By Emmanuel Onwubiko

A democracy inclined non-governmental organization-HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS' ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) has condemned operatives of the Akwa Ibom State police command over their alleged high-handedness and use of live firearms which resulted in the killing of some protesting students of the University of Uyo.

The Rights group has also canvassed independent probe of the circumstances surrounding the death by road accident at the Umuahia-Ikot Ekpene road of five national officials of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) on June 13th 2013 on their way to Uyo, Akwa Ibom State to meditate in the discord between students and management of the Federal University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom State which snowballed into peaceful students protest.

HURIWA recalled that a section of media report blamed illegal police road block for the accident that led to the death of the five student unionists including the senate President of the Students body Mr. Donald Onukaogu, even as it wondered why the inspector General of Police Mohammed Dikko Abubakar has so far failed to rein in renegades among the police operatives who have failed to comply to the order to dismantle all police road blocks across the country.

In a media release jointly endorsed by the National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko and the National media Affairs Director, Miss. Zainab Yusuf, HURIWA said operatives of the Nigerian police have serially failed to comply to the United Nations basic principles on the use of force and firearms during peaceful protest by the civil populace just as it urged for immediate remedial measures to be adopted to save more innocent lives from being killed.

The Rights group which bemoaned what it called “trigger happy” tendencies of armed police operatives to always empty their sophisticated weapons of mass destruction on peaceful protesters, demanded that the Federal Government through relevant agencies like the National Human Rights Commission and the police service commission must train the police operative across board on strategies for complying to extant national and international principles on the use of force and firearms by law enforcement officials. HURIWA lamented that the police operatives lacked the discipline to always exercise restraint in situations such as peaceful demonstrations by Nigerians and this serial official indiscretions by the police have resulted in the extra-legal killings of hundreds of Nigerians over the last fourteen years.

The democracy friendly group also charged the National Assembly to pass a legislation creating an independent body of experts that would investigate all cases of use of firearms by security operatives in Nigeria similar to what obtains in developed societies like the United Kingdom to compel security operatives to abide by international best practices in all their internal security operatives and to respect international humanitarian laws.

“We are worried by the report filed in by Independent observers at the Uyo, Akwa Ibom state venue of the students' protests which point accusing fingers on the police operatives for escalating the peaceful protest into a riot when some of the armed operatives allegedly shot and killed about five or so students”.

HURIWA demanded that the Federal Government through the National Human Rights Commission and the presidency must activate transparent investigative mechanism to probe the remote and immediate circumstances leading to the students protest and to recommend for prosecution any police operatives found to have wantonly killed innocent students for simply exercising their democratically protected constitutional rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and protest. The group also wondered why the management of the University of Uyo failed to nip the protest in the bud and for inviting armed police operatives to break up an otherwise peaceful protest by the aggrieved students.

“Nigeria must bring to an end these serial violations by police operatives of the fundamental right to life of innocent citizens through extra legal executions”, HURIWA, stated.

HURIWA reminded police hierarchy of the United Nations basic principles on the use of force and fire arms by law enforcement officials as follows; “Rules and regulations on the use of firearms by law enforcement officials should include guidelines that: Specify the circumstances under which law enforcement officials are authorized to carry firearms and prescribe the types of firearms and ammunition permitted; ensure that firearms are used only in appropriate circumstances and in a manner likely to decrease the risk of unnecessary harm; prohibit the use of those firearms and ammunition that cause unwarranted injury or present an unwarranted risk; regulate the control, storage and issuing of firearms, including procedures for ensuring that law enforcement officials are accountable for the firearms and ammunition issued to them; provide for warnings to be given, if appropriate, when firearms are to be discharged; and provide for a system of reporting whenever law enforcement officials use firearms in the performance of their duty”.