The Nigeria Civil Society Community has condemned Monday’s attack on the premises of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Abuja, by Police Operatives.
Police officers were reported to have fired live ammunition into the premises of the Commission on Monday, which damaged vehicles of the Commission’s staff and threatened the lives of the staff of the Commission and their visitors.
The shots were allegedly fired while ostensibly attempting to disperse members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (Shiites) who were on their routine assembly around the offices of the Commission, to protest the continued illegal detention of their sect leader and his wife in disregard to court orders on the government to release them.
In a statement today, signed by the leaders and representatives of twenty human rights and civil society organizations across Nigeria, the NCSC said the attack is dastardly and desecrates the sanctity of the Commission as a state institution established to promote, defend and expand the frontiers of human rights in Nigeria.
The statement read in parts; “We are also concerned about reports of previous harassment and intimidation of staff of the Commission on account of their carrying out their legally mandated work of investigating human rights violations.
“National human rights institutions are independent institutions bestowed with the responsibility to protect, monitor and promote human rights in a given country under the Paris Principles. Attack on such an important institution is a threat to the human rights of citizens and residents of the country who depend on the Commission for the protection, defence and enforcement of their human rights guaranteed under the constitution as well as under regional and international human rights standards which Nigeria subscribes to.
“This attack has significantly diminished the esteem of Nigeria in the comity of nations and is capable of crashing her status before the United Nations Human Rights Council.”
The civil societies urged that all the instrumentalities of the Federal Government must be immediately deployed to fish out every police officer involved, to make them face severe penalties that will serve as a deterrent to others.
“We condemn in totality this act of audacity and impudence and call on both the Inspector General of Police and the Federal Attorney General to carry out a prompt, exhaustive and effective investigation to identify those responsibly and to bring them to account. The Inspector-General of Police must give an assurance that the Commission and its staff will henceforth be protected from any further attack from police or other quarters and that such reckless action will not repeat,” the statement said.
It further called on the National Assembly especially the Senate Committees on Human Rights and Police Affairs to jointly constitute an investigation using parliamentary mechanisms to hold the Nigerian Police to account.
“While police officers who abuse or misuse force and firearms must be brought to account, this recent shameful conduct by the Police highlights the need to create awareness among Police officers of the newly reviewed Force Order 237 which regulates the use of force by police personnel. Force and firearms must be used in legal and responsible ways and must be proportionate to the objective sought to be achieved. The use of deadly force and live weapons on protesters who are not armed is despicable and violates the rights to peaceful assembly and expression which are the bedrock of democracy,” the group emphasized.
Among signatories to the statement was Okechukwu Nwanguma of the Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre (RULAAC) Lagos, Adedeji Adeleye of Independent Advocacy Project (IAP) Lagos, Arthur Judah Angel of Life Wire International Foundation, Dr Walter Duru of Media Initiative against Injustice, Violence and Corruption, Rivers State, Bankole Solomon of People Against Corruption and Injustice, Ogun State, Dr Osagie Obayuwana of Committee for the Defense of Human Rights, Lagos, among others.