On June 26, every year, the world marks the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. Torture is a crime under international law as presented in the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Nigeria is subscribed to this international legal instrument, and in 2017, the country domesticated the Convention through the enactment of its Anti-Torture Law, known as the Anti-Torture Act, 2017 (ATA).
The flowery and righteous displays exhibited by the state and its actors in forming the law have paled out in implementation, thus bearing no visible fruits as state sponsored torture is rife across the country.
The Nigerian government has continued to exhibit inertia when it comes to torture and human rights violations. This inertia sets the tone for the repeat of such quaking protests witnessed in October 2020, when the #ENDSARS protests erupted across the country. It was the increasing cases of torture and brutality and the lackluster attitude of the government and the security agencies to curb it that led to that movement. Despite the promises made by the government in the wake of the protests, not much has changed almost two years after.
In a shocking continued display of blatant disrespect for human rights and particularly the use of torture, on May 19, 2021, the Inspector General of Police, Usman Baba, publicly charged officers of the force to ignore the rules of engagement in the quest to contain members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) in South-East Nigeria. This careless order to discountenance human rights has led to the extrajudicial execution, torture, degrading and inhuman treatment of several persons across the states of the SouthEast.
The activities of government have continued to deflate the joys that greeted the passage of the ATA in 2017. Torture and other forms of brutality continue to persist in various forms in and outside detention centres. Even such complimentary provisions in the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, (ACJA), the Police Act etc, providing safeguards for the prevention of torture, such as the requirements for the presence of a lawyer during suspect interviews, the need for video records of confessional statements etc, have failed to live up to expectations.
It is however clear that there is a lack of will to implement these safeguards against torture.
We are therefore:
Calling on the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation to:
1. Stop the delay and adopt the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) for the Anti-Torture Act.
2. Reconstitute the National Committee Against Torture (NCAT) and rejig its mandate in line with the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT).
3. Budget and provide funding for the NCAT to fulfil its functions.
4. Ensure the prosecution of alleged perpetrators of torture.
We also call on the National Committee Against Torture to:
1. Sit up and fulfil its mandate of monitoring the implementation of the ATA
2. Carry out oversight functions by regularly visiting detention facilities.
3. Ensure to carry out public awareness campaigns for members of the public to become aware of the existence of the Act and the remedies provided therein
4. Assist the Honourable Attorney General to ensure that reports required by the Act from the Inspector General of Police are regularly submitted
We call on the Inspector General of Police and Heads of other Law Enforcement Agencies to:
1. Ensure that it adopts a practical – more than mere lip service- zero-tolerance attitude towards torture by ensuring that perpetrators are punished through the force’s internal mechanisms and such persons and punishments are made public to serve as deterrent.
2. Where necessary to ensure that perpetrators are prosecuted under the ATA.
3. Ensure continuous training and re-training of officers on the ATA and alternative methods of investigations
Finally, we call on the Chief Justice of the Federation to:
1. Mandate Judges and Judicial Officers to commence the implementation of the ATA, particularly in cases where confessional statements have been declared to be inadmissible on account of being obtained under duress, to refer such cases for investigation.
2. Ensure training and retraining for Judges and Judicial Officers on jurisprudence of international courts on torture, to serve as guide for a broader, more progressive application of the ATA.
We will continue to monitor the commitment of persons and agencies vested with the responsibility of implementing the ATA and protecting Nigerians and all persons living in Nigeria from torture and will not hesitate to institute legal action to ensure that they live up to their mandates.