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VI. Torture and Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The Nigerian Constitution guarantees the right to life and the right to respect for dignity of the person including the right not to be subjected to torture.65 International conventions ratified by Nigeria, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the United Nations (U.N.) Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, also prohibit the use of torture.66

Torture, as defined in the U.N. Convention, involves a number of key elements. It is an act by which severe mental or physical pain or suffering is intentionally inflicted against an individual, at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official. The purpose of which is to obtain information, or a confession, or punishment for an act the individual has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidation, coercion, or discrimination of any kind. A person may be tortured as punishment for an act committed, or suspected of being committed, by a third person.67

Despite these commitments and obligations by the Government of Nigeria, Human Rights Watch’s research shows a clear pattern of widespread torture of suspects in police custody, sometimes resulting in the victim’s death. The experiences of current and former detainees in Enugu, Lagos and Kano, and information from local human rights groups, suggested that the use of torture by the police was routine. During interviews with Human Rights Watch, local NGOs, lawyers and prison officials report little improvement in the treatment of criminal suspects by the police or the reduction of torture since the end of military rule in 1999. Indeed, thirty-six of the fifty people interviewed by Human Rights Watch said they had been tortured in 2004 or 2005. Those interviewed represented urban areas, which, due to high crime rates, have a higher proportion of criminal cases, as well as remote rural areas where poor infrastructure and communication mean the activities of police go largely without scrutiny by local human rights groups.

Human Rights Watch interviewed a twenty-three-year-old construction worker who was awaiting trial in Enugu Prison. He was arrested by police from his home at Agbani, a town in Enugu State, on June 18, 2004 with three male cousins, aged nineteen, twenty-one, and twenty-two. All four were accused of a robbery in the town and taken to Agbani police station. He described what happened:

At the police station we were put in an open cell with over twenty people. Our hands and legs were chained. We slept in the cell, on the floor. In the morning at 11.30 a.m they came to take me first. They took me to the “torture room.” It was a small room. They asked me to tell the truth, that I was a robber. I said I’m not a robber so they started to torture me. They handcuffed me and tied me with my hands by my knees, a wooden rod behind my knees and hung me from hooks on the wall, like goal posts. Then they started beating me. They got a broomstick hair [bristle] and inserted it into my penis until there was blood coming out. Then they put tear gas powder in a cloth and tied it round my eyes. They said they were going to shoot me unless I admitted I was the robber. This went on for four hours. There were three policemen there, all in mufti [plainclothes]. There was an inspector, a sergeant and a constable. The inspector was giving all the orders. After the torture I wrote and signed a statement in which I said I was not a robber. […] My cousins were tortured after me, in the same way, including the broom hair in the penis.

At about 3.00 p.m they took me to State CID [criminal investigation department] Enugu. The Inspector from Abgani [police station] handed me over with my statement. There they took my name and asked if I was a robber, that I should tell the truth. They handcuffed me and made me lie on the ground and hit my back with a cutlass and a baton. I kept saying it is not me, I’m not a robber. I spent two weeks in State CID. On August 2, 2004, I was taken to Abgani Magistrates Court No. 2. My cousins and I were charged with suspected robbery. 68

When Human Rights Watch met the young man in March 2005, he complained of continuing pain in his genitals, and described how he was passing blood for two weeks after the torture. He also told researchers that he had temporarily lost sight for two weeks after as a result of the tear gas. During his detention in police custody he received no medical attention.

Human Rights Watch heard reports of severe beatings with implements such as batons, sticks, planks of wood, belts, iron bars, gun butts, cable wire, koboko (horsewhip) and  gora (poles of bamboo palm used as roofing material). Many of the cases documented rise to the level of torture, in that they involved the intentional infliction of severe pain or suffering for the purpose of obtaining a confession or extracting information, or punishing the victim for his or her own or a relative’s perceived wrongdoing. Other cases did not clearly amount to torture but all of the cases documented in this section at a minimum constitute cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment or punishment, which is also prohibited in the U.N. Convention Against Torture.69

Types of Torture or Cruel, Inhuman, and Degrading Treatment

The most common types of abuse committed by the police in Nigeria and described to Human Rights Watch by victims and perpetrators includes repeated and severe beatings with  metal rods and wooden sticks or planks, as well as other implements described above. Other violations reported include the tying of arms and legs tight behind the body; suspension by hands and legs from the ceiling or a pole; resting concrete blocks on the arms and back while suspended; spraying of tear gas in the face and eyes; electric shocks; death threats, including holding a gun to the victims head; shooting in the foot or leg; stoning; burning with clothes irons or cigarettes; slapping and kicking with hands and boots; abusive language or threats; and denial of food and water.

