By Bukar Bolori
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has decried the practice of illegally detention of citizens by some law enforcement agencies beyond the constitutionally stipulated “reasonable” time, insisting that such an unwholesome act is a gross violation of human rights and must be accounted for, to serve as a deterrent.
Executive Secretary of the Commission, Tony Ojukwu stated this in Abuja while reacting to the alleged illegal detention of one Gloria Okolie by the authorities of the Nigerian Police.
Ojukwu reacting to the alleged detention of Grace Okolie for over 67 days, observed that such unprofessional conduct cannot be tolerated in the 21st Century policing and that perpetrators of such heinous crime must be immediately brought to justice.
Ojukwu, said he became more disturbed upon learning that the victim while being detained was used as a slave girl to the officers and was terribly abused, washing clothes, sent on errands to buy stuffs for officers, tortured by some of the officers in charge of her detention hence the need for her release without further delay.
He said: “The Commission is therefore using this medium to demand the immediate and unconstitutional release of the detainee or in alternative charge her to a court of competent jurisdiction so that she will enjoy the right to fair hearing and the opportunity to defend the allegations against her, if any. “
Ojukwu, while explaining that though these allegations are yet to be verified, said: “We will not hesitate to condemn such unprofessional conduct which undoubtedly resulted in further violation of the rights of the lady in question because her rights to freedom of movement and liberty among several others had been allegedly violated with impunity by the very personnel charged with the responsibility of protecting the lives and property of citizens”.
He added that: “On our part as a national institution saddled with the responsibilities of promotion, protection and enforcement of rights of citizens and foreigners resident in Nigeria, we have not missed any available opportunity to educate and train Police personnel and indeed other law enforcement agents on human rights issues, the NHRC Act (as amended) as well as other National, Regional and International human rights instruments to which Nigeria is a signatory.”
He recalled efforts of the Commission in assisting the government to reform and reposition the Nigerian Police Force, saying that in-depth investigations into cases of human rights violations by the Independent Investigation Panel on allegations of human rights violations by the defunct SARS conducted by the Commission and the various states are testimonies to our determination to bring sanity to the system and banish impunity like SARS was disbanded.
Ojukwu however restated that there is no official state policy in Nigeria that approves the act of torture, inhuman and degrading treatment but regretted that some adamant law enforcement officers act according to their wicked whims and caprices to engage in dishonorable conduct of debasing and subjecting their fellow human beings to the lowest status that cannot be equated to treatment of beasts and other lower animals, and such is inconsistent with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution, international covenant on civil and political rights, (ICCPR) international covenant on Economic, social and cultural rights (ICESCR), and other relevant Bills of Rights to which Nigeria is a party.
The Executive Secretary reiterated that the Commission will not hesitate to compel the police to do its duties if it does not take necessary legal and constitutional action on the case of Gloria Okolie and other citizens being held illegally without further delay.