Criminal Torture And The Nigeria Police Cell System In The Criminal Investigation Process In Nigeria

Project and Seminar Material for Criminology And Security Studies

Criminal Torture And The Nigeria Police Cell System In The Criminal Investigation Process In Nigeria


Chapter One


General Introduction

1.0 Introduction

In most countries, it has been accepted that democracy is the only system of government that seeks to protect individual liberty and guarantee the fundamental rights of all. The pursuit of these rights is however not absolute as there exist state institutions like the police whose mandate is to maintain law and order and curtail the citizenry‟s excesses within constitutional means hence:[1]

Police power is the exercise of the sovereign right of government to promote order, safety, health, morals, general welfare within constitutional limits and it is an essential attribute of government.‟ Indeed, the police are the outward civil authority of the power and might of a civilized country. The generality of the public is potentially affected one way or another by their action or inaction

What this presupposes is that while democracy allows or guarantees freedom, the police as an institution policed that freedom and in carrying out this function, they are expected to operate within existing democratic norms, else the essence of democracy becomes defeated. This is because the role of police and the existence of these norms remain the standard benchmark in ascertaining an acceptable democratic system. As a result, most of the policing applications that are classified as democratic policing practices in an ideal society are designed to ordinarily promote democratic principles and human rights. In Nigeria however, many dilemma arose concerning the way and manner the police carry out its statutory responsibilities.

Top on the striking balance of this is the need to respect the inalienable rights of citizens while carrying out their legitimate duties. These duties ought to be performed within the context of existing rules duly fashioned and recognized. It is however regrettable that despite more than a decade of democratic governance, Nigerians are still faced with lots of human rights abuses in the hand of the police. Contrary to what democracy represents, the police is still largely authoritarian in nature[2] . McCulley[3] opines that the state of human rights violations by police officials is becoming a culture of impunity and this includes arbitrary arrest, extra-judicial killings, illegal detention and destruction of property by security forces etc. The question therefore is how democratic is the Nigeria Police Force and how well have they imbibe democratic policing principles? What is their response level with regards to the observance of human rights since 1999? It has been correctly pointed out that the police have not performed well in this regard.

The Guardian editorial opined:

The truth is that the police system in Nigeria is decadent at several levels, not least of which is the tunnel vision of our police men in their operational approach to investigations and the treatment of suspects and detainees. Driven by overwhelming corrupt tendencies, they are rooted to a mixed bag of torture tactics that have nothing to do with the enforcement of the law or the promotion of justice… Nigerians know too well that whether accepting commissions from individuals or groups to settle scores against antagonists, opponents or offenders, whether hounding persons or groups in the name of the state or making suspects plead guilty to a crime not committed in order to be saved from police brutality, or whether committing sexual violence against female detainees, our police are adept to making life hell on earth for their victims.[4]

Reuben Abati observed further:

…the Nigeria Police Force is one of the most unpopular institutions in Nigeria today; it is distrusted by the same people whose lives and property it is meant to protect, and this has resulted into a resort to self-help in many ways. Every year, the Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch as well as local civil society organizations report on many cases of police brutality, police inefficiency and corruption. The crime rate is on the increase and the police have proven to be helpless and overwhelmed. This has been so in nearly every instance, be the matter of armed robbery, kidnapping, ethno religious violence or financial fraud. It is also generally regarded as a corrupt police force with policemen collecting bribes openly and showing tendencies of thuggery and mendicancy. It is so bad that rich persons hire the police for all kinds of unlawful purpose, or simply as bodyguards to oppress the less privileged. [5]

In spite of the foregoing, it has been shown that there are inherent factors responsible for this negative impasse. One of such is the impact of Nigeria‟s colonial/ military history. The annexation of Lagos by the British in 1861 and the subsequent establishment of a Consular Guard were solely to protect British economic interest and so no foundation was properly laid for a civil and genuine police force for Nigeria. Dambazau agrees when he stated that “the Nigeria Police was not constituted to provide services to the community in a manner consistent with human rights and democracy, but the main concern of the colonial administration was to brutally suppress popular resistance against colonialism by poorly educated and poorly trained personnel, and the effects are still felt today”[6] . Alemika also agreed:

…Historical evidence demonstrates that the colonial police forces were organized and oriented to behave as occupation forces- ruthless, brutal, corrupt, dishonest and prone to brutalizing the colonized peoples and vandalizing their properties… The preoccupation of colonial and post-colonial Nigeria police were not the promotion and enforcement of just laws, rule of law, natural justice and equity and security of the vast majority of Nigerians, as colonial surrogates often claimed…the greatest part of the police energies and resources were committed to, and dissipated on the suppression of struggles and protests against oppression and exploitation, the large scale theft and mismanagement of the public wealth by those who controlled the economy and state apparatus.[7]

