Two of CURE-Nigeria’s main activities are advocacy visits to stakeholders and training of criminal justice actors. Through these visits, we challenge policies, legislations and practices that do not conform to domestic and international law, and make suggestions for reforms.
Through the trainings, we are able to train stakeholders such as judicial, police and prison officers, as well as prosecutors on the law and international standards. We invite experts to deliver presentations on various topics, and participants are given plenty of opportunity to ask questions, share ideas and learn from each other. This has contributed to justice reforms in Nigeria. Also, major decisions have been reached at some of these trainings which have huge impact on justice reform in Nigeria. For example, at our training in 2012, a representative of the Federal Ministry of Justice announced the Ministry’s decision to withdraw its proposal to the Federal Government to build more prisons following CURE-Nigeria’s persistence argument that the country does not need new prisons in order to decongest the prisons, as contained in a letter to the then President Goodluck Jonathan. See link to the letter…….
Here are pictures of some of our advocacy visits and training sessions.
2011 conference, organized by CURE-Nigeria and supported by International CURE; Federal Ministry of Justice, Nigeria; and Jane Addams School of Social Work, University of Illinois at Chicago, USA.
2011 training in Abuja, organized by CURE-Nigeria and the Federal Ministry of Justice, Nigeria
2012 training in Lagos, organized by CURE-Nigeria and the Federal Ministry of Justice, Nigeria.
2015 training in Abuja, organized by CURE-Nigeria, National Human Rights Commission, Federal Ministry of Justice, and High Court of Justice, Federal Capital Territory
Training in Makurdi, organized by CURE-Nigeria and the High Court of Justice, Benue State
When we first embarked on our Books Behind Bars Project, – the establishment of libraries and functional education programs in adult and juvenile prisons in Nigeria, little did we know that we would be drawn into establishing libraries in public schools. In fact, we did not know that many of our primary and secondary schools, located right in our cities, like the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, had no libraries and basic infrastructure. Perhaps, like many Nigerians, we were unaware of the realities that characterise and deeply set apart the rich and the powerful away from the weak and the poor in Nigeria.
But we received three pallets of primary school books and decided to reach out to schools. Three public primary schools have benefited so far and we are set to expand.
One of the benefiting schools and perhaps the neediest of them all is the LEA Nurudeen Nursery and Primary School, Karu, Abuja. Located opposite St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Karu, along Karshi Road, it was established on the 10th of December 2009, and has a population of about four hundred and ninety six (496) pupils, all of whom are Muslims. The Head teacher told us that the pupils are from very poor background and most of them are orphans. The pictures reveal this fact.
In addition, the school has very poor staff strength, just 12 teachers, leading to the merging of some classes. At the time of compiling this report, they were about 150 pupils in a class. The Head teacher and the teachers told our staff that it has been impossible to teach. Our staff who compiled this report confirmed that she could not move around the class because it was too full, with some pupils sitting on the bare floor and many sleeping. Our camera could not capture the whole class in a picture.
The school is in a dire need of teachers, about 10, according to the Head teacher to split the classes so that teaching and learning can take place. But it has other needs too including water, computers, and furniture such as table, chairs for pupils and teachers, as well as sporting equipment, among others.
CURE-Nigeria has recruited more 10 graduate interns to teach in the school at the moment, while permanent solution is being sought with respect to teachers.
Fight Against Torture in Nigeria
Nigeria has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in 1993, the Convention against Torture (CAT) in 2001 and the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT) in 2009. However, it is yet to recognize the competence of the Committee against Torture to receive communications from individuals under article 22 of CAT. In furtherance of its obligations under OPCAT, Nigeria has established a National Committee on Torture as its National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) for the prevention of torture at the domestic level. The committee is mandated amongst others to receive and consider complaints on torture; conduct visits to places of detention and examine allegations of torture therein; review the treatment of persons in detention with a view to prevent torture; develop a national anti-torture policy and propose an anti-torture legislation. There is also a National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) established for the promotion, protection and enforcement of human rights in line with the Untied Nations General Assembly Resolution.
At the regional level, it is also a State Party to the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR) and at the national level section 34(1)(a) in the constitution prohibits the use of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment. However, there are presently no legal provisions criminalizing torture or providing compensation to victims of torture in accordance with the UN Convention against Torture.
