Imo Killings, Punch İnvestigations

Imo Killings, Punch İnvestigations

Imo’s regime of bloodshed, mindless killings by troops leave parents, widows, children in agony (2)

Imo’s regime of bloodshed, mindless killings by troops leave parents, widows, children in agony (2)

7/30/2021 9:50:00 AM

Imo’s regime of bloodshed, mindless killings by troops leave parents, widows, children in agony (2)

For months that chaos and anarchy reigned in Imo State, unprecedented police and military brutalities that led to alleged extrajudicial killings of unarmed citizens were reported.

She lamented that those accused of extrajudicial executions were never brought to book.In a report titled, ‘Killing at Will: Extrajudicial Executions and Other Unlawful Killing by the Police in Nigeria’, Amnesty International stated that, “Nigeria Police Force is responsible for hundreds of extrajudicial executions, other unlawful killings and enforced disappearances every year.

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“The majority of cases go uninvestigated and unpunished. The families of the victims usually have no recourse to justice or redress. Many do not even get to find out what exactly happened to their loved ones.”The organisation noted that the Nigerian government had repeatedly expressed willingness to address the problems in the criminal justice system, improve access to justice and reform the NPF.

“Despite several review panels in recent years, which presented detailed recommendations for improvement, little has been done. A review of the Police Act (1990) began in 2004, but the draft bill has been pending since October 2006. Laws, regulations and codes of conduct to protect human rights are not enforced.

“The difficulties of ending extrajudicial executions and other unlawful killings in Nigeria are considerable, but not insurmountable. Any plan to address the situation must focus on establishing a culture of respect for human rights within the NPF; it must ensure that victims and their families have access to justice, and put an end to impunity for police officers. This is the only way to guarantee that changes to the law are effective,” it stated.

Address extrajudicial killings objectively – CDHRInspector-General of Police, Usman BabaIsrael Joe of the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights, Delta State, said the court remains the final hope for the common man, but that justice had become elusive in Nigeria.

He said victims of extrajudicial killings and their families should seek redress in court using recognised human rights organisations to ensure that justice is served, no matter how long it takes.He urged the government to create an interface committee between the people and security agencies to ensure that justice and equity is achieved.

He said, “The committee should have senior officers of various security agencies, rights activists, civilians and religious leaders as members. They will be expected to address issues objectively, ensure transparent investigations and ensure victims get justice.

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“Extrajudicial killing and rights abuses are mainly committed by junior police and army officers, and it can only be stopped if punishment and sanctions are deterrent enough.”Deadlocked Judicial system – Human rights lawyerAs of November 2020, following the

#EndSARSprotest, 26 states had set up judicial panels of inquiry to investigate cases of alleged violations of human rights by SARS and other units of the police.The states are Lagos, Delta, Adamawa, Kwara, Katsina, Taraba, Bauchi, Osun, Kogi, Ekiti, Ogun, Ondo, Edo, Bayelsa, Rivers, Ebonyi, Anambra, Gombe, Plateau, Nasarawa, Imo, Enugu, Benue, Imo, Cross River and Akwa Ibom.

A human rights lawyer, Liborous Oshiomah, said prosecuting cases of extrajudicial killing depended majorly on availability of strong evidence, and that there is no limitation to when a person can institute action.He, however, noted that the standard of proof required in Nigerian courts is high.

“The case of Nigeria is a very sad one. The onus of proof is on the one who alleges. For cases of extrajudicial killings, there is need to establish the fact that these persons were summarily killed by state actors, without resort to the process of judicial adjudication.

“Usually, it is not always that easy to prove and then because of the nature of our criminal justice system that is almost purely state-owned. Even though we tend to say the court is the last hope of the common man, if these killings are carried out by those in power under the guise of security, then, to get justice in our court system will be a tall order.

“In most cases, most lawyers have had to resort to the National Human Rights Commission to investigate such cases, especially when they are blown open by the media under section 22 of the constitution, which holds the government accountable. So depending on the mindset of the NHRC, such cases are investigated and it then becomes easy to have overwhelming evidence to establish extrajudicial killing in court.

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“We can say the will of justice grinds slowly, but we also forget that justice delayed is justice denied. It doesn’t mean you can’t get justice in court, it depends on the technicality of the case.’’Speaking on the#EndSARSincident, the lawyer said the government told families to provide the bodies of those allegedly killed but that it was impossible because soldiers who allegedly took away the bodies, deposited them in undisclosed morgues.

