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Rights Group Report Indicts Nigeria’s Security Forces On Abuses

President Muhammadu Buhari’s All Progressives Congress (APC) administration does not seem to be enjoying a favourable human rights rating. Human Rights Watch, a global rights group, says civil society led campaigns against arbitrary arrests, detention, and torture exposed human rights abuses by security agencies, including by the Department of State Security Services (DSS) and the Police Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).

Human Rights Watch in its World Report 2019 on Nigeria said in August 2018, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo dismissed DSS Director General Lawal Daura for the unauthorised sealing of the National Assembly.

‘’The National Human Rights Commission reported that under Daura’s three-year leadership, the agency repeatedly violated rights, including carrying out unlawful arrests, prolonged detention without trial, and torture of detainees. Osinbajo took the action while he was acting president.

‘’Despite court orders, the DSS refused to release a former national security adviser, Sambo Dasuki, as well as the Shia Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) leader, Sheik Ibraheem El Zakzaky and his wife, Ibraheemat, all of whom have been in detention pending trial since 2015. 

‘’Police continued their crackdown on protests by members of the Shia IMN and the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) separatist group with arrests and detention. In April, 115 Shia IMN members were arrested in Abuja during a protest for the release of their leader Sheik Zazaky and his wife. Soldiers killed at least 42 more in Abuja during similar protests in October.

‘’On August 17, 112 women were arrested and prosecuted in Owerri, Imo State, for protesting the disappearance of IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu. They were discharged and released by a court six days later.

‘’A December 2017 social media campaign against human rights abuses by SARS, including extortion, illegal arrests, torture, and extra-judicial killing continued in 2018’’, the rights group said.

Continuing, the report said recurring violence between herdsmen and farmers, as well as related cattle theft and banditry in many northern states, including Zamafara and Kaduna, posed serious threats to peace and security. Although the violence is increasingly described in religious terms, competing claims to land and other resources are at its core.

‘’In June, a typical reprisal attack began after farmers allegedly killed five herdsmen for allegedly trespassing on farms in Plateau state. In apparent retaliation, herdsmen attacked villages in the area, killing 86 and injuring hundreds, including women and children. In September, suspected herdsmen killed 51 people and abducted about 24 others in Numan, Adamawa State.

‘’Uncoordinated and inadequate responses by state and federal authorities deepened mistrust and perception of authorities’ bias and complicity in the violence

‘’In May, at least 45 people were killed in an attack by bandits in Gwaska village, Kaduna State. Zamfara state was perhaps the worst affected by frequent bandit attacks, who killed at least 400 people and displaced over 38,000 in 2018. In July, the government deployed 1,000 military troops to the state to tackle insecurity’’, the rights group report said.

On public sector corruption, the report said the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) recorded notable strides in its fight against corruption. In June, serving senator and former governor of Plateau State, Joshua Dariye, was found guilty and sentenced to 14 years’ imprisonment for fraud and misappropriation of the state’s $3.00 million ecological fund.

While pointing out that the EFCC in May secured the conviction and 14 years’ imprisonment of Jolly Nyame, a former governor of Taraba State, for fraud and misappropriation of over $4.00 million in state funds, the report added that in May, the Benue State House of Assembly passed the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition (SSMP) Law.

‘’Like the federal law adopted in 2014, the law criminalises public show of same sex amorous relationships, same sex marriages, and the registration of gay clubs, societies, and organisations. Elsewhere in the country, scores were arrested, detained, and prosecuted based on their real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity.

‘’In June, more than 100 people partying at a hotel in Asaba, Delta State, were arrested on allegations of being gay. In August, 57 people were arrested at a Lagos hotel based on information provided by a vigilance group that the victims had gathered to perform gay initiation rites. 

‘’In November, an Abuja Federal High Court dismissed the Lesbian Equality and Empowerment Initiative’s lawsuit challenging its non-registration. The court held that the Corporate Affairs and Allied Matters Act and the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act prohibited the registration of groups considered undesirable, offensive and contrary to public policy’’, the rights group report said.

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