Why Human Rights Abuse Has Continued Unabated in Nigeria; By Femi Falana

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Comrade Falana SAN

NO doubt, Nigeria has ratified and enacted a few human rights treaties of the United Nations. Apart from the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which was domesticated in 1983, the federal government has merely ratified other conventions of the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States.

However, in 2014, the federal government appointed the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice as the National Authority to ensure compliance with all judgments of the ECOWAS Court, in line with Article 24 of the amended Protocol of the Court. But the current Attorney-General, Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN), has failed to ensure compliance, with not less than 40 judgments of the regional court that are yet to be complied with.

With respect to the African Court on Human and Peoples Rights, the federal government has deliberately refused to join 10 other African states that have made declarations to enable aggrieved individuals and non-governmental organisations to access the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, in accordance with Article 34 (6) of the Protocol for the Establishment of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

In order to create a human rights law regime in the country, some laws have conferred powers on certain bodies and individuals to protect the human rights of citizens. Indeed, section 60 of the Police Establishment Act, 2020 provides for the appointment of lawyers to man the human rights desks in the over 5,000 police stations in Nigeria. But for reasons best known to the authorities, the lawyers have not been appointed.

In spite of the claim that Nigeria operates under the rule of law, the federal government and its agencies have refused to comply with over 100 judgments delivered by municipal courts in favour of victims of human rights violations. Curiously, Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN) has endorsed such official impunity by insisting that national security supersedes the rule of law under the Buhari administration.

Indeed, it is common knowledge that the notorious Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigeria Police Force was disbanded last year following the nationwide protests against police brutality. But the brutalisation of hapless Nigerians in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and the 36 states of the federation has continued unabated. The efforts of the National Human Rights Commission to halt the infringements of human rights of citizens are usually ignored by security forces. Notwithstanding the powers conferred on the Commission to enforce the socio-economic rights of the Nigerian people, it has limited its activities to the half-hearted enforcement of political and civil rights of citizens.

In order to create a human rights law regime in the country, some laws have conferred powers on certain bodies and individuals to protect the human rights of citizens. Indeed, section 60 of the Police Establishment Act, 2020 provides for the appointment of lawyers to man the human rights desks in the over 5,000 police stations in Nigeria. But for reasons best known to the authorities, the lawyers have not been appointed.

In view of the foregoing, the federal government, state governments, the judiciary, Nigerian Bar Association and the National Human Rights Commission should henceforth ensure scrupulous observance of the human rights of the Nigerian people guaranteed by the constitution and other relevant laws.

Furthermore, Section 34 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 and Section 70 of the Police Establishment Act, 2020 have imposed a mandatory duty on Chief Magistrates to visit police detention centres and judges designated by the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court to conduct visits to all other detention facilities on a monthly basis with a view to preventing the illegal arrest and detention of citizens. But the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, the Honourable Justice John Tsoho, has refused to designate the judges, while Chief Magistrates have not been provided with vehicles to conduct the visits to police stations in all the states of the federation.

In the same vein, Section 21 of the Nigerian Correctional Services Act 2019 provides for regular visits to all correctional centres by designated persons, including the national officers of the Nigerian Bar Association. The purpose of such visits is to decongest the correctional centres. But the statutory Prison Visitors have not conducted any visit since the law was enacted in 2019. Whereas section 470 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act requires the Administration of Criminal Justice Monitoring Committee, headed by the Chief Judge of the Federal Capital Territory, to decongest the nation’s correctional centres, Mr Malami (SAN) has set up an illegal Prison Decongestion Committee headed by a retired Chief Judge of the Court.

In view of the foregoing, the federal government, state governments, the judiciary, Nigerian Bar Association and the National Human Rights Commission should henceforth ensure scrupulous observance of the human rights of the Nigerian people guaranteed by the constitution and other relevant laws.

As a converted democrat, President Buhari should direct Mr Malami (SAN) to ensure that the judgments of all competent courts are complied with in accordance with Section 287 of the Nigerian Constitution and Article 24 of the Amended Protocol of the ECOWAS Court. In addition, the federal government should make a declaration to enable aggrieved citizens to access the African Court after exhausting domestic remedies.

Falana (SAN), human rights lawyer and activist, is the Interim Chairman of Alliance on Surviving Covid-19 and Beyond (ASCAB).

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