Okechukwu Nwanguma is the Government Director, Rule of Legislation and Accountability Advocacy Centre, an organisation that promotes justice for victims of human rights violation and has dealt with a number of instances of human rights violation by the Nigeria Police. He tells ALEXANDER OKERE how the disbanded Particular Anti-Theft Squad of the safety company grew to become an organised ‘legal entity’
How would you assess the federal government’s reactions to #EndSARS protests, particularly with the substitute of Particular Anti-Theft Squad with the Particular Weapons and Techniques unit?
I’m joyful that after a few years of obvious docility and passivity, Nigerian youths finally skilled a reawakening, discovered their voices, picked up the gauntlet and rose to the event. I by no means thought that at the present time of renewed consciousness would are available in my technology. The youth have for a few years, been the principle targets and victims of police brutality and so they rose courageously, of their numbers, to demand an finish to police brutality, starting with the demand for the disbandment of the infamous SARS, a tactical intervention power that was created to struggle crime however ended up committing crime and having fun with impunity.
The protests had been widespread, resounding and sustained. It achieved substantial success. The youth had been clear of their calls for and the federal government made cheap concessions. Nevertheless, public cynicism and mistrust of presidency arising from a few years of deceit, lies and betrayal, made the protesters doubt authorities’s sincerity and seriousness to make good its many guarantees. Therefore, the protesters persevered, insisting on seeing concrete actions earlier than they might again down. However when it grew to become clear that sponsored hoodlums had infiltrated, hijacked and derailed the nice trigger, it was time to tactically retreat, re-assess and proceed to have interaction by way of different official means. I foresaw and warned of the necessity to keep away from the casualties that the rogue authorities, utilizing the extremely politicised navy, was predictably decided to trigger amongst defenceless individuals whose solely crime was peacefully demanding good governance.
Do you take into account the redeployment of personnel of the defunct SARS to different models an motion that reveals the desire to deal with the actual issues?
The IGP has mentioned that no member of the defunct SARS shall be a part of the brand new outfit that has been created to interchange SARS. That may be a good first step. The following step could be to do an audit of personnel of the disbanded SARS, establish these with instances of homicide and abuse to reply and be investigated and prosecuted. Their victims are additionally entitled to redress, together with apologies and financial compensations. The personnel additionally must undergo a psychological analysis to isolate these with psychological well being issues. They’ll’t be reintegrated or redeployed into different models as a result of they won’t solely proceed with their crimes of their new locations of postings but additionally negatively affect different much less brutal and corrupt officers. The Nigeria Police wants purging and people who are untrainable and irredeemable have to be proven the best way out.
What are the issues created by the defunct SARS that require pressing actions from the authorities?
The SARS operatives, similar to these of different tactical models, had been legal guidelines unto themselves as a result of they had been answerable solely to the IGP. They held senior officers, together with state commissioners of police in contempt and had been past their management. They acted as they appreciated with out supervision and accountability for crimes and abuse.
This was the background towards which the IGP, as one among his earlier reform measures, decentralised the command and management of SARS and made state command CPs and zonal assistant inspectors basic answerable for any excesses by operatives inside their operational jurisdictions. Previous to this, SARS operatives might transfer from one state to a different state to abduct individuals, take them round, detain, torture and extort enormous sums of cash in ransom from them. Individuals had been taken to their banks or pressured to make use of ATM or POS and their accounts emptied. We aren’t speaking about exhibit cash or property. We’re speaking about rogue operatives robbing individuals of their hard-earned cash and properties. SARS grew to become an organised legal entity.
Police brutality is an issue that has persevered for lengthy within the Nigerian police system and plenty of Nigerians accuse the management of the police of alleged complicity. Do you share that opinion?
Nigeria at independence inherited the institutional tradition of the colonial police, the tradition of violence and repression. Its philosophy is regime safety relatively than service and safety for the individuals. This tradition was strengthened by navy rule and has persevered beneath the present dispensation. Insufficient funding of the police and poor welfare circumstances of the personnel are additionally contributory to abuse and corruption. When officers must require cash from complainants or accused individuals to research instances, it creates room for corruption and violence.
When junior officers are required to make returns to senior officers to retain their ‘profitable’ beats, corruption turns into institutional. Will probably be tough to attain change on the decrease stage when there’s additionally corruption on the prime.
The brand new Police Act gives a brand new authorized framework to reposition the police. It gives a funding framework to make sure that police budgeting is bottom-top and displays the precise budgetary wants of the NPF in any respect ranges.