Regrettably at independence in 1960, it became obvious that those who took over from the colonial authority began to manipulate the system for their own selfish interest.[8] Worst still, subsequent military regimes that took over from 1966 failed to improve the police and instead used it to enforce authoritarian rule which further entrenched a culture of public disdain and hatred for the police.[9] These negative tendencies continued unabated and finally culminated into acts of indiscipline, corruption and violation of the rights of citizens to mention but these few. Another germane problem is the loopholes in the Nigeria Police Act which has enhanced the obvious disconnect between the police, the law and the citizens. Innocent Chukwuma laments that “since 1943 when the police Act was enacted by the colonial government, it has not been reviewed to reflect present day realities”[10] . According to him:

The first is to capture and incorporate into law, recent positive policy developments in the Nigeria Police Force. Such developments include community policing, police performance monitoring and minimum educational requirement for entry and performance in the force. The second issue is to amend or expunge provisions in the Act that have either become outdated or obnoxious in the light of the present democratic dispensation. The third is the necessity to amend sections of the Act that makes it impossible to insulate the police from partisan political control[11]

Suffice it to say that Democracy is a term that has been jointly and severally subjected to all kinds of meaning and interpretation. According to Buhlman et al, „there are abundant literature relating to democratic theory with countless definitions of what democracy should be and what democracy is‟[12] . Laza corroborated this view by saying that „there is no consensus on how to measure democracy, and that definitions of democracy are contested and there is an ongoing lively debate on the subject.[13] To start with, „democracy‟ was define as „a system of rule by the poor and disadvantaged; a form of government in which the people rule themselves directly and continuously without the need for professional politicians or public officials; a society based on equal opportunity and individual merit rather than hierarchy and privilege; a system of welfare and redistribution aimed at narrowing social inequalities; a system of decisionmaking based on the principle of majority rule; a system of rule that secures the rights and interest of minorities by placing checks upon the power of the majority; a means of filling public office through a competitive struggle for the popular vote.[14] To some writers, „democracy is a system of government by which political sovereignty is retained by the people and exercise directly by the citizens. In Sadaro‟s own view „the essential idea of democracy is that people have the right to determine who governs them. In most cases, they elect the principal government officials and hold them accountable for their actions. A democracy also imposes legal limits on the government‟s authority by guarantying certain rights and freedoms to their citizens‟[15] .

The minimalist sees democracy as a „political system of political rights that specifies how leadership should be designated at the highest national level in a policy. It is in this same line that Schumpeter[16] defines democracy as „that institutional arrangement for arriving at political decision in which individuals acquire the power to decide by means of a competitive struggle for the people‟s vote. Other authors like Diamond Larry uses the maximalist definition of democracy as all encompassing „not only a civilian, constitutional, multiparty regime, with regular, free and fair elections and universal suffrage, but organizational and informational pluralism; extensive civil liberties; effective power for elected office and functional autonomy for legislative, executive and judicial organs of government.[17]

From the foregoing definitions, the essential principles or elements for any system to qualify as democracy are many. In other words certain elements must co-exist for a political system to be called a democracy. Several views abound and shall be considered. Buhlman et al identified equality, freedom and control as the key principles or elements of democracy. They opined thus, “we define freedom, equality and control as the three core principles of democracy.

To qualify as a democracy, a given political system has to guarantee freedom and equality. Moreover, it has to optimize the interdependence between these two principles by means of control. Control is understood as control by the government as well as control of the government.[18]

Linz and Stepan[19] argues that for a democracy to be consolidated, five interrelated conditions must exist, that is to say: free and lively civil society, a relatively autonomous and valued political society, the rule of law to guarantee citizen‟s freedom and independent associational life, functioning state bureaucracy which can be use by the democratic government and an institutions analyzed economic society. In his own contribution, Professor Eteng posits that genuine democracy is obviously inconceivable today without the following structures and elementary forms: free and fair election completely bereft of money driven, zero-sum, macabre prone electoral process, truly representative government drawn not from ethno-religious constituencies but rather more or less from various occupational groups, an independent judiciary, a vibrant civil society comprising organized labour, professional bodies, pro democracy and human rights organization a free and unfettered press and finally a people oriented economy.[20]

The Inter-Parliamentary Council, the plenary governing body of the Inter-Parliamentary Union in its 161st conference held in Cairo Egypt on 16th September 1997 adopted the Universal Declaration on Democracy and asserted as follows:

A state of democracy ensures that the processes by which power is acceded to, wielded and alternates allow for free political completion and are the product of open, free and non-

discriminatory participation by the people, exercised in accordance with the rule of law, in both letter and spirit…. As an ideal, democracy aims essentially to preserve and promote the dignity and fundamental rights of the individual, to achieve social justice, faster the economic and social development of the community, strengthen the cohesion of society and enhance national tranquility.

