Reports are meant to put records straight and then offer solutions but when such reports become old fashioned its effectiveness is drowned and can no longer achieve its objective. It is in this light that the latest report from the stable of Amnesty International, an international human rights watchdog that was released to Nigeria and mainly centered on the activities of the Nigerian Military and the Police, was as usual not friendly but raised its cord and critically put these two institutions on the world platform for condemnation accusing them of torture and arbitrary killing of innocent Nigerians.
In as much as one appreciates the stand of Amnesty International in trying to keep political leaders and government institutions in check, one is however very worried that since the entrance of democracy in Nigeria, the story of torture and disdain for suspects in the cells of security agencies in Nigeria that is quickly fading away has not been well appreciated by this organisation . Interestingly, part of the Amnesty International report speaks glowingly of the Army thus: “Conditions in some military detention centers seemingly improved. Detainees were given three meals a day, access to washing facilities and to medical assistance”.
For not applauding the strides of our security leaders in restoring best practices in the Army and Police makes Nigerians to see the report of this international organisation as grossly unfounded and myopic coming from a group that is fast losing its objectivity. While introducing itself to the world, Amnesty International said:” We campaign for a world where human rights are enjoyed by all. The body is a global movement of more than seven million people in over 150 countries and territories who campaign to end abuses of human rights from death penalty to free speech, we protect people’s rights. We are independent of any political ideology, economic interest or religion. No government is beyond scrutiny. No situation is beyond hope”.
This could have been swallowed as the truth if this particular report had been released 10 years back. That was when the country witnessed many of the unfortunate incidents, which were openly witnessed by Nigerians, and they cried out for justice and better respect for their human rights. As leaders with good intensions took over the mantle of leadership in the police and military, the story started changing as policies that nip such inhuman acts were put in place by the police and army, just like the Amnesty International disclosed in its recent report noting” the police announced they were reviewing the Force Orders, including Force Order 237, which allows police officers to shoot suspects and detainees who attempt to avoid arrest or escape – whether or not they pose a threat to life. The Inspector General of Police also announced that over the past three years, almost 1 billion Naira (US$5 million) had been paid out as compensation to victims of human rights violations by the police”. Also the organisation noted thus on the military, “Small numbers of suspects were released throughout the year; the military announced the release of 310 suspects in July and September, following the completion of investigations. Many had been detained for over a year. Some detainees received 10,000 naira (approximately US$50) or clothes upon their release, while others received nothing”. In spite of all these, it is important to recall as it has been noticed that some countries including Nigeria has always been the target of Amnesty international whenever there is going to be a United Nations summit of world leaders. In each of these recent world meetings Amnesty international has ensured that Nigeria must occupy pages of its report not taking into cognisance that the country has been going through diverse criminal activities including terrorist invasion. In all of these situations, many wrongs occurred but the amount of work being carried out by leaders of the military and police cannot be under estimated seeing that the present government has as its governance tenet the message of reversing old ways of doing things. The present leadership of the Army under General Tukur Buratai and the IGP, Mr. Idris Ibrahim have been seen as purposeful and dedicated leadership with eyes on international best practices as international practitioners who themselves are officers that have severally served at the very top positions of the United Nations peace keeping programes. Having been inculcated over the years with international ethics, one is happy to see the duo doing everything possible to continue in introducing best practices by reorganising these security institutions. It is gladdening to observe that the words “ torture” and “shoot at sight” as they are becoming normal in the United States where the police has been accused of shooting innocent citizens on the streets for no tangible reasons.
Yet Amnesty International would not focus their attention on such a country. A country where reported cases of torture of suspects and war prisoners hold sway. For once, it is important to completely disagree with Amnesty international because from the look of things, it is like the writers of the Amnesty international reports were more interested in opening their ears to street talks rather than taking a step further to either investigate or find out the facts from the affected institutions before putting their pens on paper. By refocusing on the same issue and harping on them despite the fact that they have been addressed by security leaders shows that the writers at the Amnesty International are not appreciating the change in policy direction. Take this aspect of the report where it noted: “Many police divisions, including the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and the Force Criminal Investigation Division, kept rooms where suspects were tortured while being interrogated”. Yet the same writer in another breath noted that, “the Inspector General of Police announced the creation of a Complaints Response Unit and a reform initiative for the SARS, in response to public concerns about alleged violations by police officers across the country”.
lt also noted that “The Anti-Torture Bill – intended to prohibit and criminalize the use of torture – was passed by Parliament in June. It had not been signed into law by the end of the year”. The question on many lips is: are these not indications of proactiveness and ensuring that best world standards have already been introduced in the Army and the Police?. No one is saying that Nigeria can completely be absolved of some of these acts, but it must be noted that this is a global situation and no one country is innocent. Also Amnesty International should not be reminding Nigerians of their ugly past for old things are passed away and Nigeria is in the Change era.