Police Torture And Deaths In Custody In Nigeria

Project and Seminar Material for Criminology And Security Studies

Police Torture And Deaths In Custody In Nigeria


The incessant torture and abuse of suspect in police custody have in this present time a clamorous terrain. Nigeria as a country where serious cases of abuse of police authority and human rights infringements by security agents often stimulate intense public debate and the underlying fact that let to EndSARS protest. Although there have been consistent denials by the leadership of the Nigerian Police on the use of torture-based interrogations to elicit information from arrestees, extant literature affirms that the police rely on different forms of torture as principal means of investigation.

However this study investigated the recurrent problem of torture , death and abuse of human right by the Nigerian police. Triangulating both quantitative and qualitative methods of data collection.50 purposively selected in-depth interviewees and 10 officials of the ijebu-ode Ogun State correctional centre who were key informants. The study found that the police rely heavily on the use of torture to elicit “confessions” from arrestees. Former detainees reported experiences that included being bound and suspended mid- air in painful positions, kicked and beaten with machetes, gun butts, boots, fists, electrical wires, animal hides, and other instruments. The lack of capacity to conduct proper criminal investigation is responsible for the reliance of the police on torture induced confessions. Therefore, there is need for the government to improve on the capacity of the Police in their investigative responsibilities and encourage professionalism among its rank and file.

Chapter One


1.1 Background of the Study

Police brutality, use of torture as interrogative technique and other wanton abuses of human rights remain some of the major flaws of the Nigeria Police Force which has attracted public odium, opprobrium, and condemnation to the Force (Amnesty International, 2015; Ogunode, 2015).

Torture is described as one of the most extreme forms of violence, resulting to both psychological and physical consequences is sometimes considered as an indispensable interrogation mechanism for gathering strategic intelligence (Constanzo & Gerrity, 2009; Makwerere, Tafadzwa & Musorowegomo, 2012; Justice Project Pakistan, 2014).

The activities of the police as an institution are meant to be guided at the national and international level by conventions, standards and treaties (Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 1966). In spite of state prohibitions against torture and custodial misconduct by the police, torture has been reported as being commonly used in police custodies across Nigeria, which is a major reason behind deaths in custody (Amnesty International, 2014; 2015). According to the Network on Police Reform in Nigeria (NOPRIN, 2010), personnel of the Nigeria Police routinely carry out summary executions of persons accused or suspected of crime; rely on torture as a principal means of investigation; commit rape of both sexes, and engage in extortion at nearly every opportunity.A former Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Coomasie once accused the NPF of “barbaric treatment of Nigerians” (Punch, 2016: 38). For instance, there were reports from some female ex-detainees of sexual abuse by police officers, including being raped and having pepper spray used on their genitals. However, in a swift response to the Amnesty International report, the NPF rejected the report in which the SARS were accused of torturing detainees and demanding bribes to free them (Premium Times, 2016). The Police described the report in its entirety as “misleading, a clear misrepresentation of facts, unverified accounts and absolute distortion of the current situation in Special Anti-Robbery Squad [SARS] throughout the country.” The police, in a statement on Thursday by its spokesperson, Don Awunah, a Deputy Commissioner of Police, said the report was evidently the characteristic mind- set and pattern of Amnesty International to deride and castigate public institutions especially in developing countries like Nigeria. However there is no gainsay that a lot of torture and death happen behind police custody even when parties involved strictly refuse to accept this fact, hence the reason for this study,.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

Torture, has been a subject of major concern in Nigeria. However, the prevalence of extra judicial killings in recent times has taken an upward swing. Reports have shown the wide spread disregard for human rights in the police force. Amnesty International reported that in 2010, hundreds of people were killed in police custody.1 The Nigeria Police Force is responsible for hundreds of extrajudicial executions, other unlawful killings and enforced disappearances each year. The majority of cases go uninvestigated and unpunished. The families of the victims usually have no recourse to justice or redress. Many do not even get to find out what exactly happened to their loved ones.

Amnesty International also recorded cases of suspects who were tortured to death while in detention. In other cases, people are victims of enforced disappearances; the police tell the families that they were transferred to a different police station or released on bail, but have no documentation to confirm it. Therefore it becomes pertinent to empirically examine Police Torture and Deaths in police custody, Nigeria.

1.3 Objective of the Study

This study is set to examine Police torture and deaths in Nigeria Police custody. Specifically it is geared:

  1. To examine the rate of torture of suspects in Ogun State police custody
  2. To examine how the suspects are tortured in Ogun State police custody
  3. To investigate the relationship between torture and death of suspect in Ogun State Police

1.4 Scope of the Study

This study was conducted in prison environment to elicit information from inmates about their experience while in police custody prior to their conviction or transfer to the prison facility. This study excluded detainees in police custody as attempts to include some police divisions in the study were rebuffed by the authorities of the stations. Therefore, since the prison inmates had passed through arrest and detention stages before being admitted into prison, they were considered relevant respondents for the study as ex-detainees of the police. Thus the scope of the study is Ijebu-Ode Correctional Centre, Ogun State Nigeria.