There were also numerous cases of the molestation and rape of female detainees; use of pliers or electric shocks on the penis; insertion of broom bristles into the penis; beating the penis with cable wire; and spraying of tear gas on genitals

Human Rights Watch documented twelve cases where young men had been shot in the foot or leg whilst in police custody. Eight of these cases took place in Lagos, seven of which were perpetrated by officers at the state police command. Four other cases were recorded in Kano, at the state police headquarters. The majority occurred in 2004. Some of the victims were shot multiple times in each foot. All were denied medical attention. A twenty-two-year-old bus driver from Lagos was arrested on January 15, 2005 along with two men who were alleged to be in possession of guns. During his detention at Alagbon police station he was shot four times in his feet. He described what happened:

We slept over night in the cell. We were ninety-five men in total. The next morning we were taken into the main police station building. All three of us were interviewed by two policemen. The policemen’s names were Laide and Niyi. I don’t know their rank as they were in mufti [plainclothes]. They asked me how I knew the other two. I explained that David was my friend but I didn’t know Chima      .70  They thought I was lying and said that I owned a gun too and was a robber. Then they hung David from the ceiling. He had his hands cuffed behind his back a second set of handcuffs were used to tie him to a hook in the ceiling. They removed the chair from his feet and suspended him, so his arms were drawn up. I could see this hurt as he screamed. Laide and Niyi beat him many times with a big wooden stick. It went on for between fifteen and thirty minutes. About ten other officers were watching. After they finished with David they took Chima and did the same. During the beating they asked David and Chima where they got the guns from. They confessed to being the owners of the guns.

They took me to one corridor, still inside the compound. I was handcuffed from behind. Officer Laide fired two shots in my right foot. They beat me on the leg with a stick. They said I should sit down and then another officer, Bamjuku, shot me again in the left foot. It was at close range with a short gun, but not a pistol. The bullets went right through. Blood was rushing seriously but they beat me again on my feet. I was taken to one building upstairs and they beat me again. They took me to the cell and left me there.

On the second day at 4.00p.m, I was taken out of the cell. Bamjuku asked me the same questions about how I knew the other two and if I had a gun, and shot me again. There was lots of blood. After this, I just said that I did own a gun and that it was hidden in my garbage bin. The police wrote a statement and made me sign it. On third day they beat me on my joints with a stick. I was not beaten again. I didn’t get food for these first three days.71

When Human Rights Watch researchers visited Ikoyi prison in Lagos they met a group of approximately fifteen young men, all of whom had gunshot wounds in one or both feet, which they said were was the result of police shooting whilst they were in detention. Human Rights Watch was able to interview four of these men in detail about their treatment.

Who is Targeted

Ordinary criminal suspects who have been detained and accused of crimes ranging from petty theft to armed robbery and murder are those most vulnerable to torture and death in custody, according to local human rights organizations, lawyers and members of the judiciary. Forty-one people, the majority of those interviewed by Human Rights Watch, fell into this group. Human Rights Watch is not in a position to judge whether these individuals were guilty of the crimes alleged; however, a number of factors give cause for concern.

The powers to arrest without a warrant that are granted in the laws of criminal procedure and the Police Act are frequently abused by the police. The Police Act confers the power to arrest without a warrant to “any person whom he finds committing any felony, misdemeanor or simple offence or whom he reasonably suspects of having committed or of being about to commit any felony, misdemeanor or breach of the peace.” It also grants authority to arrest without a warrant “any person whom any other person charges with having committed a felony or misdemeanor” or “any person who any other person suspects of having committed a felony or misdemeanor or charges with having committed a simple offence, if such other person is willing to accompany the police officer to the police station and to enter into a recognizance to prosecute such charge.”72 In addition to arresting those they believe are about to commit a crime, the police routinely interpret the law in such a way that many people are arrested as a result of unverified tip-offs.

Human Rights Watch and other local and international organizations have over many years received reports of arbitrary and indiscriminate arrests by the police in Nigeria. Numerous victims told Human Rights Watch how the police failed to inform them of the reasons for their arrest or were unable to produce evidence against them – both fundamental rights of the accused person. Others described how they were randomly arrested at checkpoints or during anti-crime patrols, either because they happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time or on the basis of what they believed to be, or were told were, unverified tip-offs.

Nearly all of the victims interviewed by Human Rights Watch were men and women from low socio-economic backgrounds with little or no education, typically employed as market traders, laborers and drivers. Young men between eighteen and thirty-five years of age constituted the majority of cases. However, women, children and the elderly have also been victims of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. Of those Human Rights Watch interviewed three were men between fifty-nine and sixty years of age, five were women and two children under eighteen years.73

For example, a sixteen-year-old boy from Ikani, Enugu State was arrested by police in November 2004, after assaulting his father. The boy was kept handcuffed in Agbani police station for ten days during which time he was beaten with a horsewhip and had tear gas poured in his eyes as punishment. On December 6, 2004, he was arraigned before Agbani Magistrates Court, charged with assault and remanded to prison. Three months later, when Human Rights Watch researchers interviewed the boy in Enugu Prison, he was still awaiting a trial date.74 A seventeen-year-old girl, whose case is described on page 47, was gang raped five times by policemen in Enugu in September 2004.

A thirty-one-year-old mother of two, who runs a telephone stand in Lagos, was arrested in January 2005. Accused of duping her boss over the sale of telephone charge cards, she was taken to the state police headquarters at Panti, Lagos where she was brutally beaten. When Human Rights Watch interviewed her in custody in March 2005 she bore visible signs of injury, including scarring on her left shoulder. She was unable to stand upright or walk without assistance and prison officials told researchers she had collapsed just a few days before. Her injuries were consistent with the account she described:

At the station they stripped me naked and took me to a room in D9 [robbery department]. I was handcuffed from behind. The Inspector slapped me with a belt and then a wooden stick. She beat all over my body and also my face. I can’t count the number of times she did this. Two other male officers were present and watching […]. Next the policemen tied a rope around my arms and body and hung me up from a hook in the ceiling. Again, the Inspector beat me with a belt, and wooden sticks and sprayed tear gas in my private parts. She said I will never have peace in my life as I am a liar. She wanted me to agree to the crime, that I duped my boss and stole the money.

