Friday, 25.02.2022 - Qualibest Hotel, Abuja

Human Rights in Nigeria: Policy, People, and the Police

Nationwide protests calling on authorities to end police brutality and abolish an abusive police unit known as the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) received global attention and led to the dissolution of the unit. Authorities also took some action toward justice and accountability for police abuses by instituting panels of inquiry across states in Nigeria. However, isn’t the general outlook of human rights in Nigeria much more than the #EndSARS protests? What constitutes the issues around human rights in Nigeria? What has happened with the Panels of Inquiry?

There is an increasing worsening outlook of human rights in Nigeria especially when compared to other countries. Experts say that not much has changed in the respect for human rights as human rights actors continue to document flagrant disregard for human rights, failure of authorities to protect people from attacks, threats to human rights including the right to freedom of expression, suppression of dissenting voices and lack of accountability.

Daily, the Rights to life is violated especially in rural communities in the southeast, northeast and northcentral regions, where authorities have failed to protect people from attacks and abductions by bandits, Boko Haram, ISWAP and unknown gunmen. The right to education is also under attack, as school children are constantly being kidnapped for abduction. In 2021 alone, CSOs recorded at least 10 mass school attacks and abduction of more than 800 school children for ransom; a lot of schools are also shut down due to insecurity.

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) had stated that despite the progress made in Nigeria’s democracy, the citizens within the country continue to suffer human rights violations resulting from security challenges, youth unemployment et cetera. The commission also stated that the worst rights violations in the country included: recurring mass atrocities and crimes, kidnappings, incessant extra-judicial killings and torture, inhuman and degrading treatment, discrimination, injustice and gross inequalities, rape, sexual and gender-based violence, and above all, impunity, weak institutions, and lack of political will to hold perpetrators accountable for several types of human rights violations.

Early this year, the Office of the Auditor General for the Federation (OAuGF) disclosed that about 178,459 different types of arms and ammunition got missing from the Nigeria Police armory in 2019, without any trace or formal report on their whereabouts. Experts believe that some of these missing weapons are being used to perpetuate crimes and propagate violent extremism, which has exacerbated insecurity within our communities, manifesting as banditry, kidnapping, communal and tribal clashes, violent separatist agitation et cetera. Research think-thanks also say that the high-level embezzlement of public funds meant for the police force indirectly impacts human rights, as government officials have squandered and stolen vast sums of money that could have gone toward improving the capacity of the police to conduct patrols, respond to emergency calls, or investigate crimes. The officers of the Nigerian Police have continued to be treated unfairly with very poor monthly remuneration, little or no social protection for their families especially when they die in the line of duty, and absence of justice when officers are gruesomely murdered by non-state actors and/or criminal elements.

These were part of the issues discussed during the development discourse on Peace and Security organized the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) Nigeria, in collaboration with Young Professionals in Policy and Development (YouPaD). The conversation provided a safe intergenerational and interdisciplinary platform for professionals, experts, young leaders, and other relevant stakeholders to discuss the overall outlook of human rights in Nigeria as it involves everyone; evaluate government’s commitment, responses and/or strategies towards the respect of human rights from a policing and policy perspectives; and consequently propose lines of action for policy makers.

Participants wondered whether the fundamental human rights were meant for all persons irrespective of status, statue and/or race including the Police officers.

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