The Council maintained that democracy must be based on existence of a well structured and functioning institutions as well as a body of standards operated on the will of the society with rights and responsibilities. It is founded on the right of everyone to take part in the management of public affairs through the holding of free and fair elections at regular intervals. To achieve this, civil and political rights are essential, and more particular among them, the right to vote and be voted for, the right to freedom of expression and assembly, access to information and the right to organize political activities. Public accountability applies to all who hold public office and independent judicial institutions with effective oversight. Mechanisms are equally required to give efficacy to the doctrines of the rule of law.[21]


1.1 Statement of the Problem

Policing a democratic state entails the ideals of the rule of law and human rights as its core principles. The rule of law emphasizes the need for all persons and institutions including law enforcement agencies (police) to be responsive to the tenets of all democratic laws that are consistent with human rights standards. These standards have assumed universal acceptance to the extent that there is a duty imposed on law enforcement officials to, at all times respect and obey the law, protect all persons against illegal acts and protect human dignity and maintain and uphold the human rights of all.

The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) in line with international norms and obligations contains human rights provisions to protect the rights of citizens. The constitution also established the Nigeria Police Force with the statutory duty of maintaining law and order. This duty must however conform to standard best practices that reflect the tenets of the rule of law and human rights observance. Unfortunately, the overall performance of the police in Nigeria leaves much to be desired. The force appears more adept to paramilitary operations, anti democratic tendencies and abuse of police powers. Incessant abuses such as arbitrary arrest, illegal detention, torture, inhuman and other degrading treatment as well as extra judicial killings are common place. Besides, democratic policing attributes like the rule of law, accountability, responsive/representative policing and respect for human rights are essentially lacking. The shortfall stems from the lapses in the Police Act and the inefficiency and ineffectiveness in the overall operation and execution of policing generally which if critically viewed together do not help to create a police force that respect the rights of citizens as guaranteed under the constitution and other international human rights conventions which Nigeria has signed and ratified.


1.2 Scope of the Research

This research work is limited to policing a democratic Nigeria and the observance of human rights by its police force in comparative terms with international best practices.

The reason for this limitation is most clearly informed by the fact that human rights standards are compromised and abuses abound in a developing country like Nigeria. Besides, policing raises issues which either enhances or retrogresses democratic advancement hence it became expedient to use the Nigeria Police Force as a case study to review their overall performance and participation in the democratic process to see whether Nigeria‟s nascent democracy is being advanced


1.3 Objectives of the Research

This research had explored three correlated questions. First, to what extent or degree are democratic policing principles applicable in Nigeria? Second, how well has the Nigeria Force faired in terms of human rights observance since the return to civil rule in 1999? Was the Nigeria Police Act fashioned to encourage democratic policing and observance of human rights? To this end, the research x-rays the powers and operational capabilities of the Nigeria Police Force vis a vis the observance of human rights in the new Nigeria democratic setting. It explores in very simplistic terms, the basic principles of democratic policing and the need for human right observance within the context of global best practices. It provides a comparative and indebt analysis of policing as a major component of democracy, policing and human rights issues, judicial attitude to policing and other operational efficacy of the police with particular emphasis on the lacunas of the enabling law establishing the police. It also brings to the fore myriads of abuses inherent in the system, the need to officially recognize their violations and the challenges of surmounting them. The overall objective is to observe and proffer amicable recommendations that will help save guard democratic policing in Nigeria.


Chapter Five


Conclusion and Recommendation

5.1 Conclusion

The findings of this study clearly reveal that human rights violations by the police to cell victims and criminals in democratic Nigeria have not in any way declined but rather, impunity for human rights violations thrives as the Nigerian government remains unwilling to go beyond lip service to human right reform in this democratic era of the country.

Human rights violation by the police continue to reflect in extra judicial killing of people (who are in most cases innocent persons), arbitrary arrest and detention, torture and other cruel inhuman or degrading treatment, use of excessive for and other abuses (harassment, extortion, etcetera).

It was also discovered that the greatest and one of other biggest simple obstacles to the reduction or eradication of torture and other serious abuses by police in Nigeria is impunity.

This implies the absence of deliberate effort to ensure accountability for violations committed by the police force.
The findings also showed that the public has lost faith in the Nigeria police force the erosion of this public confidence in the police makes the people of Nigeria to see the police as their “enemies” and their ” friends” for example , one of my interviewees said he couldn‟t confide in his sibling who is a policeman.

