By / 31st March, 2015 / projects / Off

Fight Against Torture in Nigeria

Legal Framework
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.

Ex inmate

A beneficiary of our legal aid project who was tortured during arrest and detention.

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: