Covid-19: Why Extrajudicial Killings By Police Are Happening: By Huriwa:

By Human Rights Writers Association Of Nigeria (HURIWA)m
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Worried that so far the armed security forces have killed about three dozen Nigerians for violating the lockdown measures put in place by President Muhammadu Buhari and the governors of the 36 states of the Federation in the last two months, the Prominent Civil Rights Advocacy group-: HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) has blamed government's tolerance for lawlessness and impunity as the fundamental cause of the killings.

HURIWA stated that the current administration headed by President Muhammadu Buhari has in the last five years done nothing by way of law enforcement to severely punish rogue members of the armed security forces responsible for some of the worst cases of extra-legal executions of over 1,000 innocent Nigerians just as the Rights group said there is organised cover ups by the security forces not to publicly subject these trigger happy cops and operatives of the armed security forces to undergo transparent trials before the competent courts of law. "Many INNOCENT civilians have lost their lives due to extrajudicial executions by members of the armed security forces only because these persons went out to the streets of major cities to protest against bad policies of government. A federal government that sends out security forces to kill protesters and voters at polling centers will not be ready to demand accountability from the hierarchies of the armed security forces for the rising wave of extralegal executions".

The Rights group said the snail-speed with which the wheel of justice moves in Nigeria is also a fundamental issue because many cases of professional misconduct by the armed security forces that relate to extrajudicial executions of persons that are managed to be charged before some courts of law linger in those judicial institutions for years thereby foisting a sense of impunity amongst these armed members of the security forces that they can do whatever they want and may walk away from justice.

HURIWA in the media Statement by the National Coordinator Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko and the National Media Affairs Director Miss Zainab Yusuf said that another salient cause of the continued extra-legal executions of Nigerians is the deliberate weakening and politicization of such critical institutions like the National Human Rights commission and the Office of the Federal Attorney General and minister of justice which render these strategic offices useless in stamping out these crimes against humanity that extrajudicial executions of persons by the members of the security forces constitutes.

"Nigeria's Federal Attorney General and minister of justice is more concerned with playing politics of pursuing political vendetta against the immediate past Federal government of President Goodluck Jonathan and has failed to ensure that his enormous constitutional powers are deployed in the service of national interests by way of prosecution of indicted security forces operatives for these extensive cases of extralegal executions of over 1,000 Nigerians. The National Human Rights commission has become a shadow of its old self because the management runs the place like a normal civil service outfit to the utter shock and disappointment of millions of Nigerians who are expecting this commission to use its enhanced operational and funding powers to prosecute such murderers in security forces' uniforms. The National Human Rights commission ought to be led by a constituted board of governors who ought to lead the process of investigations and prosecution of such heinous cases and so what we now have is a crying baby sort of National Human Rights commission that can bark but lacks the teeth to bite."

" These are the underlying reasons for the spike in the killings as is statistically self evident that Security forces enforcing the lockdown in parts of Nigeria have killed more people than coronavirus itself. Evidence of the killings comes from members of the public who rang their hotline or sent in videos, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) stated just as at the last count It says law enforcers have killed 18 people in Nigeria since lockdowns began on 30 March and another 11 persons since after the first report of these killings were made known".

" HURIWA can corroborate the fact that at least 1,476 people were killed by state actors in the country over the past year as reported by the Council on Foreign Relations. In its report about Nigeria's coronavirus lockdown period, the NHRC, a government agency, said it had found "8 separate incidents of extrajudicial killings leading to 18 deaths”. However, we demand that President Muhammadu Buhari set up the governing council of the National Human Rights commission".

HURIWA cited a plethora of Sections of the Constitution that must be complied with by government to stave off widespread extrajudicial killings just the Rights group quoted Section 33 of the federal constitution 1999 as amended to have states: “(1) Every person has a right to life, and no one shall be deprived intentionally of his life, save in execution of the sentence of a court in respect of a criminal offence of which he has been found guilty in Nigeria. (2) A person shall not be regarded as having been deprived of his life in contravention of this section, if he dies as a result of the use, to such extent and in such circumstances as are permitted by law, of such force as is reasonably necessary - (a) for the defence of any person from unlawful violence or for the defence of property: (b) in order to effect a lawful arrest or to prevent the escape of a person lawfully detained; or (c) for the purpose of suppressing a riot, insurrection or mutiny.”

