Posted by Due Process Advocates (DPA) | 31 December 2013 | 7,900 times
As 2013 comes to an end, the state of human rights in Nigeria remains abysmal. At various police stations, particularly the unit known as the SARS, suspects are still being taken out in the middle of the night and extra-judicially executed. We are not referring to any isolated set of incidents. Rather, we refer to systemic killings, which many people in government understand to be taking place in these police stations, but decide to look the other way, thus tacitly encouraging the atrocity. In Lagos State alone, it was reliably reported that in the last two weeks of the year, about 28 inmates detained by SARS in Lagos disappeared, presumed killed by SARS officers.
Indeed, 2013 was ushered in with the discovery in Anambra State of countless number of bodies, between 30 and 50, of men mostly dressed in boxer shorts, floating in the Ezu River. These were suspected to be victims of SARS executions in that state. It is not only the SARS or the police that are involved in extra-judicial executions, though their number remains mindboggling. The SSS and the military are implicated equally, particularly in connection with the anti-Boko Haram operations that often fail to spare the innocent. A good example is the Apo killings in Abuja, which is a matter pending investigation at present, and in which DPA is now involved.
Apart from extra-judicial killings by law enforcement agents and security forces, assassinations and homicidal violence remain high. Even a former President accused the present administration of setting up a strike force with a target list of a thousand politicians for elimination. Whether that particular allegation was substantiated or not, it is remarkable that it was made by the person who made it and against whom it was made. It reflects the perception of the existence of assassination as an aspect of political contests in Nigeria. There has been marked increase in killings, kidnappings and torture by vigilante groups and cultists, militants and terrorist/insurgents all over the country. The number of deaths attributed to these causes has risen sharply over the years since the transition from military to civilian administration.
Beyond assassinations and killings, there remains high incidence of brutality, unlawful detentions, extortion, intimidation and abuse of office and power by law enforcement agents and other groups that fall into the category of rights abusers. Ignorance remains one of the key reasons for rights abuses in Nigeria. This takes the form of ignorance on the part of the law enforcement agents and security forces, as well as ignorance on the part of the victims, which prevents them from availing themselves of even the limited remedies that tend to exist.
The greatest challenge to right-abuse problems has to do with the lack of institutions for rule of law and protection of the rights of the victims. Though there is a constitution in force and there is a new court rule for fundamental rights enforcement, these institutions are largely inadequate and deeply corrupt. They lack funding. They lack trained personnel with the orientation to be effective. Indeed, Nigerian courts are largely responsible for the problem whereby 90% of the country’s prison inmates are on pretrial detentions only. The delays in the administration of justice caused mostly by the courts’ inability to manage dockets in an efficient and effective manner are equally to blame. Poverty has also been a major factor in the lack of access to justice for those who have been victims of rights abuses.
The Nigerian economy has not sustained the economic growth that appeared briefly in 2006 and 2007. There has remained massive unemployment. The little economic growth that has been seen has not been efficiently managed in a way that would have addressed poverty in the country. Such growth created few more dollar millionaires, but failed to pull the majority of the poor across the poverty lines. Access to justice thus remains unaffordable to most victims of right abuses. There remains high level and widespread corruption in all facets of public life in Nigeria. Also, in the private sector, there remains corruption and abuses, as people are forced to pay all manner of unlawful fees. As one example, university students pay for admission and for grades, and sometimes with sex and other unlawful exchanges. The EFCC, which once gave hope to the possibility of fighting corruption in Nigeria, has steadily buckled under the weight of its internal corruption and gross incompetence. It is fair to say that Nigerians have lost all confidence in the EFCC and anything like that.
Among the class of victims, other than being generally the poor, women and children constitute far the majority. Rape and sex offenses against women remained rampant. Four out of every ten girls would be raped before age 22. These sex offenses mostly occur in places where there is clear power differential between dominant males and weak and impoverished female victims. The law has little protection for victims of rape and sex offences. The law has no protection for the poor. The civil society and human rights groups remain too few and too ineffectual to make any impact. In all, 2013 has not been a year to celebrate for human rights purposes. Ranked among other countries in the region, Nigeria remains in the lower half of the list of countries.
•Being the 2013 Summary Annual Report on Rights by Due Process Advocates (DPA) as compiled by the Group Founder/Principal Administrator, Emeka Ugwuonye, Esquire, who is also President, ECULAW Group. Photo courtesy PM News.
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