Annual Report: Nigeria 2011

May 28, 2011

Annual Report: Nigeria 2011

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Abia state

Criminal gangs kidnapped scores of people, including children, in Abia state, sometimes for as little as 10,000 Naira (US$65). According to the Nigerian Medical Association, 21 doctors were kidnapped. On 29 September, the army was deployed to Abia state. On 12 October, the Joint Task Force (JTF), which combined troops of the army, navy, air force and the mobile police, announced that they had killed 172 suspected members of kidnapping gangs in shoot-outs, and arrested 237. NGOs estimated that hundreds of people were killed by security forces in Abia state in 2010.

Unlawful killings and enforced disappearances

In February, senior government ministers called for reform of the Nigeria Police Force and an improved complaints mechanism. However, no further action was taken.

Widespread disregard for human rights and due process within the police force continued. Hundreds of people were killed by the police in 2010. Many were unlawfully killed before or during arrest in the street or at roadblocks, or subsequently in police detention. Many other people disappeared after arrest. A large proportion of these unlawful killings appeared to be extrajudicial executions. Most perpetrators remained unpunished. In May, the NGO LEDAP (Legal Defence and Assistance Project) estimated that in 2009 at least 1,049 people had been killed by the police.

  • Police at a checkpoint in Ilorin, Kwara state, shot and killed a nursing mother and her eight-month-old baby in January. Four police officers were arrested.
  • In April, police opened fire at protesters in Ajegunle, Lagos, killing four people. They had been protesting at the death of Charles Okafor who died after police beat him during a raid on a viewing centre where he had been watching a football match.
  • In June, Assistant Superintendent of Police Boniface Ukwa was shot dead by policemen at a roadblock in Enugu. He was off duty and not in uniform. The police subsequently claimed that he was killed in a shoot-out with kidnappers.

The police were ordered to pay compensation in some cases, including that of Kausarat Saliu, a three-year-old girl shot dead in April 2009 at a roadblock in Lagos, while travelling with her parents on a commercial bus.

Torture and other ill-treatment

Police routinely tortured suspects, including children. In March, the then Attorney General and Minister of Justice of the Federation formally accepted the draft National Anti-Torture Policy. No further action was taken.

Detainees were regularly held by the police for longer than the constitutionally guaranteed 48 hours before being brought before a judge, often for weeks and even months.

  • Shete Obusoh and Chijioke Olemeforo were arrested by police officers from the Special Anti-Robbery Squad on 4 October and spent 17 days in police detention before being taken to court and remanded in prison on 21 October. They said that during this time they were hung from the ceiling in the police station and beaten with gun butts and machetes.

Justice system

Seventy per cent of Nigeria's nearly 48,000 prison inmates were pre-trial detainees. Many had been held for years awaiting trial in appalling conditions. Few could afford a lawyer and the government-funded Legal Aid Council had only 122 lawyers for the whole country.

At the end of 2010, most justice sector reform bills were still pending before the National Assembly. A Bill strengthening the National Human Rights Commission made progress but had not been sent for presidential assent by the end of the year.

The courts continued to be riddled with delays.