HURIWA cited Section 36 which states: “(1) In the determination of his civil rights and obligations, including any question or determination by or against any government or authority, a person shall be entitled to a fair hearing within a reasonable time by a court or other tribunal established by law and constituted in such manner as to secure its independence and impartiality. (2) Without prejudice to the foregoing provisions of this section, a law shall not be invalidated by reason only that it confers on any government or authority power to determine questions arising in the administration of a law that affects or may affect the civil rights and obligations of any person if such law - (a) provides for an opportunity for the persons whose rights and obligations may be affected to make representations to the administering authority before that authority makes the decision affecting that person; and (b) contains no provision making the determination of the administering authority final and conclusive. (3) The proceedings of a court or the proceedings of any tribunal relating to the matters mentioned in subsection (1) of this section (including the announcement of the decisions of the court or tribunal) shall be held in public. (4) Whenever any person is charged with a criminal offence, he shall, unless the charge is withdrawn, be entitled to a fair hearing in public within a reasonable time by a court or tribunal: Provided that - (a) a court or such a tribunal may exclude from its proceedings persons other than the parties thereto or their legal practitioners in the interest of defence, public safety, public order, public morality, the welfare of persons who have not attained the age of eighteen years, the protection of the private lives of the parties or to such extent as it may consider necessary by reason of special circumstances in which publicity would be contrary to the interests of justice; (b) if in any proceedings before a court or such a tribunal, a Minister of the Government of the Federation or a commissioner of the government of a State satisfies the court or tribunal that it would not be in the public interest for any matter to be publicly disclosed, the court or tribunal shall make arrangements for evidence relating to that matter to be heard in private and shall take such other action as may be necessary or expedient to prevent the disclosure of the matter. (5) Every person who is charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed to be innocent until he is proved guilty; Provided that nothing in this section shall invalidate any law by reason only that the law imposes upon any such person the burden of proving particular facts. (6) Every person who is charged with a criminal offence shall be entitled to - (a) be informed promptly in the language that he understands and in detail of the nature of the offence; (b) be given adequate time and facilities for the preparation of his defence; (c) defend himself in person or by legal practitioners of his own choice; (d) examine, in person or by his legal practitioners, the witnesses called by the prosecution before any court or tribunal and obtain the attendance and carry out the examination of witnesses to testify on his behalf before the court or tribunal on the same conditions as those applying to the witnesses called by the prosecution; and (e) have, without payment, the assistance of an interpreter if he cannot understand the language used at the trial of the offence. (7) When any person is tried for any criminal offence, the court or tribunal shall keep a record of the proceedings and the accused person or any persons authorised by him in that behalf shall be entitled to obtain copies of the judgement in the case within seven days of the conclusion of the case. (8) No person shall be held to be guilty of a criminal offence on account of any act or omission that did not, at the time it took place, constitute such an offence, and no penalty shall be imposed for any criminal offence heavier than the penalty in force at the time the offence was committed. (9) No person who shows that he has been tried by any court of competent jurisdiction or tribunal for a criminal offence and either convicted or acquitted shall again be tried for that offence or for a criminal offence having the same ingredients as that offence save upon the order of a superior court. (10) No person who shows that he has been pardoned for a criminal offence shall again be tried for that offence. (11) No person who is tried for a criminal offence shall be compelled to give evidence at the trial. (12) Subject as otherwise provided by this Constitution, a person shall not be convicted of a criminal offence unless that offence is defined and the penalty therefor is prescribed in a written law, and in this subsection, a written law refers to an Act of the National Assembly or a Law of a State, any subsidiary legislation or instrument under the provisions of a law.”

Section 34 states: ���(1) Every individual is entitled to respect for the dignity of his person, and accordingly - (a) no person shall be subject to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment; (b) no person shall he held in slavery or servitude; and (c) no person shall be required to perform forced of compulsory labour. (2) for the purposes of subsection (1) (c) of this section, "forced or compulsory labour" does not include - (a) any labour required in consequence of the sentence or order of a court; (b) any labour required of members of the armed forces of the Federation or the Nigeria Police Force in pursuance of their duties as such; (c) in the case of persons who have conscientious objections to service in the armed forces of the Federation, any labour required instead of such service; (d) any labour required which is reasonably necessary in the event of any emergency or calamity threatening the life or well-being of the community; or (e) any labour or service that forms part of - (i) normal communal or other civic obligations of the well-being of the community. (ii) such compulsory national service in the armed forces of the Federation as may be prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly, or (iii) such compulsory national service which forms part of the education and training of citizens of Nigeria as may be prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly.”

In the thinking of the Rights group, only the competent courts of law have the judicial powers of the Federation to apportion sanctions for offenders just as HURIWA condemned these large-scale extrajudicial killings because Section 6 of the Nigerian constitution states: “(1) The judicial powers of the Federation shall be vested in the courts to which this section relates, being courts established for the Federation. (2) The judicial powers of a State shall be vested in the courts to which this section relates, being courts established, subject as provided by this Constitution, for a State. (3) The courts to which this section relates, established by this Constitution for the Federation and for the States, specified in subsection (5) (a) to (1) of this section, shall be the only superior courts of record in Nigeria; and save as otherwise prescribed by the National Assembly or by the House of Assembly of a State, each court shall have all the powers of a superior court of record. (4) Nothing in the foregoing provisions of this section shall be construed as precluding:- (a) the National Assembly or any House of Assembly from establishing courts, other than those to which this section relates, with subordinate jurisdiction to that of a High Court; (b) the National Assembly or any House of Assembly, which does not require it, from abolishing any court which it has power to establish or which it has brought into being. (5) This section relates to:- (a) the Supreme Court of Nigeria; (b) the Court of Appeal; (c) the Federal High Court; (d) the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja; (e) a High Court of a State (f) the Sharia Court of Appeal of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja; (g) a Sharia Court of Appeal of a State; (h) the Customary Court of Appeal of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja; (i) a Customary Court of Appeal of a State; (j) such other courts as may be authorised by law to exercise jurisdiction on matters with respect to which the National Assembly may make laws; and (k) such other court as may be authorised by law to exercise jurisdiction at first instance or on appeal on matters with respect to which a House of Assembly may make laws. (6) The judicial powers vested in accordance with the foregoing provisions of this section - (a) shall extend, notwithstanding anything to the contrary in this constitution, to all inherent powers and sanctions of a court of law (b) shall extend, to all matters between persons, or between government or authority and to any persons in Nigeria, and to all actions and proceedings relating thereto, for the determination of any question as to the civil rights and obligations of that person; (c) shall not except as otherwise provided by this Constitution, extend to any issue or question as to whether any act of omission by any authority or person or as to whether any law or any judicial decision is in conformity with the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy set out in Chapter II of this Constitution; (d) shall not, as from the date when this section comes into force, extend to any action or proceedings relating to any existing law made on or after 15th January, 1966 for determining any issue or question as to the competence of any authority or person to make any such law.”