The rope broke and I fell from a height and onto an iron pipe. It hit me right in the chest. I was bleeding from my ankle, my leg, my back and nose. My whole face was swollen. I couldn’t walk. My chest was hurting so much from the injury when I fell on the pipe. It is still paining me. They gave me water and took me back to the cell and then I was taken to the police hospital at Panti. They treated me for three days. The second day I fainted, I was in and out of consciousness. The hospital gave me (peak) milk and food, but I couldn’t eat. After three days I was taken back to the cell in the police station, where I stayed for three weeks. They asked me to write a statement saying I duped my boss. I wrote it and signed. 75

In another case, a sixty-year-old man lost sight in his left eye and hearing in his left ear from the multiple beatings he received. Arrested on September 9, 2004, he was taken to Dangozo police station in Kano and accused of sodomy:

Then they pulled off my clothes and two policemen beat me. […]They beat me on the calves and knees with a baton and mortar for pounding, and slapped my face. They did this for three hours. It took place in the investigation room. I was tied with handcuffs.

They asked if I had committed homosexual acts. They told me to answer and that if I refused, they will take me to another place and hang me and beat me. I was screaming and pleading for mercy. I was really in pain and bleeding from my fingers and knees. They also poured tear gas in my eyes. I couldn’t see at all. Even now I can only see in my right eye. My left eye is blind from the beating and the tear gas. I can’t hear in my left ear also because of the beating.

I spent the night in the cell and the next morning they called me out. They wrote a statement and forced me to sign it. They said they would beat me if I didn’t sign. I don’t know what the statement said. After three days in the cell, on September 14, 2004, I was taken to Ngongo Magistrates Court, Kano. I was charged with sodomy. The prosecutor asked if I have money and then if I was guilty or not. I said yes out of fear. I was convicted for two years and brought to prison.76

Arrest of Friends or Relatives of a Suspect

Numerous victims, witnesses and local NGOs described to Human Rights Watch how police unlawfully arrested, detained and tortured friends or relatives in place of a suspect who, at the time, was unable to be located. This appeared to be aimed at bringing forward the suspect or for the purpose of extortion, a fact recently recognized by the Acting Inspector General of Police. According to national media reports, the Acting Inspector General, at a meeting with force investigative heads in February 2005, criticized the practice and told the officers present: “If you go to arrest a suspect and could not get him, device a technique, such as keeping surveillance instead of arresting his maternal or paternal relations.”77

Sometimes people arrested in this way are subjected to torture or ill-treatment in police custody. A thirty-four-year-old woman, who was pregnant at the time of arrest, told Human Rights Watch how on January 31, 2005 policemen forcibly entered her house in Kano looking for her husband. When they found he was not at home, the woman was first physically assaulted by a policeman, and then taken to Yar’Akwa police station in Kano. She described to Human Rights Watch researchers how at the police station she was repeatedly beaten across the legs with a stick until they were bleeding and swollen. This appeared to be for the purpose of obtaining information about her husband’s whereabouts and also to punish her for his perceived wrongdoing. During interrogation she was asked of her husband’s whereabouts and told that he owed 140,000 naira (approximately US$ 1,076) to another man. She was then taken to the local hospital, although not for medical treatment. Rather she was told to phone her husband and say she was in hospital in an effort to scare him into coming forward. When he did not come forward she was taken back to the police station and detained for four days. She told Human Rights Watch that during her detention, a police officer tired to rape her when she refused to sign a confessional statement.

Five days later she was charged to Gidan Murtala Magistrates Court and remanded to Kano Central Prison, where at the time of interview she was awaiting trial for criminal breach of trust. One week before Human Rights Watch researchers met her, she suffered a miscarriage, which she was convinced was a consequence of the beatings she received at the hands of the police.78

Torture and Ill-Treatment of Members of Self-Determination Groups

Other categories of detainees, such as protestors against government policies and members of self-determination groups, have sometimes been subjected to beatings or other ill-treatment in police custody. In these cases the abuse appears to be aimed at punishing them for involvement with groups which threaten or clash with the policies of the state or federal government. Over the last few years Human Rights Watch has documented human rights abuses against members of organizations advocating greater autonomy for distinct ethnic, regional or religious group, such as the Igbo organization, Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) and the Yoruba, O’odua People’s Congress (OPC).79

A February 2003 Human Rights Watch report found, for example, that hundreds of real or suspected OPC members were killed by the police and many others were arbitrarily arrested, tortured, and detained without trial for extended periods.80  Similarly, a December 2003 report by Human Rights Watch found that hundreds of MASSOB members have been arrested since 1999 and that many have been detained without trial for prolonged periods.81

In addition, Human Rights Watch has documented the torture of individuals involved in public demonstrations. For example, in July 2003, a group of several hundred people under the name of Concerned Youth Alliance staged a protest outside the U.S. embassy in Abuja. They were protesting about the forthcoming visit of President George W. Bush to Nigeria, on the grounds that it conferred undeserved legitimacy on President Obasanjo’s government. Despite the entirely peaceful nature of the protest, around thirty people were arrested and detained for two weeks; several male protestors were tortured, on instructions from the highest levels of the police force.82  

During the course of our recent research, Human Rights Watch interviewed seven members of MASSOB, each of whom gave accounts of ill-treatment that appeared to be inflicted as a result of their membership in the organization. Since its formation in 1999, members of MASSOB, which advocates an independent state of Biafra in the predominantly Igbo south-east of Nigeria, have been harassed, arrested, detained and killed by the police.83 Although there is no law proscribing MASSOB, the federal government has declared membership of the organization illegal on the grounds that they constitute a threat to the security and sovereignty of the nation.

