FG Inaugurates National Committee Against Torture
By Bukar Bolori
In its determination to eliminate torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment the country, the federal government has inaugurated the National Committee Against Torture (NCAT), to tackle the increasing cases of torture in Nigeria.
Inaugurating the Committee in Abuja, the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation (HAGF) and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN) stated that the Committee is expected to play a crucial role to stamp out torture and other related vices, and to ensure justice to survivors and victims.
Malami observed that poor funding was the bane of the previous Committee, pointing out that the provision of adequate funding to ease the work of the Committee has become imperative.
According to the Minister, in as much as the Committee has been given a broad mandate to deal with issues of torture in the country in accordance with the UN Convention Against Torture, it is at liberty to seek more areas to dwell if the need arises, considering the critical nature of this national assignment.
The AGF said that the Committee is empowered to liaise with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in discharging its mandate, especially in the area of visits to Correctional Service facilities, to enable it to have first-hand information on the condition of inmates.
In her remarks, the Solicitor General of the Federation and Chairperson of the NCA Beatrice Jedy Agba, on behalf of other members commended the HAG for reconstituting the committee.
She assured the AGF of the committee’s commitment to satisfactorily implement the terms of reference, particularly with respect to providing timely statutory reports as required under UNCAT and working with renewed vigour towards fighting against the scourge.
Speaking at the inauguration, the Executive Secretary National Human Rights Commission, Chief Tony Ojukwu (SAN) who also doubles as the alternate Chair of the Committee said the idea of NHRC hosting the Committee (Secretariat) is in line with international best practices, given that it brings credibility to the work of the Committee.
Ojukwu recalled that visits to Correctional Service facilities and other detention centres was one of the major challenges of the previous Committee, saying that leveraging on the powers of the Commission to visit such facilities will be highly beneficial to the Committee.
The NHRC Boss emphasized the need for the Committee to collaborate with relevant MDAs, Nigerian Bar Associations and Civil Society Organizations to identify and escalate complaints of torture so as to facilitate timely redress of these cases by the Committee.
The Committee’s Terms of Reference are “To engage and liaise with Committee Against Torture (CAT) and regional human rights mechanisms in the context of country reporting, interactive dialogue or facilitation of visits by special procedure mandate holders or the Subcommittees on the Prevention of Torture.
“To organize and facilitate the preparation of reports to CAT and regional human rights mechanisms, and of responses to communication, follow up questions and recommendations or decisions received from such mechanisms.
“To coordinate data collection and information gathering from government agencies, National Assembly and the Judiciary for the reporting and follow up.
“To foster and lead consultations for reporting and follow up with the National Human Rights Commission and Civil Society Organizations.
“To receive and consider communications on torture from individuals, CSOs and government institutions.”To ensure education and information regarding the prohibition against torture are fully included in the training of law enforcement and public officers.
“To prepare quarterly briefings to the HAGF on cases of torture and propose appropriate administrative/Judicial intervention.
“Propose a review of Anti-Torture Legislation and further develop a National Anti-Torture Policy”.
Members of the newly reconstituted Committee are drawn from the Federal Ministry of Justice, National Human Right Commission, Nigeria Police Force, Legal Aids Council, Nigeria Correctional Service, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Department of State Services, the Nigerian Army and Nigerian Bar association among others.