lawyers

By Ikechukwu Nnochiri

ABUJA– The Avocats Sans Frontieres, ASF, otherwise known as lawyers without border, on Tuesday, said it was worried about the increasing cases of torture and extra-judicial killings in the country.

The legal group, in a report it issued to mark the end of SAFE Project intervention it launched since 2019, equally decried the swelling number of awaiting trial inmates languishing in various prisons across the federation.

It noted that despite the promulgation of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA, in 2015, security agencies have continued to use torture as a strategy to extract extra-judicial statement from suspects.

The Head of Office of ASF France, in Nigeria, Angela Uzoma-Iwuchukwu, said the group deployed its officials in three states-  Enugu, Lagos and Kaduna- which served as pilot states for the concluded project.

“The SAFE project’s major thematic issues were; torture, arbitrary detention and extra-judicial killings and the project has a pro-bono legal aid component to ensure access to justice for victims.

“On the project, 167 cases were identified for pro-bono legal aid, of which 120 were approved for litigation and 47 were approved for legal advice.

“These are cases of victims of torture, arbitrary detention and extra-judicial killings across the project states.

“Of all the cases, we were able to conclude 40 of them. Because of the peculiar way our Judiciary operates, some of the cases suffered delays because they had to start de-novo (afresh) owing to either the death or transfer of the judges handling them.

“We equally filed three suits before the ECOWAS Court. We also secured the unconditional release of 23 persons that were arbitrarily detained without trial.

“Though the ACJA has been trying to address the issue of arbitrary detention, however, from the field, we observed that undue prolonged detention is one of the major human right violation in Nigeria.

“We encountered cases of people that had spent between 8 to 18 years in detention as Awaiting Trial Inmates. This is a major problem that amounts to gross injustice as no amount of monetary compensation will be enough to justify the taking away of the liberty of a person for over 18 years without trial or conviction.

“With our interactions with key stakeholders in the justice sector, the Judiciary gave us the signal that they are ready. On some of the complaints we received, which were outside our thematic areas, we forwarded petitions to the police and the National Human Rights Commission.

“Some of those cases bordered on sexual assault and domestic violence”, Uzoma-Iwuchukwu added.

On its part, the Nigeria Police Force, NPF, said it has received over 13,000 complaints, levelling sundry allegations of human rights violations against its officers.

It said the petitions were received from members of the public, through its Complaint Response Unit, CRU.

An Assistant Superintendent of Police, ASP, Aliyu Umar, who represented the NPF, said most of the petitions were received through social media platforms that included Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

“Expectedly, Lagos State had the highest number of petitions and we always ensure that these complaints vlate properly logged into our database.

“Monitoring is a key component that helps us to ensure that police officers carry out their job professionally and we have been doing just that”, ASP Umar added.

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