Five of the MASSOB supporters Human Rights Watch interviewed were arrested during a clash with police on March 29, 2003. They described how the police stopped a large convoy of MASSOB members holding a rally near Okigwe, Imo State, threw tear gas canisters and then opened fire. There are conflicting reports of the number of people killed during the clash. One MASSOB member who was injured during the incident told Human Rights Watch he saw the bodies of six people who were killed in the clash. Another MASSOB member said he witnessed the death of two women and saw twenty dead bodies.84 MASSOB leader Raph Uwazuruike claims fifty were killed while the police put the figure at seven people.85  A number of the injured were taken to nearby police stations, including a thirty-six-year-old petty trader interviewed by Human Rights Watch. After he was shot in the leg by the police he tried to escape before being arrested and taken to Okigwe police station and then to the federal capital Abuja, where he was detained for five months:

At Okigwe police station they kept us in the sun from 9.00a.m to 4.00pm. We were covered with the Biafran flag.  They forced us to lie down and they kicked our face and body with their boots and batons, whenever they felt like it.  They took our names and asked us where we come from. They said we are the people who want freedom.

Then, later in the day they carried us to Owerri police station where we stayed overnight. The next morning about sixty of us were taken to a police station in Abuja. By this time I was unconscious, almost dead from my injuries.  We were detained in Abuja for over six months. We were many MASSOB members in one cell, it was very dirty, we slept on the hard floor and had to urinate and defecate in the same cell. I was handcuffed the whole time and only unlocked for feeding. My leg was swollen and there was puss coming out because a bullet was still inside. After three days a nurse came to look at my leg, and put a bandage on it.

They would call us one at a time to interview. I was taken to a room with two or three officers. They used electric shock treatment on my genitals. They asked why we were holding that rally. I said we are fighting for freedom and they said we should denounce Biafra. I said no, I won’t denounce. It was more than painful. They did this to me five times. I don’t know why they chose me, as I already had a wound on my leg. Others complained of beating with baton and boots. 86

In August 2003, he was transferred to a hospital in Imo State with several other MASSOB detainees, after which they were released without charge.

More recently, on September 11, 2004, fifty-three people were arrested at a football match organized by MASSOB in the Ojo area of Lagos. The match was part of a ‘Biafran Freedom Tournament’. Eyewitness described how police attempted to break up the crowd, fired tear gas and arrested participants and spectators. According to their lawyers and press reports, those arrested included a thirty-eight-year-old woman and a teenage girl who, along with thirty-four others who claimed they were not members of MASSOB.87 The fifty-three were detained at the state police command at Panti, Lagos for nearly one week before being charged with treasonable felony for conspiring to “levy war against the Federal Republic of Nigeria […] by participating in the launching of the Biafra Freedom Football Tournament.”88 Lawyers acting for the accused told Human Rights Watch about their clients’ alleged ill-treatment in police custody. They described how during detention at Panti, the male suspects were stripped naked and beaten with batons and gun butts. Several of the suspects were reportedly held at gunpoint and forced to admit to membership of MASSOB and sign confessional statements. 89 Human Rights Watch researchers interviewed a MASSOB member who was present at the football match and witnessed the arrests, but we have not spoken with the victims directly.

The Purpose

In the vast majority of the cases of criminal suspects interviewed by Human Rights Watch the primary function of torture was to extract confessions or information about an alleged crime. The attitude that torture is an accepted tool of interrogation appears to pervade all levels of the police force. For example, a lawyer attending a workshop organized by a Nigerian NGO on torture prevention told Human Rights Watch that participating members of the Mobile Police Force and the SSS publicly explained that torture is the only way they can get suspects to confess.90  Typically, those interviewed described being beaten until they admitted to the alleged crime, after which the investigating police officer wrote or dictated a confessional statement for them to sign. Many victims described signing the statement without knowing what it said, either because they were illiterate or because the document was withheld from them, and first hearing of their charge when arraigned before a court.

Human Rights Watch found in nearly all the cases documented there is the added element of extortion.Nearly all those interviewed told Human Rights Watch how they or their relatives had to part with money at some point during their detention. Most commonly this was in exchange for bail or release without charge, and in other cases to expedite arraignment before a court. The amount demanded by officers ranged from one or two thousand naira (approximately US$ 8-16), to 300,000 naira (approximately US$ 2,303).  However, paying money to the police did not guarantee release.