Practice of Torture and Ill-Treatment
Despite Nigeria’s ratification of major international human rights treaties, the practice of torture and ill-treatment remains rampant. Much of the allegations of torture have been against the country’s security forces particularly the police who has been said to make torture a routine practice. Based on the fact-finding during his visit to Nigeria in 2007, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture (SRT) concluded that the use of torture was widespread in police custody, particularly systemic in Criminal Investigation Departments, and formed an intrinsic part of police operations especially in the extraction of alleged confessions. He further highlighted the lack of a credible system of accountability of law enforcement agents brought about by ineffective complaints and investigation mechanisms. The SRT found appalling conditions in places of detention: Police cells and prisons were overcrowded with poor hygiene facilities, insufficient sleeping places, food and medical care for detainees, many of whom were in pretrial detention or held without charge for lengthy periods of time. These conditions continue to persist. According to the statistics presented by Amnesty International in its 2010 report, out of 10 inmates in prison are awaiting trial usually for periods spanning over several years. The report further adds that the government’s effort concerning its prison decongestion scheme has not made a positive impact to significantly reduce the prison congestion. Corporal punishment such as caning and punishments recognized under the Sharia penal code (i.e. amputation, flogging and stoning to death) remain lawful in Nigeria.
Nigeria has taken some positive steps since the SRT’s visit and the review of its human rights record in the UPR in 2009 towards the prevention of torture with the ratification of OPCAT and the establishment of the National Committee on Torture which has organized a number of public tribunals on police abuse in collaboration with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and Network on Police Reform in Nigeria. Despite these efforts, reports and findings of domestic non-governmental sources and international human rights organizations still reveal a continued practice of torture and ill-treatment. According to Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, Nigeria Police Force continue to be implicated in torture and ill-treatment of criminal suspects especially during the interrogation of suspects. They are also accused of extra-judicial killings of persons in police custody. Also, about 70% of detainees we have interviewed in Suleja and Kuje Prisons for legal aid reported that they were tortured by the police.
According to the Human Rights Watch, the failure of the Nigeria government to prosecute security personnel for the execution of the leader and supporters of the Boko Haram, an Islamic sect responsible for the killings in Borno State in 2009, as well as their role in other violent clashes across the country portray a clear indication of the lack of political will to ensure accountability for these serious abuses.
Recently, the shocking story of a victim of brutal torture by the police, Danjuma Musa, a detainee in Oko Prison in Edo State, came to the fore. CURE-Nigeria and LEDAP have petitioned the Nigerian Police Force and National Human Rights Commission to investigate these allegations.
Our campaign against torture is to highlight the prevalence of torture, influence legislation and a national policy against torture, and ensure that perpetrators are held accountable and that victims are compensated.
Most recently, CURE-Nigeria has petitioned the Commission to investigate the alleged death of detainees in police custody in Lagos. See link to the letter: http://curenigeria.org/petition-national-human-rights-commission-investigate-death-detainees-police-custody-lagos-2/
Rule 22 of the Bangkok Rules affirms that “ punishment by close confinement or disciplinary segregation shall not be applied to pregnant women, women with infants and breastfeeding mothers in prison” Also, Rule 57 says that” the provisions of the Toyo Rules shall guide the development and implementation of appropriate responses to women offenders.
Most of the victims of prolonged pre-trial detention in Nigeria do not have legal representation because they cannot afford a lawyer and as such have no access to justice. Hence, they languish in prisons for years, some for alleged offences they neither committed nor knew nothing about and many for offences they would have served a shorter time than they have spent in prison if they had been convicted.
Incarceration of Children as a Matter of Last Resort.
The United Nations (UN Beijing Rules) on the Administration of juvenile justice, Rule 26 and its corresponding sections especially 26.2 states that “Juveniles in institutions shall receive care, protection and all necessary assistance – social, educational, vocational, psychological,
Establishment of Libraries in Prisons and Schools
Nigerian prisons lack libraries and educational opportunities for inmates. Educational programs are an intervention proven to reduce recidivism and improve successful reintegration after incarceration. As a consequence of poor or lack of educational opportunities in prisons, Nigeria suffers from high re-offending behaviour
“Although we can all agree that incarceration is sometimes necessary for public safety in our work to protect the American people, we must recognize that incarceration alone does not provide the entire solution. Simply building more prisons and jails will not solve all of our problems. Any effective and economically sustainable public safely strategy must include investments that will help reduce recidivism and to address the root causes of crime.” Eric Holder, U.S. Attorney General