The President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Olumide Akpata, has said that the right to protest is a fundamental right recognized by the Nigerian Constitution and upheld by Nigerian courts at all levels. Therefore, he called for the protection of rights of citizens participating in the peaceful protests across the country, as the group outlined its short-term and medium-term goals for Police reform while the #EndSARS protests rage on.
This was disclosed by Olumide Akpata on Tuesday afternoon after a briefing with reporters on the Association’s plans to protect the rights of individuals and long term reforms.
Recall Nairametrics reported this week that Olumide Akpata had said that the association is working to secure the release of protesters in the #EndSARS protests and is very interested in and committed to the peaceful and holistic resolution of all legal issues related to the protests.
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In yesterday’s statement, Akpata said the association is monitoring compliance with rules of engagement by security agencies and escalating cases of abuse to the highest authorities within the relevant security agencies. He added that the NBA would expand its public interest channels and platforms to receive complaints from members of the public, and liaise with the relevant authorities within the security agencies.
He urged for an audit on various SARS detention centers known for police brutality including Awkuzu (Anambra State), the infamous “human abattoir”, and notorious SARS detention facilities across Lagos, Port-Harcourt, and other parts of the country.
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“The NBA demands an immediate audit of the detainees in these and other facilities to ensure that those who are unjustly and unlawfully detained are immediately released, while those against whom the Police have credible cases are promptly charged to court and prosecuted in accordance with the law.
“The NBA will work with, and continue to prod, the Chief Magistrates or designated Magistrates across the country to pay monthly visits to police stations and other detention facilities within their territorial divisions, to direct the arraignment of suspects or grant bail to them (as appropriate) in line with the newly enacted Police Act.”
He said that the NBA would work with the National Assembly on its proposed legislative intervention on issues affecting the Police.
In the longer term, The NBA demands a total reform of the police force into a modern, responsible, and responsive law enforcement establishment that addresses funding and better working conditions for officers.
“The NBA will set up an NBA Police Reform Team that will work with the Police and other institutions and organizations in developing or refining a Comprehensive Blueprint for Police Reform in Nigeria and continuously advocating for the implementation of the Blueprint.”
He added that the NBA through the Human Rights Institute will work with the Police, providing continuous education, enlightenment, and sensitization to members of the Nigerian Police and other agencies on respect for civil law, human rights, rules of engagement, compliance with rulings, and/or judgment of courts, etc., in the discharge of their duties.
Akpata said that NBA studies reveal that in most cases, there is a lack of proper orientation and re-training of officers on how to engage or relate with citizens in a democratic society.