In December 2004, a twenty-three-year-old motorcycle taxi driver was arrested by the police in Enugu for being an accomplice to a crime: for allegedly carrying a criminal as a passenger on his bike. Detained at the Enugu State police command, he was tied and hung from a rod between two tables, and repeatedly beaten with wooden sticks until he agreed to sign a statement. He was held for over one month before being charged to court. On visiting the police station, the man’s father was told by the investigating police officer to bring 92,000 naira (approximately US$ 706) in exchange for his son’s release. His father decided to sell the motorbike, which constituted his son’s livelihood. Payment was made directly to the police officer but the son remained in custody. On January 24, 2005 he was brought before Enugu Magistrates Court, charged with robbery and remanded to prison where, at the time of Human Rights Watch’s interview with him, he was awaiting trial.91

The following case clearly illustrates how arbitrary arrest and torture are combined with attempts to extort money from suspects and their relatives. On August 23, 2004 an eighteen-year-old mechanical engineering student was arrested by police near his home in Ikotun, a suburb of Lagos, following what he believed to have been a complaint to the police from a friend he owed money to. At Ikotun police station he was hung upside down from an iron pole while eight police officers beat him with thick wooden sticks, kicked him with their boots, stoned him and cut his stomach with a razor blade. He told Human Rights Watch that two police officers forged his confessional statement admitting to robbery, and then said they were going to “eat money” from his parents – a well-known euphemism for extortion. They then took him in a police vehicle and picked up five of his friends from their homes: four young men aged between eighteen and twenty-two and an eighteen-year-old-girl.  All six were detained for a week at Ikotun police station before being transferred to the state police headquarters at Panti, Lagos. On arrival at Panti police station, the investigating police officer threatened the student and his friends with a gun unless he or they admitted he was a robber, a different charge to that originally alleged: 

He called me out to the yard and shot me in the left foot. He called out Chuks92 and shot him in the right foot, Chidi in the left leg, Ejike on the left foot, Ugo on the right foot. They hung all five of us by our arms from an iron pole and the IPO [investigating police officer] and another officer beat us with sticks. Rain fell for an hour but they left us hanging outside. Then we were brought down to one corner and told to lie down. They stood on our wounds with their boots and started beating us again. This went on for some minutes. My foot was bleeding. Mary was left alone. We were taken to an isolation cell, where we spent two days without food. After this we were taken back to the main cell for one week.

Our parents heard and came and visited. They brought food and water but the IPO kept half of it for himself. We explained to our parents what had happened and they tried to defend us. They were told [by the IPO] to bring 50,000 naira (approximately US$ 385) for each of us. Chidi, Ugo and my parents responded and brought 150,000 naira (approximately US$ 1,151). The police told them we would spend two more days before we could go. On the third day, September 17, they called us and said we should prepare to go to court, because not all of our parents responded with money. At Ebute Meta Magistrates Court No. 13 all six of us were charged with conspiracy to rob. 93

At the time of interview with Human Rights Watch, six months after they were charged to court, all six were awaiting trial in Ikoyi and Kirikiri prisons. According to the student, his parents told him that the Investigating Police Officer said he will only transfer the case file to the Director of Public Prosecutions if they paid him more money.

The Perpetrators

Police officers attached to the Nigerian Police Force or seconded to the Economic and Financial Crimes Committee, and officers of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency that is, persons who are public officials or persons acting in an official capacity, committed the acts of abuse documented in this report. The extent to which the use of torture appears to be entrenched in the Nigerian Police Force is demonstrated by the involvement of senior ranking officers and the impunity which they appear to enjoy. Many victims interviewed by Human Rights Watch described how senior police officers, including inspectors, divisional police officers, a deputy superintendent of police and a chief superintendent of police physically carried out torture or explicitly instructed junior officers to torture suspects, sometimes watching while it was carried out. Numerous victims and witnesses told researchers that some of these senior officers are known within the police station by the nickname “OC (Officer in Charge) Torture.94

The involvement of senior ranking officers in ordering torture and killing in Kano State was confirmed by a junior officer in Kano who worked alongside the Special Anti-Robbery Squad up to 2003 and claimed he had seen senior officers inflict or give orders to torture. He told Human Rights Watch: 

Senior officers are involved. The chief superintendent who is the second in command at the state CID - he directs his men to shoot and torture and to beat. The state commissioner knows about it. Also the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) do the same. Superintendent […] is the second in command there. Everybody is aware of what is going on but they cannot stop it. 95

Human Rights Watch interviewed a thirty-four-year-old schoolteacher and father of two, from Daura, Katsina State who was brutally beaten by police, including the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) in charge of the police station. The man was accused of kidnapping the mentally-ill son of his neighbor, and arrested in December 2003:

Five policemen arrested me on December 22, 2003. They were waiting when I came back to my house. We drove to Sabon Gari police station in Daura. They didn’t ask me anything, they just took my clothes and all the property I had with me. I was left in my short knickers. They took me to the investigation room where I was handcuffed and shackled by the legs. All five policemen started beating me with stick and baton. They were saying, “Where is that boy you kidnapped?” This went on for thirty minutes. After this they took me to the cell.

