Human rights groups, lawyers, and advocates have called for the enforcement of the Anti-Torture Law of Nigeria (2017), a law which prohibits torture, cruel and inhumane treatment of individuals.
The call was made in Lagos on Thursday at a roundtable meeting on ‘Ending Severe Human Rights Violations in Nigeria,’ which was organised by Avocats Sans Frontieres France (Lawyers Without Borders), a French international organisation.
Present at the roundtable meeting were representatives of the Nigerian Police Force, State Security Service (SSS), Nigerian Army, Nigerian Air Force, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Nigerian Correctional Services, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Nigerian Bar Association and other non-governmental organisations.
Several speakers at the roundtable emphasised the need to enforce the anti-torture act as one of the ways to end the impunity of human rights violations and use of torture by security agents.
The Anti-Torture Act 2017, which criminalises the use of torture, was passed by the eighth National Assembly and signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari in December 2017.
Speaking at the event, Angela Uwandu, from ASF France, Nigeria said the discussions seek to address the core human rights violations of torture by security agencies, incidents of arbitrary detention and extrajudicial killings by security agents.
She said ASF France, Nigeria is executing a project tagged ‘SAFE’ to bring all stakeholders together and discuss issues on human rights violation and torture of individuals.
“Human rights violations are very prevalent in the Nigerian society and whenever there is a violation, it means there is a perpetrator and a victim. One of the things we aim to achieve is to ensure that perpetrators of human right violations are held to account.
“The essence of bringing all stakeholders together is to ensure that incidents of human right abuses become very minimal and when they occur, perpetrators are held to account,” she said.
Mrs Uwandu said if perpetrators are not held to account, the impunity with which human rights violations occur in Nigeria will continue.
Another speaker, Abiodun Odusote, a senior lecturer at the Faculaty of Law, University of Lagos, said the pervasive human rights violation in Nigeria is worrisome.
“Violations as regards torture, cruel and inhumane treatments of arrested persons persist. There are a lot of unrecorded violations of human rights. Torture go on unhindered in many law enforcement agencies and there are ways to solve this in the long and short-term,” he said.
Mr Odusote said the use of torture is prevalent amongst state violators, mostly by law enforcement agencies such as the police, the SSS and others.
Giving recommendations, the senior lecturer said setting up CCTV cameras, digitalising operations and setting up interview rooms in all law enforcement agencies will help to curtail human right violations.
He added that there is a need for taining and retraining of law enforcement officers and provision cater for adequate welfare for them.
Speaking on the enforcement of the anti-torture law, Mr Odusote said there is no mechanism to monitor the enforcement and compliance to the law as torture goes on every day by law enforcement agents.
Bola Akinseti, the representative of the Lagos State Ministry of Justice and Attorney-General of the state, said Lagos government is doing a lot to reduce the cases of human right abuses.
“Sometimes when the police send case files for advice, we discover there is no sufficient evidence or investigation to prosecute such persons. But when we send the files back for further investigations, we usually don’t hear back from the police.
“We are aware that there are several people in detention awaiting trial, the state government is really doing a lot,” she said.
Mrs Akinseti said the ministry of justice will take up cases of human rights abuses brought to its notice swiftly, urging the lawyers present to collaborate with the ministry.
Other participants at the roundtable expressed the challenges they encounter in intervening in cases of human right violations and the unresponsive nature of security agents.
Part of the recommendations made at the roundtable is the enforcement of the anti-torture law by the Nigerian government and monitoring of compliance across all security agencies.
The discussants also recommended that lawyers should be given free access to intervene at the earliest stage in respect of the Force Order 20 which established the PDSS (Police Duty Solicitor Scheme).
“Efforts must be made to improve the welfare of the police officers. Officers of security agencies must be well equipped in tackling evidence gathering,” the discussants recommended, adding that perpetrators of human rights violations be brought to account.
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