By Ejiofor Alike
The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has accused the police of violating the fundamental human rights of citizens arrested on the suspicion that they took part in looting and arson during the recent EndSARS protests.
President of the association, Mr. Olumide Akpata, said in a statement last night that by detaining these suspects for more than 24 hours and not allowing them access to their families and lawyers were strong indications that the police hierarchy was paying lip service to police reforms.
“It beggars belief that this conduct by the Nigerian Police is coming on the heels of the #EndSARS protests, which were precipitated by the historical abuse of citizens by men and officers of the Nigerian Police especially those of the now defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), and the aftermath of which is yet to fully die down.
“It is highly regrettable that the Police in particular continue to carry on business as usual despite being in the eye of the storm in recent times and in disregard of the wide outpouring of condemnation by Nigerians at home and abroad as well as foreign nationals and international organisations about the misconduct of some of their officers. This gives the indication that the Police hierarchy has failed to get the message and/or is paying lip service to the calls for holistic Police reforms,” Akpata explained.
Akpata said he had received several calls and complaints from lawyers and Nigerians generally, about the recent public parade of hundreds of persons arrested and detained by the Nigerian Police on the suspicion of taking part in the looting and destruction of public buildings and private businesses and/or for contravening the curfew declared by various state governors in the aftermath of the protests that unfortunately turned violent.
He reiterated that the NBA was completely opposed to any act of arson, vandalism, destruction of public or private assets, or other forms of force or violence.
He however, insisted that the legal rights of citizens who are arrested on account of such allegations must be respected, especially their right to the presumption of innocence.
“In many, if not most of these cases, these people, who it must be noted are first and foremost Nigerian citizens, have been held incommunicado for days without access to their families or legal practitioners of their choice and under inhumane or deplorable conditions in brazen breach of the express provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) which presumes all suspects and defendants innocent until proven guilty; prohibit the detention of citizens beyond 24-48 hours; forbid the subjection of Nigerian citizens to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment; and mandates the Police and other law enforcement agencies to bring such persons to court within 24-48 hours”.
He called on the Nigerian Police and the Attorneys General of the various states to immediately charge the suspects before courts of competent jurisdiction in accordance with contemporary requirements of the law, or to release them unconditionally.