At 2.00a.m I was called out to the DPO’s office. He said that I am not telling the truth and sent me back to the investigation room. There the DPO himself started beating me with a baton. Three other officers were present. They said I must tell them where the boy is. They beat me all over with a baton, a big stick and cable wire. They burnt cigarettes on my back. It went on for over one hour and I became unconscious. I was bleeding, I had a fractured leg. My arm and six of my fingers were broken where they stepped on my hands with their boots. 96

The next morning, his brothers went to the police station and persuaded the DPO to release him. They immediately took their brother to hospital where he was treated for his injuries:

It took me eight to nine months to recover. It is still paining me. In the harmattan [cold and dry winds from the Sahara] season I get real pain. I used to sleep well but now I never enjoy. If I remember that day I shake. If I remember that day, if I remember that nothing has happened to the DPO. There is no justice in Nigeria.97

An affidavit by the victim’s lawyer, submitted in a case filed against the DPO, a copy of which was obtained by Human Rights Watch, states: “He was not only mercilessly beaten to a point of coma by the second respondent [DPO] and his men at the police station, but that as a result of the torture, the Applicant sustained multiple fractures in both hands, his head swollen, open wounds all over his body and cigarette burns on his back coming from cigarette fire pressed on his body by some policemen at the station.”98  Medical records and X-rays seen by Human Rights Watch confirm he sustained a total of six fractures.

In another case, a twenty-two-year-old student was arrested and beaten on the explicit orders of the officer in charge of Mobile Police for the Enugu State police command. As with most torture cases, this example illustrates a wide range of other concerns including arbitrary arrest and extortion:

It happened at 3.00p.m on February 22, 2004. I was on my street and I saw three MOPOL on okada (motorbikes). They said I looked like an armed robber that had just stolen a machine (motorbike) and so arrested me. I told them I was not an armed robber. I explained I was just coming home from lessons, that they should follow me to my compound to ask my people. They said they would not go to my compound but took me to the MOPOL station at Agbani. There they took my name and said that I had stolen a machine. I said I didn’t do it and asked to see the complainant and to see the machine I was supposed to have stolen.

I was at Agbani MOPOL station for two days. I slept in a small cell. Just me and one other boy, who they told me was my case-mate. I didn’t know him until then. […].

They asked me to agree to the crime, but I did not. Then they beat me with a rod an uncountable number of times in the morning and evening. When the boss directed, the officers would come back and beat me, just to get me to agree. I had no food and water, so one small girl came and gave us food. My case-mate was beaten too.

When I refused to agree they took me to the State CID. They took me to an open cell. At night they brought me out and started beating me. They would take me to another room. There were six officers in the room, but only one was beating me. Of the six, some were in mufti [plainclothes], including the one who was beating me. The inspector-in-charge was also in the room.

They chained my hands and feet together and hung me up from an iron hook in the ceiling. They used baton, a metal rod and a flat bar to beat my back and hit me on the knee. They beat me on the first day and the second day but I still refused to admit I was a robber. 

About a week later at 11.30p.m, they took me to the officer in charge of MOPOL - they call him OC [officer in charge] Robbery. In his office he brought out a gun and said he had told my people they should pay 50,000 naira (approximately US$ 385) for my release. He said if I don’t admit he will take me outside and shoot me. Then he ordered his boys to beat me, right there in his office. They did, with batons. I was taken back to the cell and about thirty minutes later he called me in again. My casemate told me to agree to the crime or they would shoot me. When they called me back again I thought I was going to be killed. I told OC Robbery I agreed. This was only because of the torture. He brought a paper for me to sign but they would not let me read it. I was taken back to the cell. 99

On May 2, 2004, three months after his arrest, he was brought before Umuonu Magistrates Court in Enugu, charged with armed robbery and remanded to Enugu prison. One year after his arrest, when Human Rights Watch met him in Enugu prison he was still awaiting trial:

 […] When I think about what happens it pains me so much. Why did this happen? How did I end up here? Now I just don’t know what to do. I’ve missed my school admission. I don’t know what to do when I get outside. I am the only son. 100

Since 2001, on repeated occasions Human Rights Watch has raised a range of serious abuses by the police, including extrajudicial killings and torture, with senior police officials at federal and state level. The first time the existence of torture as a problem was acknowledged to Human Rights Watch was during the course of this research at an interview with the Acting Inspector General of Police. Prior to this each time the response had been one of denial and refusal to acknowledge this abuse. An encounter at the Kano State police command during Human Rights Watch’s most recent research exemplifies this response.

When Human Rights Watch asked the Kano State commissioner of police what action he was taking to reduce torture in his command, his response was simply, “torture does not happen here.” He said he hadn’t received any complaints of torture or ill-treatment against his officers.101  Researchers requested access to the detention facilities at the command, but were told to come back later in the day. When we returned to the command, we were informed by the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) that the cells were being refurbished and all detainees had been transferred to other locations over one month earlier. However, as Human Rights Watch researchers were escorted by the PPRO out of the station we observed a badly bruised man, unable to walk, being carried out from the cells, which were according to the PPRO, no longer in use. When we questioned about this, the PPRO about this, he said: “The man is just sick,” and maintained no suspects were held there. Minutes later, Human Rights Watch researchers observed a police vehicle arriving outside the cells and three men being manhandled and pushed inside the cells. 102

 Torture and Ill-Treatment in the Custody of Other Law Enforcement Agencies

A number of detainees interviewed by Human Rights Watch had been tortured or ill-treated in the custody of other law enforcement agencies. Four of these were arrested by police officers and detained in the custody of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in 2003 and 2004. The EFCC was established by the federal government in 2002 to investigate corruption and other financial crimes such as fraud and money laundering and enforce all economic and financial crimes laws. According to provisions in the act establishing the EFCC, all officers of the commission “shall have the same powers, authorities and privileges (including the power to bear arms) as are given by law to member of the Nigerian Police.”103  The commission is also able to appoint or second police officers in order to carry out its functions. 104 However, as stated earlier, the EFCC maintains a separate command structure to the Nigerian Police Force.

