- Disarm and disband the Bakassi Boys. Ensure that no similar organization is created to replace it.
- Close down all detention centers and cells used by the Bakassi Boys.
- Investigate human rights abuses by the Bakassi Boys in the states of Abia, Anambra, and Imo, including the specific cases of unlawful detention, torture, and extrajudicial killings cited in this report, as well as others that have been reported. Case-files should be compiled on all known cases of human rights abuses by the Bakassi Boys and should be followed up by the police with a view to prosecution.
- Make public the results of these investigations.
- Ensure that those responsible for these abuses are brought to justice, including those who carried out the abuses, those who ordered them, and individuals who hired the services of the Bakassi Boys for purposes which led to human rights abuses.
- Investigate the broader role of state governors in ordering, encouraging or tolerating human rights abuses by vigilante groups in their state.
- Provide compensation to the victims of unlawful detention, torture and ill-treatment by the Bakassi Boys and to the relatives of those who have been killed.
Prevention of further vigilante violence
- Repeal laws which endorse the activities of the Bakassi Boys, in particular the law establishing the Anambra State Vigilante Services. Laws passed at the state level and laws passed at the federal level should follow the same rules, based on international standards, regarding citizen involvement in law enforcement, community policing and other related issues.
- Ensure that governors do not introduce or allow the introduction of the Bakassi Boys, or groups like them, into any other states, and publicly encourage and support those governors who have so far resisted public pressure to introduce them.
- Ensure that any force exercising government-endorsed law enforcement powers observes international standards for law enforcement, including the U.N. Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials and the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, and that members of that force are adequately trained in application of the above standards.
- Ensure that anyone suspected of committing a crime is arrested, the crime investigated, and where appropriate, the alleged perpetrator charged and tried within a reasonable time only by competent authorities legally empowered to carry out these functions. The presumption of innocence and the right to life and physical integrity should be respected in all cases.
- Embark on a public education campaign to raise awareness of the illegality of the operations of vigilante groups such as the Bakassi Boys and the fact that they routinely violate human rights. State publicly that individuals who hire the Bakassi Boys for their own ends will be brought to justice.
Such a campaign should be carried out in all the areas where the Bakassi Boys operate and should be conducted in consultation and, where appropriate, in collaboration with human rights organizations, lawyers and other concerned groups in the community.
- Pay particular attention to the risks of an escalation of pre-election violence in the states where the Bakassi Boys or similar vigilante groups are active, and take preventive measures, including those listed above, to stop election candidates and their supporters from using the Bakassi Boys or similar groups against their opponents. Any candidates found by a court of law or independent election commission to have used vigilante groups or ordered vigilante violence to further their political aims should be prohibited from contesting the elections.
- Devote urgent attention and generous resources to reforming and improving the national police force and enabling it to carry out its duties effectively. While restoring the public's respect and trust in the police is a longer-term goal, immediate steps can be taken to begin that process. The government should provide adequate and timely payment to police officers and improve their working conditions, welfare and equipment, with a view to raising their morale. Mechanisms should be set up to eradicate corruption in the police force and bring to justice police officers responsible for human rights violations. The police should be provided with thorough training, which could be undertaken in conjunction with human rights organizations with expertise in this area, and should include practical application of human rights standards, including the U.N. Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials and the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials.
In the states where the Bakassi Boys are active, special attention should be paid to the provision of support and encouragement to the police to enable them to carry out their functions, including arresting and prosecuting any members of the Bakassi Boys allegedly responsible for abuses and resisting political pressure from state government authorities or others to release those arrested without charge or for politically-partisan policing.
- Promote dialogue and cooperation between the police and local communities to encourage them to work together in fighting crime. Community policing forums should be created in all local and divisional police stations in Nigeria, to infuse community concerns in the determination of policing priorities. Such steps will eventually create a situation where people will no longer feel the need to turn to vigilante groups like the Bakassi Boys for law enforcement and "justice."
- The scope of contacts between the police and the citizens should be enlarged to include the delivery of more "social" functions by the police - for example providing assistance to members of the public in practical ways in the course of their day-to-day activities, instead of automatically reacting to situations in an aggressive or threatening way. This would create a favorable environment in the longer-term for public cooperation with the police in their law enforcement duties.
- Members of the public should be educated on the role and powers of the police, and of private citizens in assisting the police. The importance of public cooperation with the police should be stressed in order to promote overall individual, community and national security.
- Potential recruits to the police force should be thoroughly screened and tested during initial training before they are finally enlisted, to ensure that they possess appropriate qualities, have a clear understanding of their role in upholding the rule of law, and are not known to have engaged in violent behavior or corruption. Refresher courses should be organized periodically for all levels of the police with a view to sharpening their professional skills and enabling them to understand changes and dynamics in the country's political, social and economic spheres which affect their work.
- The Nigeria Police Force should change its law enforcement practices and style, which currently emphasize reactive policing. Instead, proactive preventive policing strategies such as beat (foot) patrol, and problem-solving policing, in partnership with the community, should be prioritized.
- Strongly condemn human rights abuses by the Bakassi Boys and the tolerance or encouragement of these abuses by state governments; stress the responsibility of the federal government to prevent these abuses, in view of the unwillingness of state governments to do so. Urge the Nigerian government to implement the recommendations above and to take action promptly to prevent an escalation of violence in the period leading up to elections.
- Governments providing assistance to Nigeria in the areas of reform of the justice sector and the security forces, especially the United Kingdom and the United States, are encouraged to ensure that any training or other assistance they provide includes a central human rights component. Governments that are already planning programs to facilitate reform of the Nigerian police should ensure that these include practical as well as theoretical training in human rights standards, in particular the U.N. Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials and the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials. They should set up mechanisms to monitor regularly the observance of these standards and respect of human rights by those forces whom they have assisted or trained.