1.5 Significance of the Study

This study in it entirety would be relevant for further research and contribute to knowledge body. Specifically it reveal to policy makers on the need to come up with urgent reforms of Nigeria Police force. It will heighten the pressure on Government on the need to constantly monitor the activities of Nigeria Police Force to ensure they do no exceed their jurisdiction or infringe the human right of suspect while doing their job. Moreso it will equip Human Right Activists and bodies on the need to probe illicit torture, death and other inhuman/illegal activities that goes on in Nigeria Police Custody with the aim of protecting Human Rights of the common citizen.

1.6 Research Question

  1. What is the rate of torture of suspects in Ogun State police custody?
  2. How is the suspects tortured in Ogun State police custody?
  3. What is the relationship between torture and death of suspect in Ogun State Police?

1.7 Limitation of Study

Financial constraint

Insufficient fund tends to impede the efficiency of the researcher in sourcing for the relevant materials, literature or information and in the process of data collection (internet, questionnaire and interview).

Time constraint

The researcher will simultaneously engage in this study with other academic work. This consequently will cut down on the time devoted for the research work.

1.8 Operational Definition


Torture is the action or practice of inflicting severe pain or suffering on someone as a punishment or in order to force them to do or say something.


Death is the action or fact of dying or being killed; the end of the life of a person or organism.


Brutality is a cruel and and violent behaviour towards a person. Violence is the use of physical force so as to injure, abuse, damage, or destroy someone.

Human Right Abuse:

Human rights abuse refers to unlawful and arbitrary treatment or killings of a person which often manifest in forced disappearances by both government and nonstate actors; torture by both government and nonstate actors and prolonged arbitrary detention in life-threatening conditions particularly in government detention.

Criminal Investigation:

Criminal investigation, is an ensemble of methods by which crimes are studied and criminals apprehended.

Nigeria Police:

The Nigeria Police is the principal law enforcement and the lead security agency in Nigeria

Chapter Five

Conclusion and Recommendation

5.0 Introduction

This chapter summarizes the findings into “Torture and death in custody in Nigeria”. The chapter consists of summary of the study, conclusions, recommendations and suggestions for further studies.

5.1 Summary of Study

In this study, our focus was to examine torture and deaths in custody in Nigeria Using Ijebu-ode Correctional centre ogun State as a case study. Specifically it is geared. It examined the rate of torture of suspects in custody.it examined how the suspects are tortured in Ogun State police custody. It investigated the relationship between torture/death of suspect and Ogun State Police case study. A total of 60 responses were validated from the enrolled participants where all respondent are inmate of ijebu-ode correctional centre, Ogun State.

5.2 Conclusion

Conclusion from findings of the study reveled the following:

  1. Findings from this study suggest that there is high prevalence of violence and abuse of human rights by the police as they go about their investigative procedures on criminal cases.
  2. Majority of the ex-detainees included in this study expressed varying degrees of violence that they were made to undergo both at the point of arrest and while in police custody. This goes to affirm the position of Amnesty International (2014) that detainees are often subjected to inhuman treatments in police custody which include being bound, kicked and beaten with machetes, gun butts, boots, fists, electrical wires, animal hides, and other instruments. Others include being shot in the leg or assaulted by police officers while in custody and suffering multiple fractures; being forced to perform impossibly painful calisthenics; and being raped.
  3. The systematic brutality of the police affects virtually every Nigerian, though at different levels, as the impact weighs down more on the poor.
  4. The operations of the Nigeria Police Force bear almost no resemblance of the requirements of the Nigerian law.
  5. The activities of the NPF are at marked variance with protecting human life, safety, and security, as it rather endangers the people they ought to protect.
  6. It is evident that lack of capacity to conduct proper criminal investigation is responsible for the reliance of the Police on torture-induced confessions.
  7. As a result of the multitude of police stations in the country and the manner of development of the authority and responsibility of these police stations and divisions, there has been little supervision and control of this problem.

5.3 Recommendation

Based on the responses obtained, the researcher proffers the following recommendations:

  1. There is need for urgent measures to return policing in Nigeria to the path of lawfulness, respectability, and public confidence.
  2. There is need for Government to monitor the activities of the police because there is no accountability for crimes committed by the police at present. The NPF is controlled at the federal level and its officers are not answerable to the local populations.
  3. The best approach to solve this dilemma of unlawful arrest and detention is through intelligent legislation in respect of the laws governing detention for investigative purposes.
  4. Other suggestions include, proper training and retraining of police office, deployment of advanced forensic techniques for investigations, improvement in the capacity of the police in their investigative responsibilities, encouragement of professionalism within its rank and file as well as effective punishment of erring officers as deterrence to others.

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