The EFCC has been praised nationally and internationally for its investigative zeal and efforts to combat corruption. All the cases of torture in the custody of the EFCC documented in this report took place in Lagos and were perpetrated by officers seconded from the Nigerian Police Force. Those interviewed by Human Rights Watch said they were taken to EFCC offices on Awolowo Road or Okotie Street where they were horsewhipped or beaten with cable wire and forced to sign statements confessing to obtaining money through false pretences. All four were held for prolonged periods, ranging from between two and nine months and without legal representation. The leadership of the EFCC must be held accountable for the actions of seconded police officers under their authority.

A twenty-six-year-old man in Lagos described how, in EFCC custody and on the orders of a senior police officer seconded to the commission, he was tortured so badly he had to be admitted to hospital. The man told Human Rights Watch that on July 12, 2003, he voluntarily reported to the EFCC offices after a complaint was made against him. After initial questioning by police officers, he was detained in a cell at Awolowo Way:

On 14 July I was called in to write a statement. What I wrote was not in their favour so they tore it up. The Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) called in two MOPOL officers, who were in mufti [plainclothes]. They asked me to take my clothes off, lie down and raise my bottom. They used cable wire to cane my arms. They said not on my back because it leaves marks. This took place in the evening of July 14 and 15 for about twenty-five minutes each time. On July 14 they also used pliers on my penis. The Assistant Superintendent of Police ordered the MOPOL officer to do this. I have pain in my penis now. At first I was passing blood. All this took place in the office of the ASP. He said I should agree with what they were saying because the complainant was the best friend of one of the officers.

I was bleeding. It was very painful; I still have scars on my bottom. After the second day I was badly wounded and there was blood. The officers were terrified and so I was taken to the police hospital at Falomo. I couldn’t remember much; I was in so much pain. I didn’t know where I was. I was in hospital for two days. My hands and legs were chained to the bed.

Then they brought me back to the office on Awolowo Way, to write a statement. They told me if I don’t write I will be tortured again. I said I wouldn’t write and they slapped me. My cellmate advised that I should comply so I decided to copy their statement and sign it. 105

He remained in EFCC custody for two months before being transferred to Kirikiri Prison where he is currently awaiting trial.

Human Rights Watch also interviewed a thirty-year-old farmer detained by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), an agency that employs its own law enforcement personnel, conferred with powers to arrest and detain suspects. In this case the farmer was arrested by the police in early January 2005, after an altercation with a police officer, near his house in the Panshekara area of Kano. He was taken to Panshekara police station, where police officers found forty-eight wraps (approximately sixty grams) of marijuana on his person. On the first night of detention he was beaten with a baton by one police officer. After eight days of detention without charge, he was transferred to the NDLEA state command on Airport Road in Kano. He was held in a small cell, known as the “special cell,’ for two days before being moved to one of three large cells, known as “colombia cells,” where suspects accused of lesser offenses, such as using or dealing in lower class drugs like marijuana, are incarcerated. He told Human Rights Watch he saw detainees being beaten by NDLEA officials with batons, canes and boots, sometimes while suspended, and subjected to other ill-treatment.

He was eventually released as part of what appeared to be an amnesty arrangement ordered by the local director of the NDLEA, who drew up a list of detainees to be discharged. Other NDLEA staff took advantage of this opportunity to extort money, demanding huge sums to facilitate release. He told Human Rights Watch how his family had to spend several thousand naira before he was granted release without charge.106

The Location

The majority of people interviewed by Human Rights Watch had been detained at their local police station or the state police command headquarters. Some of the most extreme forms of torture described to researchers took place at the criminal investigation departments of the state police headquarters, known as “State CID.” Many of the suspects who were detained at State CID in Enugu, Lagos and Kano told Human Rights Watch they saw or heard of co-detainees who had been tortured or killed in police custody. Local human rights organizations, as well as the victims interviewed, identified several stations notorious for ill-treatment of detainees. These include Agbani and Abakaliki Road police stations in Enugu, Area F and Area G police stations in Lagos, Yar’Akwa, Qwalli and Shahuci police stations in Kano, the state police headquarters and Ibrahim Tawio Road police station in Kaduna.107 

The torture itself took place in various locations within the stations, including the corridor, offices, the police yard, and in a large number of cases, interrogation rooms. Victims and witnesses described in some detail special rooms which appeared designed and equipped to inflict torture. These rooms were known as the “black room,” “theatre room,” “disco room,” and “German cell,” and were equipped with implements such as sticks and iron bars as well as poles and hooks from which to suspend the victim. 108 A police officer explained to Human Rights Watch researchers what happens in one such room within the Kano State police headquarters:

Torture takes place in the “black room” and the “theatre room.” They have equipment inside the rooms. The time I worked together with them, I saw them beat          people. They use wood, rods. They shoot robbery suspects in the leg to force them to tell     the truth. Many didn’t do it but they are forced to say they did and sign a statement. 109

The Right to Freedom from Torture

The treatment of the majority of people interviewed by Human Rights Watch, many whose cases are described in this report, rises to the level of torture as defined in international law. The acts documented demonstrate the key elements of torture set out in Article 1 of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment:

“Torture” means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is…intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or       suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.

