I was surprised to read the Amnesty International Report via https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2016/09/nigeria-special-police-squad-get-rich-torturing-detainees/ dated September 21, 2016.
The report, carried out by one Damian Ugwu, Amnesty International’s Nigeria Researcher, said: “A Nigerian police unit set up to combat violent crime has instead been systematically torturing detainees in its custody as a means of extracting confessions and lucrative bribes.”
It is on record that the revised version of a bill to criminalize torture, which was returned unsigned by former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2012, has been passed by the House of Representatives in June 2016 and has been resubmitted to the Senate for further debates by the Buhari administration.
The research by Amnesty International that the Special Anti-Robbery Squad uses hanging, starvation, beatings, shootings and mock executions as a means of “extracting confessions and lucrative bribes”, is baseless.
The Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, has strengthened the Police X-Squad Units in all Police Commands with the deployment of thoroughly vetted, selfless and patriotic officers to tackle corruption and abuse of office within the Nigeria Police and at the Federal, States and Local Government levels. The personnel deployed to the Anti-Corruption Unit are supported with incentives to make them more effective in the discharge of their duties.
So I wonder where Amnesty International came about SARS officers who “regularly demand bribes, steal and extort money from criminal suspects and their families”. I challenge the Amnesty International to publish evidence(s) of such corrupt activities of the SARS officers under the administration.
I am aware every detainee at the SARS have access to Lawyers and Human Rights Defenders, so I doubt the so called “ruthless human rights violations of victims”. If victims are arrested and tortured until they either make a “confession” or pay officers a bribe to be released, then such victims must be guilty of the offence they are arrested for.
I want to remind the Amnesty International that the Nigeria Police has set up a Complaint Response Unit under the able leadership of Assistant Commissioner of Police, Abayomi Shogunle, where citizens make report of any violation of their Rights by the Police in the country. As a follower of the Twitter handle and the Facebook page of the Complaint Response Unit, I can testify to the fact that every report received is treated to logical conclusion.
I know Amnesty International may claim that the Police did not give them access to information, but like I said earlier, Idris has been strengthening the Public Relations Department as well as the Complaint Response Unit of the Force. No matter the enormity of the complaint you table before the FPRO and CRU, you must get a reasonable response.
The fact that the Special Anti-Robbery Squad gave Amnesty International access to the detention centre in Abuja where they found 130 detainees is enough evidence that the Nigeria Police has nothing to hide from the general public, including Amnesty International.
On the issue that SARS investigating civil matters and in some cases torturing detainees involved in contractual, business and even non-criminal disputes, I am challenging the Amnesty International to show the world evidences because we all know that civil matters are settled in the Law Court as the Special Anti-Robbery Squad has no business with “contractual, business and even non-criminal disputes”.
If Amnesty International claimed that detainees are not allowed access to a lawyer, a doctor or their family during detention, how come they had access to the detainees in Abuja and even know the numbers in the cell? I know the Nigeria Police have well trained medical personal and clinics across the country and in some cases collaborate with Medical centers to treat Police officers and those under their custodians.
To show how biased the Amnesty International is, the researcher claimed that “when asked to explain why no police officers had been suspended or prosecuted for torture, the police simply DENIED that any torture had taken place”. I am sure the police officer said nothing but the truth, so the issue of denial does not arise here.
If erring officers are not investigated, they can’t be transferred to other Stations. The Amnesty International should know better on this rather than saying the Police officer interviewed “did not say whether the claims against them were being investigated”.
I am also challenging the Amnesty International to come out with evidences that “many of these officers have bribed their way to SARS in the first place. The police chiefs in charge are themselves entwined in the corruption.” This is a grave indictment and the Amnesty International must substantiate these allegations with concrete evidence.
The Amnesty International also claimed that SARS officers are found “stealing or confiscating property from relatives of detained suspects”. My question is, “where do the SARS officers get the original documents of the so called properties they steal or confiscate?
The Amnesty International is just out to tarnish the good image of the Police that has been going through positive reform under the new Inspector General of Police.
From the report of occurrences the Amnesty International gathered for her research, I am surprised that they never bothered to ask the victims what was their own offences; did the victims make any report to the Complaint Response Unit of the Nigeria Police; the National Human Right Commission or the Human Rights Defenders?
For the record, the Amnesty International should know that the Nigeria Police in December 2014 launched a Human Rights Manual which proscribes torture and other ill-treatment of detainees, the new Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris is already reforming and reorganizing all the Units in the Force including the SARS. This was part of the Inspector General of Police meeting held on Wednesday, 21 September, 2016 with the leadership of the 60 PMF Squadrons, 21 CTU Commanders and 12 SPU Commanders in the country.
As far I am concerned, the latest report by Amnesty International indicted the past administration of Goodluck Jonathan and not the Buhari administration. Since the previous government’s attempts at wiping out torture proved unsuccessful, the new Inspector General of Police, IGP Ibrahim Idris will surely ensure that officers responsible for any Human Rights violations will be held responsible.
Idris as a refined officer will never allow any Police officer to inflict torture or other ill-treatment on detainees under any circumstances.
To set the record straight, I want the Amnesty International to know that the UN Secretary General appointed IGP Ibrahim Idris as a Police Commissioner in UNAMID, in Darfur. That was the first time a Nigerian Police officer was clinching a B2 position for any UN mission in the world.
However, the offer was declined by IGP Ibrahim Idris to enable him contribute his quarter in ensuring Peace and Stability during and after the 2015 General Elections.
Under the United Nations, IGP Ibrahim Idris attended a seminar on re-organization and reforms of Formed Police Units (FPU), at the Centre for excellence for Stability Police Forces (COESPU) in Vicenza, Italy in 2004. He also attended the UN Senior Leadership Induction Course and UN Leadership Course at the UN Headquarters in New York in February and September 2009 respectively. He further attended Civil-Military Coordination in Disaster Management Course organized by the United States Military Pacific Command and United Nations in Jakarta, Indonesia in 2010.
He has severally served as visiting lecturer on “Roles of Police on United Nations Peace Keeping Operations” in Nigerian Defence College in 2011, 2012 and 2013. He was a Mentor to African Union/United Nations Senior Leadership Seminar in Douala, Cameroon 2010 and African Union/ECOWAS Senior Leadership Course held in Nigerian Defence College Abuja in 2012.
Idris has received many Commendations and Awards in the course of his career, including the Nigerian Inspector General of Police Commendation Award for his performance as Commandant PMF Training College, Gwoza in 2004, the Special Representative of the Secretary General Commendation Award for Planning, Execution and Coordination of Security for the Liberian National Elections in 2005, and the Special Representative of the Secretary General’s Award for coordinating major operations in Timor Leste in 2011.
He also bagged two Outstanding Leadership Awards by two United Nations Missions, namely United Nations Mission in Liberia and United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor Leste in 2006 and 2009 respectively for his outstanding performance as Operations Coordinator in UNMIL and Deputy Police Commissioner in charge of Operations in UNMIT respectively.
In March 2011, the President of Democratic Republic of Timor Leste, Dr Jose Ramos Horta (Nobel Lauret) awarded Ibrahim the Country’s highest National Medal, the “Medal of Merit”, for his contribution to the security and stability of Timor Leste. He served for over seven years in the United Nations.
With the above past achievements of the IGP Ibrahim Idris, I can assure the Amnesty International that their next research will be a commendation to the men of the Nigeria Police especially the Special Anti-Robbery Squad.
. Adegbenga is a freelance journalist based in Port Harcourt, Rivers State. He writes from [email protected] Twitter: @kelvinadegbenga.