Amnesty international recently released a report that sharply criticized the Nigerian Government of doing very little about the rising cases of torture by security operatives in the country. And as usual, I took a special interest in this issue. My ardent blog readers already know me to speak up against injustice, discrimination and any form of human rights violation. Call me a human rights activist, if you will.
For my blog readers who might not know, I’m Nigerian and I live in Nigeria; so, I can authoritatively state the situation of things to an acceptable degree of accuracy. Torture has become an integral part of policing in Nigeria. Policemen, on a daily basis use several torture methods which include merciless beating, illegal detention, starvation, intense brutality and rape. The main objective of these torture in Nigeria is to obtain forced confession and this is a ridiculously irresponsible method by which the police ‘solves’ cases quickly. These victims, often times innocent go through unspeakable horror and are forced to make forced confessions which is eventually used as evidence against then in the courts. Most times, they are sent to jail based on these concessions they were forced to make under duress. Sometimes, the confession is even prepared by the police and they are tortured and forced to sign it.
The Nigerian Police force and many other security agencies including the military are reputed for their flagrant abuse of citizens human rights. Mistreatment of Nigerians by the police and security operatives is a very common occurrences. Personally, I have witnessed countless incidences.
Often times, a person is accused of an offence, perhaps, stealing or being a witch or being homosexual and is publicly being lynched or beaten; when the police is called, they do nothing or even encourage the crowd to go on. An example is the Aluu 4: a popular story of four university students who were accused stealing and were beaten and burnt alive while the police stood by and did nothing! This shows that the Police condones human rights violation and worse still, are even guilty of it.
Extrajudicial killings by security operatives without any form of accountability is also commonly seen in Nigeria. Also, illegal arrest and detention is very rampant. These victims are usually tortured, starved and kept under very inhumane conditions. Some people are of the opinion that the origin of police brutality in Nigeria is from the colonial days when this was a key method used by colonial masters in enforcing authority and loyalty. This may well be true. However, the rise in the use of various forms of torture in Nigeria has sharply increased mainly due to the terrorist activities of Boko Haram in the Northern parts of the country. Since 2009, between 5,000 and 10,000 people have been detained as suspects in the crackdown on the militant Islamist group, which is designated as a terror organization by the United States. Many people suspected of terrorist activities are arrested and mercilessly tortured until they ‘confess’. This way, innocent often suffer for something they know nothing about.
Read some heart breaking stories of torture below (by Amnesty International):
A torture survivor, Abosede, aged 24, told Amnesty International how sickening police abuse left her with a permanent injury:
“A policewoman took me to a small room, told me to remove everything I was wearing. She spread my legs wide and fired tear gas into my vagina. I was asked to confess that I was an armed robber… I was bleeding… up till now I still feel pain in my womb.”
Nigeria’s military is committing similar human rights violations, detaining thousands as they search for Boko Haram members.
Mahmood, a 15 year old boy from Yobe state, was arrested by soldiers with around 50 other people, mainly boys between 13 and 19 years old. He told Amnesty International that the military held him for three weeks, beat him repeatedly with their gun butts, batons and machetes, poured melting plastic on his back, made him walk and roll over broken bottles and forced him to watch other detainees being extra-judicially executed. He was eventually released in April 2013.
These stories are awfully pathetic and brought tears to my eyes. This makes me ask the most important question, “What must be done to stop this evil called torture in Nigeria?”
First and most importantly, the Nigerian Parliament must criminalize torture, with well defined strict punishments for offenders.
There must be accountability. The Police and all other security operatives owes that to the people! There can’t just be cases of extra judicial killings and torture and no one explains anything or follows it up. The law must provide justice. Policemen and security operatives accused of torture and brutality must be tried and be adequately punished if found guilty. The Government must stand up and ensure that the human rights of the citizens are protected. Law enforcement agencies are to serve the people and not to victimize and oppress them!
Lastly, I must also note that torture and police brutality is not exclusive to NIGERIA alone. So many other countries are guilty of this: Torture with impunity. North Korea has a horrible record of torture and human rights violations. Even the United States has serious issues about police partiality based on race.