There have been issues raised about Awkuzu SARS in Anambra State. Are you able to share your expertise with the centre?
Awkuzu SARS was probably the most infamous of all of the SARS bases throughout the nation. It was notable for the cruelty and mindlessness of its operatives within the abuse of arrest and detention procedures, and in using torture and extrajudicial killings as technique of ‘investigation’. They had been notable for framing and parading individuals for crimes they’d no proof that they dedicated. They extorted enormous sums of cash from their victims and relations of their victims. In addition they killed for politicians and had been accessible for rent to settle scores. Nearly all of the victims who had been fortunate to return out alive or their kinfolk alleged that Awkuzu SARS harvested and offered the physique components of some individuals they executed. This must be correctly investigated to establish its veracity or in any other case. One infamous man ran a human ‘abbatoir’ at Awkuzu SARS the place lives had been willfully terminated. He denied detainees entry to anyone and disregarded court docket orders. His actions, together with his reference to politicians and notable businessmen in Anambra State needs to be investigated.
Justice for the victims of extrajudicial killings by the police has been a tough activity for affected households. Who needs to be blamed for this; the police or the Nigerian judicial system?
Amnesty Worldwide, in one among its previous stories, described the Nigerian legal justice system as a conveyor belt of injustice. That is true. From poor police investigation due lack of funds, correct coaching and amenities, to inefficiency and delay by the prosecutors, to congestion, delay and, typically, corruption within the judiciary resulting in delay of and, typically, denial of justice, to congestion of correctional centres, all the legal justice system is a curse on the residents, particularly the poor. In few instances the place the courts have decided instances of extrajudicial killing and ordered the police to pay compensations to victims, the police disobey most of such orders and the courts are sometimes helpless. The attorneys basic are additionally complicit in lots of instances by failure to successfully make sure that court docket orders are obeyed by government businesses or that justice is distributed pretty and speedily of their jurisdictions.
For a way lengthy has the defunct Awkuzu SARS had its fame as an abattoir?
It was way back to 2005 or 2006, once I went to Anambra State to do analysis on the patterns and prevalence of police abuse in my advocacy for police reforms that I took place particular instances. It has maintained that notoriety (Awkuzu SARS) and that exact commander spent a number of years in that very same unit. What you’d discover is that in most locations, officers like which are normally saved for thus lengthy as a result of they work not only for legislation enforcement but additionally for individuals in authorities and businessmen. There may be one space we have to additional examine: Each single individual I’ve interviewed who handed by way of Awkuzu SARS spoke in regards to the sale of human components. I do know that that is one thing tough to show, despite the fact that all of them say it. They usually described a selected man known as Physician, who all the time got here in a white gown any time any individual was shot behind the torture chamber. What he got here to do, they didn’t know. So, that gave them the impression that the person was coming to reap human components however that must be investigated.
What particular strategies of torture had been employed on the centre?
Probably the most distinguished was tying the 2 arms and legs of the victims behind their backs and hanging them from a ceiling fan with their victims’ chests protruding. They would go away them for hours, flog them, administer electrical shock and use fireplace, sizzling objects and machetes on them. Typically, they (SARS officers) would additionally insert broomsticks into their genitals, for males; and for females, they might use bottles. Typically, additionally, once they wished to execute, with out capturing them, they might use a trampoline to cowl their face in order that they might suffocate. So, these had been the same old strategies that we heard from the individuals we interviewed.
Did a number of the feminine victims say they had been raped?
I’ve come throughout many feminine victims of torture who, in the middle of narrating their ordeal, wouldn’t usually let you know that they had been raped. However whenever you probe additional, they let you know in confidence and let you know to not embrace it within the report. So, sexual violence is prevalent. The one downside is that there’s a tradition of silence that makes victims not wish to discuss it.
Why do you assume nothing has been achieved in regards to the actions of policemen on the defunct Awkuzu SARS?
The person (former head of Awkuzu SARS) has severe connections with energy businessmen in Anambra State. A former IGP instructed me that, following our quite a few petitions towards the infamous former head of Awkuzu SARS, he wished to take away him from that place, however that he (IGP) obtained calls from a governor, a distinguished conventional ruler within the state, and a distinguished transporter, who was a daily customer to Awkuzu SARS as of that point. With the connections with these highly effective individuals, it was tough for any IGP to take steps. The IGP additionally had difficulties in eradicating a former head of SARS in Lagos however needed to create a brand new workplace for him and transfer him to Abuja.