The findings of this study also reveal that the police are aware of the fundamental human right of the people as enshrined in the constitution of Nigeria. But because of the culture of violence in the Nigeria police force men and woman of the police force have a mentally that brutality and used the excessive force are fundamental to achieving success in policing Nigeria. Another possible reason for perpetrating abuse of rights by the police is the inability of appropriate authorities to bring perpetrators to justice. Furthermore, the fact that police violates the rights of individuals as a way of servicing the interest of those in government makes the democratic government of obasanjo to partner with the police in committing certain atrocities such as harassment, intimidation and torture of political opponents and unionists.

The findings of this study also shows that although the citizens know their rights to an appreciable level, they do not fight for their rights because they have neither power nor means to do so successfully; hence they have normalised the violations of their fundamental (human rights by the police. That‟s why even where they know the police action was wrong and illegal, they appear to feel powerless to register a complaint or seek redress, rather choosing to leave it to God for vengeance.

The negative effect of the violations of human rights on the victims our democracy, the general public and police force cannot be overemphasized. In a modem and civilized world of today, Nigeria must not be thrown back to the imagined state of nature in Hobbes Leviathan where individual freedom was despised by the strong and powerful.
The extent of violation is grave. The failure of the police to abide by the provision of the constitution and democratic norms of respect for fundamental right of people is answerable to psychological, political and socio-economic factors in addition to lack of proper or inadequate education of men of the Nigeria police “force‟ on human rights issues. The police continue to violate the human or fundamental rights of the people in Nigeria as clearly stated in the 1999 constitution of Nigeria.

Extrajudicial killings, torture, violence, brutality, bribery and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment constitute the nature constitute the nature of violations or human rights in Nigeria. Victims of human rights violations could spend as many days in police detention without trial until they pay for their bail. Bail cost ranges from N1, 000 to N6,000 depending on the nature of the offence committed.

Those victims, whose crime was „wandering‟ pay between N2, 000 and N3, 000. Confession or admittance of alleged crimes by victims is based on force. In Mid-2004, 23 year old man described his treatment to human right watch thus:

They hand-cuffed me and tied me with my hands behind my knees, a wooden rod behind my knees, and hung me from hooks on the wall, like goal post. Then they started beating me, they got a broomstick hair (bristle) and inserted it into my penis until there was blood coming out. Then they put teargas powder in a cloth and tied it round my eyes, they said they were going to shoot me unless I admitted I was the robber, this went for four hours.

There exists no case of violations arising from either religious or ethnic affiliations. Majority of the person whose rights were violated come from a poor background. The relationship between citizens and the police is conflictual and based on suspicion, as the people have no confidence in the police.

Victims of extrajudicial killings by the police are summarily referred to as „armed robbers‟ but the fact is that most victims are innocent individuals who may have refused to pay bribe, challenging the police and or involved in some kind of protests.

There is a link between the present policing approach and brutal, suppressive, oppressive and offensive approach that characterised the institutions during that colonial era. Top government official use the police as instrument of intimidation of opponents and other illegal activities, which on the long run violate the rights of people.
Due process of law is not followed in the apprehensive and detention of suspects/victims.


5.1 Recommendations

In the light of this research work, the following are the suggested actions to be taken by the federal government of Nigeria and the Nigerian police to ensure the elimination (or at least reduction) of violations of human rights by police.

The federal government should immediately set up or establish an anti- human rights violation group within the police force that will investigate and bring to justice officers found to have violated the fundamental rights of people.

Publicly condemning and (immediate) sanctioning of erring police officers. This task has to be championed by the inspector general of police.

After graduating from Police College, recruits should be sent to various human rights organisation in Nigeria for „practical‟ training on human right issues and implications.

Ensure the prompt payments of police salary and improved welfare packages for officers‟ of the force.

Adequate and speedy compensation of victims, or victims‟ family (in the case of death) by the federal government. The cost of compensation should be deducted from police yearly budget. By this the force will be mindful of consequences (economic cost) of violating people‟s rights.

Evidence gotten from victims as a result of torture should be disregarded in court by judges while ordering an impartial and prompt investigation into the allegation.

Prompt trial of defendants within a reasonable time.

Take urgent steps to end the use of torture and all other forms of ill-treatment in Nigeria;

Ensure that all detainees in military and police custody have immediate and unhindered access to families, lawyers and medical care;

Provide comprehensive reparation – including compensation and whatever care is necessary to encourage rehabilitation – to anyone who experiences torture or ill-treatment,

Launch a thorough, independent and impartial investigation into allegations of torture by police and military personnel, especially in relation to detainees held due to alleged ties with Boko Haram or involvement in armed robbery;

Grant NHRC monitors and human rights defenders unhindered access to all detention facilities across Nigeria;
Criminalize the use of torture by passing the Torture Bill into law.


Criminal Torture And The Nigeria Police Cell System In The Criminal Investigation Process In Nigeria


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