Police, the military, and the Department of State Services…periodically acted outside civilian control
The United States Government has indicted the Nigeria police, military, and Department of State Services (DSS), for corruption, human rights violations, and impunity.
The US Department of State affirmed this in its ‘2021 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices’ in Nigeria.
“Impunity, exacerbated by corruption and a weak judiciary, remained a significant problem in the security forces, especially in police, military, and the Department of State Services.
“Police, the military, and the Department of State Services reported to civilian authorities, but periodically acted outside civilian control. There were credible reports that members of the security forces committed numerous abuses”, the report said.
The report contained incidents of extrajudicial killings, stifling of free speech, human rights violations, political witch-hunting, and other issues in Nigeria.
The US said the opaque nature of disciplining offending officials encourages impunity and that the systems shield erring officers found culpable in multiple crimes.
“The government regularly utilised disciplinary boards and mechanisms to investigate security force members and hold them accountable for crimes committed on duty, but the results of these accountability mechanisms were not always made public”, the report further stated.
“The Nigeria Police Force’s Complaint Response Unit worked to rebuild trust in police among citizens by holding police malefactors accountable. The revamped Complaints Response Unit was largely perceived to be a credible albeit nascent effort in the government’s effort to gather and respond to citizens’ complaints of police misconduct.
“Additionally, the minister of police inaugurated a Police Public Complaints Committee in April to allow citizens to register official complaints of abuses or misconduct by police officers. Police established a radio station to increase its communication with and get feedback from the public.”
The US further stated that security services detained and harassed journalists, sometimes for reporting on sensitive problems such as political corruption and security.
Two of Nigeria’s anti-graft agencies – the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), were cited for inconclusive prosecution of public officials charged with corruption.
The US Department of State report accused the anti-graft agencies of being selective and “focused on low and mid-level government officials.”
It, however, acknowledged that both organisations brought indictments against various active and former high-level government officials.
“Many of the corruption cases, particularly the high-profile ones, remained pending before the courts due to administrative or procedural delays”, the report said, stating that the government deliberately underfunds the judiciary to make it ineffective.
On human rights violations, the report noted that the National Committee against Torture established by the Ministry of Justice, has been hindered from working effectively due to a “lack of legal and operational independence and limited funding.
“Prison and detention centre conditions remained harsh and life-threatening. Prisoners and detainees reportedly were subjected to gross overcrowding, inadequate medical care, food and water shortages, and other abuses. Some of these conditions resulted in deaths.”
The US government also accused Nigerian security agencies of committing arbitrary, unlawful or extrajudicial killings, saying that authorities investigated and held accountable police, military, or other security force personnel responsible for the use of excessive or deadly force or for the deaths of persons in custody.
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