….says elections ridden with fraud, irregularities
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
A retired Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Olufunlola Adekeye, on Wednesday, decried the swelling numbers of awaiting trial inmates in the country.
The former jurist, who bowed out of the apex court bench in 2012 after she clocked the 70 years mandatory retirement age, cited examples she said were indicators that reflect that Civil and Political Rights in the country are in a state of emergency.
Speaking at a National Human Rights Commission/Civil Society Forum, held in Abuja, Justice Adekeye, noted that Human Freedom Index (HFI) report that was recently published by experts at the Cato Institute and Fraser Institute, placed Nigeria as 123rd among 165 countries and territories that were ranked in the study.
She said: “One relatable consequence of this poor placement is that an individual is more likely to experience police brutality and other state repressions in Nigeria than in other countries.
“The deplorable state of press freedom, the brutal killings precipitated by religious extremism and inter-ethnic violence, and the continued invasion of private farmlands by Fulani herders, are some of the problems eroding civil and political liberty in Nigeria”.
Justice Adekeye further observed that another report by the Centre for Democracy Development, disclosed that over 70% of the prison population in Nigeria, is made up of detainees awaiting trial, with over 20% awaiting trial for more than a year.
She stressed that the situation has further deteriorated with “an emergent trend of security officers receiving orders from elites in Nigeria to remand detainees for longer on spurious grounds”.
“The menace of unlawful detention has become rather pervasive such that it has required the intervention of ECOWAS special court in some cases.
“The report further revealed that the practice of torture has been embraced in Nigerian law enforcement as a means of punishment as well as information gathering.
“With respect to extrajudicial killings, the report shows that the scourge of human rights abuse has become common place in the country since 1999, with many of these killings perpetrated by security forces.
“These unlawful killings, according to the findings go largely unpunished, because of Nigeria Police Force Order 237 which provides that A constable who cannot effect such a criminal’s arrest by any other means should warn the criminal that unless he stops and surrenders he will fire upon him.
“If the criminal fails to stop, the Constable is then, justified in firing at the criminal.
“The human rights report also noted that the media has been attacked badly in recent times with the government weaponising censorship, harassment, arbitrary arrests, and even assassination a empts against journalists in a bid shut citizens up.
“These examples are indicators that reflect that Civil and Political Rights in Nigeria are in a state of emergency”, Justice Adekeye added.
On the issue of elections, the retired jurist said there was need for the Federal Government to rekindle the interest of electorates by ensuring that the process is always free, fair and credible.
“Politicians are known for doing everything possible to impose themselves on people. Many Nigerians believe their votes do not count.
“A country where citizens do not believe they have a say in who rules them is a country practising huge pseudo-democracy. Elections in Nigeria are ridden with election fraud and other irregularities.
“A government that rode on the back of human rights violations to become a leader would not insist on the promotion of human rights protection”, Justice Adekeye stated.
On his part, the Executive Secretary of the NHRC, Mr. Tony Ojukwu, SAN, said the forum was initiated with a view to bringing CSOs, policy makers, development partners, media and academia to discuss and proffer solutions to human rights challenges in the country.