Rights violations: Lawyer counters police reaction to Amnesty report

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*Policemen at work

*Policemen at work

*Wonders if Buhari govt can curb altitude of corruption

*Suspects signing before voluntary statement not “death warrant’ ­- Police

By Kemi Kasumu

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Akure lawyer, Mr. Jimoh Saliu, has described as unfortunate the denial of rights violations against detainees by the Nigeria Police Force as claimed in the recent report by Amnesty International (AI). He saw the denial as an altitude of corruption which he expressed concern whether President Muhammadu Buhari’s government could be able to curb.

In a statement titled “Counter reaction” sent to The DEFENDER, yesterday, the activist lawyer said the reaction of the Nigeria Police Force over the report of Amnesty International was unfounded and vexatious. He said such reaction by a police institution had portrayed the Nigerian State as a place lacking direction.

Going further, the statement showed Lawyer Jimoh Saliu’s ventilated anger noting that “It is crystal clear that the Nigeria Police have through the series of their actions altered the status of inhabitants of Nigeria from citizen to mere ‘slave’. The actions and inactions of some members of the Nigeria Police have even made Nigerians to lose their integrity or have stripped them of their rights clothed by Constitution,” the lawyer said in the statement.

The police had, reacting to the AI’s claim of rights violations against detainees, said the report in its entirety was “misleading, a clear misrepresentation of facts, unverified accounts and absolute distortion of the current situation in Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) throughout the country.”

Amnesty International had, in a report titled “In Nigeria: You have signed your death warrant,” said SARS, set up to combat crime had instead been systematically torturing detainees in its custody as a means of extracting confessions and lucrative bribes.

The report, released penultimate Monday, said former detainees confessed that they were subjected to horrific torture method, including hanging, starvation, beatings, shootings and mock executions, at the hands of corrupt officers from SARS.

The research leading to the report was said to have been conducted by a Nigerian researcher with AI, Damian Ugwu.

But the police, in a statement four days after by its spokesperson, Don Awunah, a Deputy Commissioner of Police, said the report was evidently the characteristic mind-set and pattern of Amnesty International to deride and castigate public institutions especially in developing countries like Nigeria.

It said Mr. Ugwu’s choice of words in describing the operations of SARS portrayed the researcher’s apparent ignorance of the rules of engagement of special police unit and the laws regulating criminal investigation in Nigeria.

According to the police, the researcher deliberately misconstrued the cautionary words, a prerequisite for suspects to sign before voluntary statement is taken from them as “death warrant.”

Emphasising, the police statement said that, “The Nigeria Police do not tolerate or condone torture in any form,” adding that, “The IGP, IGP Ibrahim Idris upon assumption of office conducted an audit of SARS rules of engagement and in a follow up reorganisation ensured; Conformity to International best practices in criminal investigation; Technology/ICT driven investigation techniques and Technical platforms to aid detectives.”
However, much as he appreciated the police politeness in its reaction to the AI’s report, Lawyer Saliu said that there was no doubt that the Amnesty report had “inevitably presented the grim picture of Nigerian Police about how and when they exercise the powers conferred on them by the law with the severe crudity, wickedness to exhort the Nigerians under the pretence of protecting law and order.”

Saliu went further to say that, “Without mincing words, I have several instances to point out to substantiate my claims. The Vehicle Inspection Officer (VIO) killed a 21-year-old boy while they were chasing a car along Ado Road near Shasha market in Akure. The persons, who were at the scene arrested the alleged officials and handed them to the police. Immediately after the crowd dispersed, the police released the suspects in their custody without taking any further action other than to intimidate the family of the victim. The Commissioner of Police of Ondo State Mrs. Harrison Ibifuro received our petition over the matter, yet, the police buried the matter,” he said.

The DEFENDER investigations revealed that the victim in question referred to by the lawyer remains in an Ondo State government’s hospital morgue till time of filing this report for reason that the poor parents could not afford to pay the N450,000 they were asked to pay by the government hospital located in Ondo town.

The lawyer continued, “Through the pages of the newspaper, a number of people have been killed by the Police, particularly, the commercial motorcycle riders who failed to give the police officers N10,000 on their request. At every Police Station, Police Divisional Headquarters, state and zonal commands the Nigeria Police Force and its officers threaten suspects and further put them in cell charging them amount to be paid for bail even in SARS. Nigerians have been to suffer. They have been brutalised, maimed in the hand of Nigerian police. We never know whether this Buhari-led government can curb the altitudes of corruption,” he said.

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