Are you aware if any of the officers of Awkuzu SARS has been prosecuted for the crimes dedicated?
Not a single one has been prosecuted.
Who do you assume needs to be blamed for the dearth of accountability within the defunct SARS and the police usually?
Let me let you know the reality. The accountability is at two ranges. One factor I do know is that the commissioners of police in state instructions normally don’t have management over SARS. The person who has management over SARS is the IGP, however he hardly does something as a result of the models make some huge cash and make returns to retain these posts. So, at one stage, it’s as a result of a number of the IGPs profit from the cash they get from SARS models. Then again, it’s due to political interference. The reality is that the President is the operational head of the police, not the IGP. Nigeria is the one nation in the entire world the place now we have that form of association, the place a political chief that should be in command of insurance policies, is in command of each insurance policies and operations. So, that is among the reforms that should occur if the Nigeria Police have to be insulated from political management and inefficiency, and be made skilled.
Among the accounts reported in regards to the defunct SARS are depraved and horrific. Why do you assume individuals meant to guard unarmed residents misplaced their conscience and have become evil?
It’s due to the impunity within the system. They killed as soon as and nothing occurred, so they might do it once more. When there’s a tradition of violence and brutality, nothing occurs. That’s the reason an officer in SARS would use his powers to settle private scores. In case you have an individual who dedicated no crime, they may arrest the individual and label that individual a kidnapper or an armed robber. They might demand cash and if the individual didn’t convey it, they may kill the individual.
Some states have arrange judicial panels of enquiries to look into the problems raised by the protesters, with regard to the excesses of the police. Do you assume these will give justice to the victims?
It is a uncommon alternative for justice for the quite a few victims of police brutality. Up to now, many choices of judicial panels of inquiry have been ignored. The ‘Apo six’ is a helpful instance. However we have to discover this chance and have interaction it to make sure that it really works for the individuals and achieves the justice they deserve and want.
There have been allegations that the protests derailed and turned violent as witnessed in Lagos, Edo, Osun, Abuja and others. What do you assume went unsuitable?
The protest lasted about 11 consecutive days and remained peaceable as much as the previous couple of days. There was no motive for individuals who remained peaceable all alongside and who, from the beginning, continued to precise their dedication to stay peaceable, to abruptly resort to violence. After all, we heard information and noticed movies of hoodlums attacking peaceable protesters in lots of states. Sooner or later, pro-government protesters additionally confronted the #EndSARS protesters. So, clearly, authorities sponsored hoodlums to infiltrate, hijack and derail the in any other case peaceable protests. They usually did that to discredit the protesters and to supply the pretext to crack down on them. That is cowardly.
What’s your response to the curfew imposed by some state governments?
The curfew would have been pointless if the employed brokers of violence had not intervened and escalated the state of affairs to violence simply to supply the premise to impose a curfew and smoke the protesters out of the streets. I commend the Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde, for making the distinction and demonstrating management which each accountable and well-meaning governor and the President ought to take a cue from. Reasonably than blame the protesters, he deployed forces to go after the hoodlums and supply safety for the protesters.
What different methods can true reform be made within the police power?
The brand new Police Act gives the framework to drive police reform. All of the stakeholders who’ve roles to play beneath the legislation should play their roles. We have to sanitise the recruitment course of, guarantee correct coaching and retraining, adequately fund and equip the police and enhance welfare. Self-discipline and accountability for abuses are vital.
What’s your response to the killing of peaceable protesters at Lekki, Lagos, by navy officers, in view of the difficulty of extrajudicial killings and disrespect for human rights?
What I discover fully unwarranted, unjustifiable and, subsequently, unacceptable is firing stay bullets at unarmed protesters. Navy deployment was uncalled for. The IGP had earlier deployed anti-riot law enforcement officials who, expectedly, would have used minimal and proportionate power to disperse those that turned the peaceable protest into pointless violence. Whereas violence is deplorable, using extreme and disproportionate power is a criminal offense beneath worldwide legislation that Nigerian subscribes to.
The Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, on Wednesday mentioned the incident at Lekki on Tuesday night time was past his management. Do you assume he ought to take accountability for the lack of lives?
Some information stories and movies in circulation report that protesters had been shot at by the navy and casualties recorded. If the governor mentioned ‘no life was misplaced,’ then this requires an investigation. The governor stays the chief safety officer of Lagos State and can take accountability for the state of insecurity enveloping Lagos State. If the state of affairs is past his management, he ought to resign.
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