The vast majority of the cases documented by Human Rights Watch involved the deliberate infliction of pain by the police either for the purpose of extracting information about an alleged crime or a confession, or as punishment for a crime the person is suspected of having committed. For a small number of individuals, the purpose of the pain inflicted by police officers appeared to be as punishment for membership of a political group. All of the people interviewed by researchers had their most basic protection against torture, which can never be derogated by the government, violated by public officials.

[65] Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, Chapter IV, sections 33, 34, 35.

[66] International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Nigeria has been a state party since 1993, the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), which Nigeria ratified on June 28, 2001, and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, ratified by Nigeria in 1983.

[67] U.N. Convention Against Torture, and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment,

Article 1.

[68] Human Rights Watch interview, Enugu Prison, March 4, 2005.

[69] U.N. Convention Against Torture, and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Article 16.

[70] The names of the individuals have been changed to protect their identity.

[71] Human Rights Watch interview, Lagos, March 10, 2005.

[72] Police Act, 1990, section 24.

[73] In this report, the word “child” refers to anyone under the age of eighteen. The U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child states: “For the purposes of the present convention, a child is every human being below the age of eighteen years unless under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier.” Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 1, adopted November 20, 1989 (entered into force September 2, 1990).

[74] Human Rights Watch interview, Enugu Prison, March 4, 2005.

[75] Human Rights Watch interview, Kirikiri Prison, Lagos, March 9, 2005.

[76] Human Rights Watch interview, Gorun Dutse Prison Kano, March 14, 2005.

[77] “Nigeria’s Criminal Justice System a Failure – Ehindero,” Vanguard, February 3, 2005. 

[78] Human Rights Watch interview, Kano Central Prison, March 12, 2005.

[79] See Human Rights Watch reports, “The O’odua People’s Congress: Fighting Violence with Violence,” February 2003 and, “Crackdown on Freedom of Expression,” December 2003.

[80] Human Rights Watch, “The O’odua People’s Congress: Fighting Violence with Violence,” February 2003.

[81] Human Rights Watch, “Crackdown on Freedom of Expression,” December 2003, pp 32-34.

[82] Ibid. pp 13-18.

[83] Human Rights Watch interviews with MASSOB members in Enugu and Lagos, March 2005. See also Human Rights Watch, “Crackdown on Freedom of Expression,” December 2003. Biafra was the independent republic proclaimed in 1967 in the Igbo areas of eastern Nigeria following the end of the First Republic by two military coups in 1966.  The ensuing civil war, known as the Biafran war, claimed between 500,000 and two million lives before it came to an end with a federal victory in 1970. 

[84] Human Rights Watch interview, Enugu, March 3, 2005.

[85] “All Igbo politicians want Biafra,” Newswatch, June 23, 2003 and, “Seven pro-Biafran campaigners killed in Nigeria: police,” Agence France-Presse, March 30, 2003.

[86] Human Rights Watch interview, Enugu, March 3, 2005.

[87] Human Rights Watch interviews, Enugu, March 3, Lagos, March 8, and telephone interview April 28, 2005. See also, “Nigerian Police arrest 53 pro-Biafra campaigners for unlawful assembly,” Agence France-Presse, September 18, 2005.

[88] Charge sheet filed in the Federal High Court of Nigeria, Holden at Lagos, Suit No: FHC/L/CS/991/2004. See also, “FG Charges 53 suspected MASSOB members to Court for Treason,” Vanguard, March 16, 2005. 

[89] Human Rights Watch interview, Lagos, March 8, 2005 and telephone interview, April 28, 2005.

[90] Human Rights Watch interview, Kano, March 13, 2005.

[91] Ibid.

[92] All names have been changed to protect the identity of the individuals concerned.

[93] Human Rights Watch interview, Ikoyi Prison, Lagos, March 10, 2005.

[94] Human Rights Watch interviews, Lagos, March 10, 2005, Kano, March 13, 2005 and Central Prison Kano, March 12, 2005.

[95] Human Rights Watch interview, Kano, March 2005.

[96] Human Rights Watch interview, Kano, March 13, 2005.

[97] Ibid.

[98] Affidavit in support of the motion enforcing fundamental rights in the High Court of Justice of Katsina State, Suit No. IGH/23M/04.

[99] Human Rights Watch interview, Enugu Prison, March 4, 2005.

[100] Ibid.

[101] Human Rights Watch interview with Ganiyu Dawodu, Kano State Commissioner of Police, Kano, March 14, 2005.

[102] Human Rights Watch interview with Baba Mohammed, Kano State Police Public Relations Officer, Kano, March 14, 2005.

[103] Section 8 (5) of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act, 2004.

[104] Section 8 (3) of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act, 2004.

[105] Human Rights Watch interview, Kirikiri Prison, Lagos, March 9, 2005.

[106] Human Rights Watch interview, Kano, March 14, 2005.

[107] Human Rights Watch interviews, Enugu, March 4, 2005, Lagos, March 7 and 8, 2005, and Kano, March 11 and 13, 2005.

[108] Human Rights Watch interviews, Lagos, March 10, 2005, Kano, March 12 and 13, 2005.

[109] Human Rights Watch interview, Kano, March 2005.  

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