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Police kill, rape, torture and extort says rights group

Member of the para-military Mobile Police, commonly known as "kill and go", at a roadblock in Jos - May 2010
(Obinna Anyadike/IRIN)

Nigerian police routinely carry out summary executions of suspected criminals, use torture to extract confessions from detainees, and rape as an interrogation technique, according to a report by the Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI), a rights group, which appeals to President Goodluck Jonathan to make good on promises to urgently reform the force.

Below are quotes from the 19 May report, Criminal Force; Torture, abuse, and extrajudicial killings by the Nigeria Police Force.

• Police kill on average 4.6 people per day, according to statistics provided to Human Rights Watch in April 2004 by Tafa Balogun, then Inspector-General of Police.

• In November 2007, Acting Inspector-General of Police Mike Okiro, during his first 100 days of office, claimed the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) killed 785 people. One week later the late President Umaru Yar'Adua promoted him.

• In 2006 police reported killing 329 robbers and injuring none, suggesting a kill-to-punish policy, said OSJI. Records show that in the same year 111 police were killed and 53 injured.

• In July 2009, while responding to violence instigated by members of the Boko Haram sect in Borno State in northeastern Nigeria, the NPF killed hundreds of suspected sect members, including its leader.

• The Nigeria Legal Defence and Assistance Project found 2,987 extrajudicial executions by police in 2004, but no force member was convicted.

• Police Force Order 237 uses vague language regarding extrajudicial killings by police: "These rules practically provide police carte blanche to shoot and kill at will," the UN Special Rapporteur said in the 2006 Presidential Commission report on police reform.

• Every major police station has an "Officer in charge of Torture", according to a researcher at the Network of Police Reform in Nigeria (NOPRIN), a civil society organization.

• Victims reported the following slang terms being used for torture: "V.I.P treatment" - shooting a detainee in both legs; "J5" - prolonged sleep deprivation in a standing position; "suicide" - being suspended upside down by a rope tied around the ankles and being kicked, or beaten with machetes, gun butts or electrical wires.

• Other forms of torture include beating; forced stress positions; tear gas applied to eyes or genitals; clubbing the soles of the feet; burning with cigarettes, hot irons or a flame; sexual torture by rape or violation; psychological manipulation; sleep deprivation; water or food deprivation.

• The crime of torture does not exist in Nigerian law.

• In Nigeria's second city, male officers in the Lagos Police Command often demand sex from female detainees as the price of bail - one NPF member said sex with sex workers was "one of the fringe benefits attached to night patrol".

• The Police Service Commission, which is responsible for police discipline, routinely refers all extrajudicial police killings to the police for investigation, and the Commission's quarterly reports to the President are not published.

• The new president, Goodluck Jonathan, insisted in his inaugural address on 6 May 2010 that "The security of life and property around the entire country will be of topmost priority in the remaining period of this administration." To achieve this, he must begin by according priority to a comprehensive reform of the Nigeria Police Force, said the OSJI.

IRIN could not reach police spokesperson Emmanuel Ojukwu to elicit a response to the report, but earlier this year he replied to allegations of human rights abuses, in a local newspaper, Daily Trust.

"In the past 10 years in Nigeria the police force has grown tremendously in its respect for human rights and values of decent conduct," he was quoted as saying, "[but] there are bad eggs in the police force who are guilty of human rights violations, making the force not immune to these accusations."


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This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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