STATEMENT ON THE 62ND ORDINARY SESSION OF THE AFRICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN AND PEOPLE’S RIGHTS HOLDING IN NOUAKCHOTT, MAURITANIA FROM APRIL 25 – MAY 9 2018.
The human rights situation in Nigeria from the 33 year military rule to the 19 year civilian administration makes an interesting subject for review in view of the dire situation in Nigeria viz-a-viz counter insurgency war, ethnic mass killings, and violent extremism prevalent in the country.
This statement urges the Commission to review Nigeria’s compliance with its human rights obligations under the Banjul Charter which the Country has adopted and domesticated; and other international human rights instruments in line with the under listed areas of concerns and also, adopt the recommendations stated therein.
The statement examines Nigeria’s compliance with human rights standards and principles as it relates to Torture, Extra-judicial Killings, and Responses to Terrorism and Crisis; Violent extremism and the Right to Life; and Gender Inequality.
Torture, Extra-judicial Killings, and Responses to Terrorism and Crisis.
The 9 year insurgency in the country has greatly exacerbated rights abuses in Nigeria. Online and offline reports reveal that counter-insurgency operations have led to rights violations and abuses by both state and non-state actors. These rights violations range from torture to enforced disappearances, arbitrarily long detentions, summary executions and extra-judicial killings, detention incommunicado and also sexual and gender based violence.
Creditably, Nigeria has adopted and domesticated the Banjul Charter as its national law, there is still an obvious poor level of implementation of this law as the unrestricted rights of Nigerians recognized under the Charter and guaranteed by the Constitution of the FRN are still not adequately protected.
There still exist, recorded incidences of torture, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and detention incommunicado, perpetuated by state actors in response to terrorism and adequate redress mechanisms do not exist for victims because impunity thrives when there is no political will to punish offenders irrespective of their status or affiliation.
The Legal Defence and Assistance Project, between 2015 – 2017 through its identification mechanism has been able to identify and file 142 fundamental human rights cases in Northeast Nigeria bordering on unlawful arrest and prolonged detention, torture and other cruel inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment.
To further buttress these points, LEDAP in rendering support to a loosely organized movement of over 300 people seeking the release and re-union with their family members who were abducted by men of the Nigerian army since 2015 has adopted various strategies to seek redress for these victims including writing to the National Assembly and Presidential Panel demanding for public hearing on behalf of the 276 persons detained by the military since 2015. So far, nothing has been done.
There is a more urgent need for the government to make conscious and concerted efforts to better protect and promote the rights of citizens.
Violent Extremism and the Right to Life
The right to life is the most basic right provided in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and under the Banjul Charter.
Acknowledging the efforts that have been made by the government to fight insurgency in the country, the upsurge in violent extremism and land grabbing attacks by herdsmen is an uprising which if left unchecked, will lead to a total annihilation of Nigerians and will undoubtedly affect the West Africa Region and African Continent. Almost everyday, Nigerians are killed in their numbers in flagrant disregard for the right to life. News of horrendous and gruesome killings especially in the North Central and North West regions of Nasarawa, Benue, Kogi, Zamfara, Southern Kaduna, etc have inundated the media space. The government needs to take a decisive stance and action to end mass killings and crimes that have infiltrated the country.
On this note, we urge the Commission to review Nigeria’s obligation to protect lives and properties in line with efforts that have been made to strengthen its security apparatuses in order to meet its foremost responsibility.
On death penalty, it’s a truism that it doesn’t act as a deterrence in the criminal justice sector and it targets mostly indigent people.
It has become imperative for a nation wide moratorium to be called on the death penalty and positive de-jure measures taken to abolish same.
Irrespective of Nigeria signing and ratifying the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa, otherwise known as the Maputo Protocol, not much affirmative actions have been made to address issues fostering discrimination against women in the African region.
Women and girls still face a lot of rights violations including but not limited to various forms of SGBV, child marriages, SRHR violations such as high maternal and morbidity rate, lack of access to adequate health care facilities, inadequate representation in the political and governance structure of the country, etc.
The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Criminal Justice Reform Committee held its 5th Criminal Justice Reform Conference in Asaba, Delta State from the 24th – 27th April 2018. At the closing dinner of the Conference, a number of distinguished stakeholders were honoured for their immense contributions to the progress of criminal justice administration in the country.
