered-up; orderly room trial/ court marshalling- as the case may be, of police/ military personnel indicted for violations and abuse of powers and their dismissal and prosecution, and recovery of bribe extorted by police personnel from victims of crime in the course of investigation. The tribunal has also inspired law enforcement policy changes.
One of the important police oversight mechanisms put in place by the government is the Police Service commission (PSC). Established under section 153(1) of the 1999 constitution, the commission is empowered to ‘appoint, dismiss and exercise disciplinary control over persons holding office other than the office of the Inspector General of police, in the Nigeria Police Force…’
However the PSC has been hamstrung by lack of capacity and political interference. For instance, despite well proven cases of Police Misconduct in the past, only very few disciplinary measures against erring officers were initiated by the PSC.
Again police internal oversight mechanisms, such as the Human Rights Desk, have at best been docile while human rights violations in the force continue unchecked.
The Public Tribunal was therefore, NOPRIN’s contribution to assisting and strengthening police oversight mechanisms to make them more effective in checking police misconducts and abuse of rights in the context of law enforcement.
‘Waiting for Justice’ summarizes the testimonies at these public tribunals and the findings and recommendations of the eminent persons who presided at the five zonal public tribunals. It begins with an Introduction which gives an overview of the regional Public Tribunals.
There are 7 sections. Section 1 contains ‘Some Excerpts’ from the report and ‘General Recommendations’ for reform of the Nigerian Police. Sections 2 - 6 contain the Communiqués and edited versions of the Rapporteurs’ reports on the public tribunal for Abuja, 2010; Owerri, 2010; Akure, 2010; Calabar, 2011 and Kaduna, 2011. Section 7 contains Appendices, including the Summary Report of NOPRIN’s maiden public tribunal in Abuja in 2008; Keynote Addresses by the Federal Attorney General at the Public Tribunal in 2008 and by the State Attorneys-General of Cross River and Kaduna, as well as some newspaper reports on the tribunal in the various zones.
‘Through the Lens of the Media’
‘Through the Lens of the Media’ is the outcome of two years of monitoring and documenting selected newspaper reports on the Nigeria Police. It is a compilation of media reports on the Nigeria Police, covering a period of two years from January to December 2010 and January to September 2011. It was borne out of our view that Media reports relating to the activities, practices, performance and conducts of the police could provide an objective basis to assess how members of the public perceive the police. It shows what types of stories dominated news about the police during the period and enables the reader to make an independent and unbiased assessment of police effectiveness and success- or lack of it- in combating crime, the level of motivation and operational capability in the police, the casualty rate among police officers. It also shows whether there is reduction or increase in abuse of human rights; whether there is improvement in the funding, training, remuneration and motivation, and provision of equipment for the police. It shows how the police have related with the community and what the public feels about the police, etc.
The book is divided into two halves of equal parts. Part one contains reports for 2010 while Part two contains reports for 2011. Each part is subdivided into sections dealing with various themes such as human rights abuses by the Police, e.g. extrajudicial killings, police brutality and torture, excessive use of force, rape and sexual violence; corruption, extortion and bribe taking; stealing, collusion with criminals and other acts of misconduct; funding, equipment, welfare and the unacceptably high casualty rate among police officers as they combat better armed criminals.
The reports were generated from The Punch, Vanguard, the Sun, Next, Daily Trust, Compass newspapers and Tell magazine.
It is our hope that this report will serve, not only the purpose of providing a basis for assessing public perception on the police, but also serve as an advocacy tool and research resource, and ultimately lead to reforms and improvement in police performance, conduct and public relations. The human rights and advocacy community, academic researchers, Police authorities and personnel, political authorities and members of the public will find this compilation useful in their work.
NOPRIN has also produced two Documentaries entitled ‘Nigeria Police: Protectors or Predators? With the support of the MacArthur Foundation and ‘Above the Law: No Accountability for Police Abuse in Nigeria with the support of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED)’.
We do hope that these new books and documentaries will provide insights to the authorities as to the current state of the police and public safety, and the direction police reform should go. Ladies and gentlemen, we thank you for coming and urge you to critically x-ray the books and publicize the recommendations contained in them.
About NOPRIN Foundation:
NOPRIN Foundation (Network on Police Reform in Nigeria) is a not-for-profit network of 46 civil society organizations spread across Nigeria, and committed to promoting police accountability and respect for human rights. It was established in 2000 to provide opportunity for civil society input into police reform, and the enhancement of safety, security and justice in Nigeria. NOPRIN is registered in Nigeria, and carries out its mandate through monitoring, field research and investigation, documentation, publication, campaign and advocacy. NOPRIN partners with national, international, governmental and inter-governmental organizations and institutions in implementing its programs, aimed at transforming law enforcement institutions and practices in Nigeria.