Continuing, he said, ‘’Eyewitnesses will give you accounts, but when push comes to shove, they are unwilling to testify out of fear. So if you are unable to prove that killings were done by state actors, the case becomes dead on arrival and struck out due to lack of diligent prosecution.

“We have to find a way of insulating the police system from becoming an apron string of the existing government. So the police become to a very large extent, independent and have an enforcement and monitoring unit that will be in charge of discipline. So any policeman or security agent that crosses the line, the instrumentality of the force will be activated to ensure that such persons are dealt with in compliance with the provisions of the law. Once that happens, it becomes easy for such cases to be handled, people investigated and punishment meted out appropriately. Otherwise, we can go to court, pursue these cases and at some point get frustrated. Even lawyers are scared in some cases.”

Victims can seek redress – Reps memberChairman, House of Representatives Committee on Army, Abdulrazak Namdas, said victims of human rights abuses and extrajudicial killings had the right to seek redress in court with evidence.He said victims and family members should report and sustain the fight to get justice in an organised manner.

Speaking exclusively toPUNCH Investigations, he noted that the country was already saturated with security challenges and that adding “extrajudicial killing to it will expand the scope of the crises.”He said, “Naturally, such people can take their matters to the government. However, if no individual is arrested for the crime, then there is nothing to seek redress for. Anywhere extrajudicial killing is perpetrated, families should approach the security agency involved and from there, meet the government. The legislature can get involved and if there is no law made regarding extrajudicial killing, we can then take it up. The legislature has to do more in this regard. We have to look at this issue critically.

“Families should be compensated, whether the victim committed an offence or not. Once there is evidence to show that a security officer participated in extrajudicial killing, the person can be prosecuted. Presently being reviewed to be included in the Police Act is that evidence admissible in such matters should include video recordings, not only statements.

Police more of victim than aggressor – Imo CPThe Imo State Commissioner of Police, Abutu Yaro, while reacting to allegations made against policemen in the state, claimed police officers were majorly victims of extrajudicial killings in the state.“Policemen were killed in their homes, offices and some were beheaded. We are still burying our dead. We are the victims of this whole massacre,” he added.

Military police reactsResponding to the alleged killing of Noel Chigbu by soldiers attached to the 34 Artillery Brigade, Major Sunny Krigbode, who heads the military police, denied any knowledge of the case.He reacted angrily when asked if he had got back to Noel’s family as promised.

He said, “I don’t know anything about that! Who gave you my number? What is my business with yourPUNCH? See, you, let me tell you point blank, I am not a policeman, I am a military police and my investigation has nothing to do with the family.“I don’t have business with the family. I hold the army a duty to investigate the case. Tell that to whoever gave you my number to call me. If you want to see me, book an appointment with the brigade commander.

“I have nothing to do with you. It’s only the army that I owe explanation. If the army says that I should investigate, I will investigate. I am investigating a case and don’t think I have the right to speak. It’s under investigation and it’s under investigation.”

Nigerian Army speaksThe Director, Defence Information, Major General Benjamin Sawyerr, denied any soldier’s involvement in extrajudicial killing.Chief of Army Staff, Major-General Farouk YahayaHe said as a Major in the Nigerian Army, he could boldly state that the military doesn’t carry out extrajudicial killings.

“This is our army, created to protect the territorial integrity of the nation, people and property. How will that same institution or organisation, professionally trained, carry out extrajudicial killing? We don’t carry out extrajudicial killing on any citizen, anywhere. It is not true.

“When you go into combat or an operation and in the process of carrying out your operations, you see people responding to your rules of engagement in a way that you will have to defend yourself and in the instance that you have deaths occurring, it can’t be classified as extrajudicial killings. These are actions that happen in combat. Extrajudicial killing is when someone is arrested and without trial is executed.’’

When told that in most of the cases, the soldiers allegedly opened fire on innocent motorists and bystanders, he said, “No! Soldiers don’t open fire on innocent bystanders. It is not possible. We are trained from day one on laws of armed conflict and international humanitarian law. No soldier will enter into any place and start firing.”

A text message was sent to the Director of Army Information, General Onyema Nwachukwu.In the message, our correspondent sought to know what the army had done in respect to cases of alleged extrajudicial killings by soldiers in Imo State, and its stand on violation of human rights.

No response was received from him as of the time of filing this report.Copyright PUNCH.All rights reserved. This material, and other digital content on this website, may not be reproduced, published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed in whole or in part without prior express written permission from PUNCH.

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