The national coordinator of LEDAP, Mr Chino Obiagwu was one of those honoured for his outstanding contributions in the reform of criminal justice administration in Nigeria. According to the NBA, the award was made in recognition of Mr Obiagwu’s role as the Chairman of the National Working Group on the Reform of Criminal Justice in Nigeria between 2004 and 2009, which prepared the first draft of the Administration of Criminal Justice Bill (ACJA) that was eventually passed into an Act of the National Assembly in 2015.
Other awardees at the well attended conference were Prof Yemi Akinseye-George SAN who was the secretary of the working group and later secretary of the Panel on Justice Reform, Fola Arthur Worry, a member of the Working Group and former Director of Public Prosecutions of Lagos state, Deji Adekunle the DG of Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies and a champion of ACJA, as well as the current President of NBA Mr. A.B. Mahmoud SAN, J.B. Daudu SAN and G. A. Tetengi SAN who were the past chairmen of the NBA Criminal Justice Committee. Also honoured was the Governor of Delta State, Ifeanyi Okowa for his support to NBA’s criminal justice reform initiatives.
Institutional awards were also given to the MacArthur Foundation for supporting criminal justice reform over the years and to Yaradu’a Center.
Chino Obiagwu, Lead Counsel, Legal Defence and Assistance Project, presented a paper on the theme, “Incorporating International Crimes into the Corpus of Criminal Justice System in Nigeria: Prospects and Challenges,” at the Law Week of the Nigerian Bar Association, Makurdi branch on the 23rd of April 2018. At the commencement of the presentation he highlighted the fact that this was an illustrious time to addressing this theme, as this year marks the 20th anniversary of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, a period that all peoples and nations are taking stock of world’s journey in the fight against impunity and accountability for atrocity crimes. He further recognised the importance of the presenting the paper in Benue state where innocent people are being killed daily in large numbers and there is little to no prosecution of the perpetrators.
The paper focused on examining, what the Nigerian government has done domestically to incorporate and implement international criminal laws, and to walk locally all her good talk internationally? To answer this question, the paper first expatiated on what is meant by International Criminal Law and its elements before going on to address the International treaties that Nigeria had signed to and those that have been domesticated.
He noted that although Nigeria, has ratified and domesticated the Genocide Convention, as well as the Geneva Conventions, the core provisions of these Conventions do not meet the threshold contained in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which Nigeria has signed in June 2000 but is yet to domesticate. This in turn means that Nigeria falls back on its common criminal codes and penal codes to deal with conducts that amount to international crimes. The three core international crimes are genocide, crime against humanity and war crimes. He stated that elements of the three core crimes are covered to some extent under the Nigerian Criminal Code and Penal Code – e.g. Murder, rape, physical attack, sexual assault, etc. are contained in Nigeria penal laws, however, the threshold of their elements differ under the Rome Statute.
During the presentation he stated that ‘’of course, the terrorists’ attacks, abduction and sexual slavery, pillaging, murder, attack of civilian population, enforced disappearances, torture all constitute crime against humanity and war crimes.’’ He emphasised this affirmation by pointing out that her 2017 Activity Report published on 4 December 2017, the ICC’s Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda stated she had facts to believe that Boko Haram, and in few cases, military operators, have committed crimes against humanity but the ICC had yet to take steps because the Nigerian government have taken steps to investigate.
He also stated that the violent attack by herdsmen constitute international crime. He however, noted that the 2017 report of the ICC’s Prosecutor, like her 2015 and 2016 reports, were silent on the issue of violent attacks by herdsmen in the middle belt area, as well as other locations across the country.
He concluded the presentation stating that there is a need for the Nigerian Bar Association, at national and branch levels, to take interest with the international crimes regime and framework for accountability for atrocity crimes in Nigeria. He further stated that in particular, the NBA should collaborate with relevant Civil Society Organisations and international partners to increase the potential for improving the regime of international crimes in the country.
The President of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Chile Eboe-Osuji, concluded his official visit to Nigeria last week, has called for the federal government’s support to fight against impunity “for the gravest crimes.” He commended Nigeria for remaining consistent in supporting the ICC and contributing to efforts geared at establishing an international community where peace and justice reign.
