Abuja — The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) thursday cautioned the Nigerian Police and other security agencies to desist from torturing suspects in order to obtain false evidence, adding that such acts now constitute criminal offence.
Speaking at a parley with CLEEN Foundation and the Public Interest Lawyers League, NHRC Chairman, Mr. Anthony Okechukwu Ojukwu, said the warning became necessary following several complaints against Special Anti-Roberry Squad (SARS).
He stated that the Police through SARS have been engaging in arbitrariness, and very often, abusing basic human rights of citizens.
"We insist, as a commission ,that there must be accounta-bility; as you know, the National Assembly has passed Anti-torture Act, and over the years, Police have been using unconstitutional means to obtain evidence from suspects.' "All these arose because the police try to brutalise suspects to confess crimes that they have committed, and because when they torture people into confessing offences, and when they go to court, when the suspect tells the court that they have not committed the offence, the court looks the other way, they do what is called 'trial within a trial."
Ojukwu contended that unlike before when the police and security officers who torture suspects to obtain evidence go scot free, "now a law has been signed to prosecute officers who torture suspects, if there is a contention in court that evidence was obtained by torture, that officer who tortured suspect would now be charged. It is now a criminal offence to obtain evidence by torture," he said.
The NHRC also deplored the haste at which the Inspector General of Police (IG), Ibrahim Idris, packaged the reforms of SARS.
He stressed that there was need to engage in a thorough and meticulous reform as opposed to the hasty and haphazard reforms recently carried out by the IG of police.
Ojukwu added that SARS possesses a great challenge to Nigeria, wondering why the police were hasty in coming up with a report on reforms.
He added, "SARS is a problem, SARS is even a problem to the government that sets it up, it is a Nigerian problem, nobody can control SARS. Within four hours, he had already put in place reforms, it is not deep rooted, there should be consultation, based on what. SARS can only be reformed with the cooperation of the public
"NHRC will continue to be at the forefront in the protection of journalists, we will ensure that the rights of every journalists are protected."
The Executive Director, CLEEN Foundation, Dr. Benson Olugbuo tasked the commission to expedite action in bringing up critical reforms that will entrench human rights in the activities of security agencies in Nigeria.
Olugbuo observed that the continuous cases of human rights abuses by security agencies have become a recurring decimal in Nigerian society, which has become worrisome.
Also speaking, Mr Abdul Mahmoud of the Public Interest Lawyers League (PILL) charged journalists and the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) to deploy strategic means to ensure that the police and other security agencies obey the rights of journalists and freedom of the press in the country.
He said: "The NUJ has to do something to protect the rights of journalists in the country; if the abuse of journalists' rights by the police and security agencies continue, they should blacklist police and security agencies."
He said journalists can stop covering the activities of the police, and see if the IG will not sit up.