The President of the Nigeria Bar Association NBA, Olumide Akpata, has said the arrest and detainment of suspected looters or curfew defaulters without their arraignment in court within the stipulated time by law, shows that the police hierarchy is yet to get the message of the recent #EndSARS protests or is an indication that they are only ”paying lip service to the demand for holistic police reform.”
Following the carnage that rocked many parts of the country last week, several state governments imposed curfew in their states. The police have since arrested some of the curfew defaulters as well as suspected looters.
On Friday October 23, the Lagos state police command paraded over 520 suspected looters and curfew defaulters. One of those paraded claimed she had been detained for 6 days and prevented from reaching out to her family. Read here.
In a statement released on Thursday night, October 29, Akpata condemned the act of the police, stressing that the suspects should be immediately charged to court as the law dictates or that they should be released.
”I have in the past 24 hours received several calls & complaints from lawyers and Nigerians generally about the recent public parade of hundreds of persons arrested and detained by the Nigeria Police on the suspicion of taking part in the looting and destruction of public buildings and private businesses and/or for contravening the curfew declared by various State Governors in the aftermath of the #EndSARS protests that unfortunately turned violent.
As I have continuously maintained, the Nigeria Bar Association is completely opposed to any act of arson vandalism, destruction of public or private assets or other forms of force or violence. However, the legal rights of citizens who are arrested on account of such allegations must be respected, especially their right to presumption of innocence.
In many, if not most of these cases, these people, who are first & foremost Nigerian citizens, have been held incommunicado for days without access to their families or their legal practitioners and under inhumane or deplorable conditions in brazen breach of the Constitution.
Above all, the Constitution mandates the Police and other law enforcement agencies to bring such persons to court within 24-48 hours depending on the location of the court nearest to the Police station.
It beggars belief that this conduct by men of Nigeria Police is coming on the heels of the #EndSARS protests, which were precipitated by the historical abuse of citizens by Police officers especially those of the now defunct SARS, and the aftermath of which is yet to fully settle.
It is highly regrettable that the Police in particular continues to carry on business as usual despite being in the eye of the storm in recent times and in disregard of the wide outpouring of condemnation by Nigerians at home and abroad as well as foreign nationals and international organisations about the misconduct of some of their officers. This gives the indication that the Police hierarchy has failed to get the message and/or is paying lip service to the calls for holistic Police reforms.
The NBA once again calls on the Nigerian Police and the Attorneys General of the various States to immediately charge the suspects before courts of competent jurisdiction in accordance with contemporary requirements of the law or release them unconditionally.
The wanton destructive of public buildings and private businesses witnessed in the past week is highly regrettable. However, the cure for illegality cannot be illegality.
I have asked Chairpersons of NBA Branches across the country to immediately monitor Police Stations within their jurisdictions to ascertain the extent of compliance of the Police with the fundamental rights provisions to enable us take or facilitate adequate enforcement actions.”