However, he was silent on the domestication of the Rome Statute. Nigeria signed the Rome Statute on 1 June 2000. The bill for an Act to provide for the Enforcement and Punishment of Crimes Against Humanity, War crimes, Genocides and Related offences was then proposed in 2003, which when passed by the Nigerian Legislature, would give effect to certain provisions of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in Nigeria .The first time the bill was proposed in 2003, it did not move beyond the legislature. The second time, the bill was passed by both Chambers of the Legislature and presented in 2006 to President Olusegun Obasanjo who did not sign it before the expiration of his tenure in 2007 citing certain objectionable clauses. The bill was read again for the third time in the Nigerian Senate on Wednesday, June 20, 2012 and in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, September 18, 2012. In 2016, a private member of the House of Representatives, Hon Nicholas Ossai, sponsored the bill and it has passed the second reading at the House of Representatives.
According to a statement made available to THISDAY by the ICC, Eboe-Osuji, who was in Nigeria from April 10 to 13, met with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Senate President Bukola Saraki, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, Solicitor General of the Federation, Dayo Apata, and other senior government officials.
“The ICC president expressed gratitude for Nigeria’s strong commitment to the court, which was reaffirmed by the senior authorities during the meetings held. President Eboe-Osuji underlined that the active support of States is crucial in re-energising the mission of the ICC, of which Nigeria is a founding and important member. He recalled that victims are at the heart of the Court’s mandate, which aims to provide justice to those who have suffered the worst atrocities, as well as protect populations from future crimes.
“President Eboe-Osuji further emphasised that the Court is keen to work together with states in Africa to bolster the fight against impunity for the gravest international crimes, and he hoped to count on Nigeria’s support in taking that process forward”
In partnership with the United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF) and the National Committee against Torture, LEDAP has launched a project to tackle torture and ill treatment in policing. The project will be located Lagos, Adamawa , Yobe States, as well as at the Federal Capital Territory.
The use of torture and sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) in law enforcement has remained a major human rights challenge in Nigeria and has further increased with the current counter-terrorism operations of the police and military. Torture and other forms of ill treatment are widely used by police to obtain information and confessions from suspects, to intimidate, exploit, and to exert dominance and superiority over the weak. Also, women detainees are raped within the first hours of detention. In all these violations, most survivors are unable to report or seek redress and perpetrators are rarely punished. The Nigerian criminal and penal codes fail to explicitly criminalize the use of torture to extract information. As such, everyday law enforcement practices are in many cases inconsistent with the constitutional provision prohibiting torture.
This project seeks to address the increasing incidents of torture and SGBV committed by the police in Nigeria especially in the context of the on-going fight against terrorism and the introduction of Shari’a laws in 12 northern states including two target states of the project; Adamawa and Yobe state. The strategy is to address the specific problems of both the supply and demand sides in torture prevention. It will address the police’s poor anti-torture knowledge and attitudes (supply side), and at the same time empower the civil society and the public to monitor and demand for accountability wherever torture occurs (demand side).
The overall objective is to move Nigeria towards effective prevention and reduction of incidences of torture. This will be achieved by improving the understanding of police personnel and encouraging a human rights centered approach towards the treatment of suspects by police personnel. Also, by providing capacity for civil society organisations and victims of torture to demand for accountability. Particularly, this project is designed to increase knowledge and improve the attitude of over 7,300 police staff in Nigeria (supply side) towards torture prevention, and empower the demand side of human rights (330 representatives of CSOs (180), lawyers (50), journalists (20), Paralegals (80)) to report and support survivors and victims of torture and SGBV to assert and defend their rights to freedom from torture and ill treatment. The project will give assistance to 120 victims, including providing direct legal support to at least 20 cases (including 5 high impact cases) to improve jurisprudence in the area.
Furthermore, the project advocates for policy change and legal reform including engaging in dialogue with key actors, adopting a national policy on torture prevention and advocating for passing into law of the anti-torture bill, which is pending in the parliament. If successfully implemented, the project will build a sustainable pilot that addresses the needs and capacity of both the supply and demand sides of the prevention of torture and ill treatment, which could be replicated to all police formations and other law enforcement institutions in the country.