By Intersociety & Emeka Umeagbalasi
Anambra State has always been used as a case-study in recent years’ research reports on policing and military brutalities and corrupt practices in Nigeria or any part thereof particularly in the Southeast Region. This has been the case since at least 2004 owing to the State’s ‘blue-collar’ status and proneness to sectional or hateful, brutal, terror and corrupt policing and soldiering; a dominant policy of the present central Government. Among leading rights and research groups noted for such research reports; totally ignored by successive and current state actors in the country or a part of it are Civil Liberties Organization, Open Society Justice Initiative/Network on Police Reforms, Amnesty Int’l (and I-REF), Human Rights Watch and Intersociety.
Prominent among police brutalities and corrupt practices researched on include Police SARS atrocities – researched and reported not less than twice (2014 and 2016) by Amnesty Int’l (“Welcome to Hell Fire: 2014” and “You Have Signed Your Death Warrant: 2016”) and Int’l Society for Civil Liberties & Rule of Law (Ezu River Massacre: 2013 and 2017), the Nigerian military Massacre Operations in Eastern Nigeria (2019) and the Police and Military Roadblock Extortions (2011 and 2019) as well as that researched and reported by Human Rights Watch, USA in 2010. Out of generally and independently projected death of 4,500 unprocessed or untried citizens who die in police custodies across the country annually since 2004 on monthly average of ten persons per State, Anambra State is projected to have topped the list with maximum deaths of twenty persons per month mostly perpetrated in the State Police SARS formations.
Such reports, differently code-named, include “Rest in Pieces”, “Criminal Force”, “Everyone’s in the Game: Corruption in the Nigeria Police Force”, “I Can Kill You & Nothing Will Happen” and “Welcome to Hell Fire”, “You Have Signed Your Death Warrant”, etc. Among the Intersociety’s reports are: “How NPF Illicitly Collected & Pocketed N53B At Nigerian Roadblocks In Three Years: 2009-2011”, “Welcome To Bleeding Republic of Nigeria: Feb 2017”, “How NPF & Military Illicitly Pocketed N306B ($1B) At Southeast/South-South Roadblocks In Four Years: August 2015-Oct 2019”, “How Anambra Police SARS Killed & Dumped Its Slain Detainees At Ezu River: 2013”, “The Untold Story Of Ezu River Police SARS Killings (July 2017)” and “Detailed Chronology Of The Nigerian Military Massacre Operations In Eastern Nigeria: August 2015-Sept 2017 (Published In Jan 2019)”.
In all the expert reports above highlighted, victims and perpetrators of the heinous crimes were identified and far-reaching recommendations made to the authorities concerned, all to no avail till date. In the case of the present Government of Anambra State, for instance, voices of alarm were made or sounded and dossiers provided by groups like Amnesty Int’l, Intersociety, NOPRIN, I-REF and a coalition of activists concerning the nefarious conducts (while in office) and moral bankruptcy of retired CSP, James Oshim Nwafor when Gov Obiano wanted to make him his SSA on Security months after he retired from the NPF. The Gov and his Government went ahead to appoint and keep him till the recent spring. Similar opposition from the named groups also greeted retired CSP Nwafor’s return in Sept 2016 to Anambra as “OC/SARS”.
Torture & Killing Outside The Law The Trademark Of Anambra Police SARS: Torture and killing outside the law remain the greatest of the undoing of Nigeria Police SARS especially NPF’s SARS formations in Anambra State. The greatest implication of killing outside the law and due process is that ‘the killer is more criminal in the eyes of the law and moral conscience than targeted victim(s) even if he or she is or they are circumstantially ‘guilty’ as accused (i.e. if he or she is or they are caught in the act as ‘armed robber(s) or kidnapper(s) or ‘committer’ of other offenses with capital punishments. Torture is also prohibited both at state actor and non state actor levels, yet at Anambra Police SARS, it is not only a routine but also the entry gate of their interrogations.
In line with international best practices including Nigeria’s rights treaty laws, a criminal is anybody that has attained 18 years of age who violates the criminal laws of a country such as Nigeria, whether accused of breaching mala prohibita (crimes specifically defined so by specific or individual country’s legislation) or mala inse (crimes with universal uniformity and application such as armed robbery, kidnapping, murder, etc).
To be correctly and legally called “a criminal convict” or ‘convicted criminal’, he or she must have been adjudged by a competent criminal court after going through sequential processes of arrest, investigation, prosecution, fair trial, conviction and sentencing. Even when in a confirmed violent exchange of gunfire, the slain is still not a criminal unless a court of competent jurisdiction says so. In other words, any killing outside the above sequential processes carried out by SARS operative clearly amount to extrajudicial execution or killing and summary or arbitrary execution or killing and in situation of permanent disappearance of any arrested citizen in Police SARS custody, it amounts to enforced disappearance. The killings outside the law by Police SARS in Nigeria particularly the Anambra Police SARS are jointly and technically referred to as extra jus (beyond the law), extra legal (beyond what the written criminal law provides) and extra judicial (beyond court or judicial pronouncement or verdict).
In all, the greatest challenge facing the criminal justice administration in Nigeria especially in the areas of criminal investigation and prosecution is the use or application of wrong methods or processes and procedures of the Stone Age. Despite the fact that processes and procedures for criminal investigation and prosecution have gone scientific including digitalization and mental and forensic upgrading across the globe, the managers of Nigerian criminal justice administration including processors or investigators of criminal suspects have remained gravely backward, crude, stagnant, unmoved and unchanged. In modern crime management, crimes are better detected than combated. Also, it is better to detect and arrest an armed robber or a kidnapper in his or her hideout than to violently confront him or her when on rampage.
Ngige, Obi & Obiano Not Legally Responsible For Anambra SARS Atrocities:
Going by the wordings of the 1999 Constitution and other relevant auxiliary legislation, neither former interloper Gov Ngige nor former Gov Obi or present Gov Obiano shall be held legally responsible for the atrocities of the Anambra Police SARS since 2004. That is to say Police SARS atrocities perpetrated from 2003-2006 when Ngige held sway; SARS atrocities of 2006-2014 when Obi held sway; and SARS atrocities of 2014-2020 under current Gov Obiano. However, trio have moral explanations to offer as per what they respectively did to get justice for the tortured and slain victims and stop further desecration of the State’s moral values including dignity of human person and sanctity of human life rested within the confines of the law and due process.
Legally and criminologically, neither of the two ex Govs, whether legally or illegally occupied, nor the incumbent, shall be legally held responsible for atrocities perpetrated by Police SARS formations and their commanders during their gubernatorial periods. This is with the exception of where it is incontrovertibly established that any of them specifically hired or firmly directed or used Police SARS to kill citizens outside the law. None of the named former or serving State chief executives is empowered by the Constitution to question or sanction any sworn serving police officer posted to the State including powers to transfer or post or dismiss or retire or promote or demote or arm any police officer (s) including then serving OC/SARS, now retired CSP James Oshim Nwafor and his murderous operatives. During the Ezu River saga, CP (now retired DIG) Bala Nasarawa was the Anambra CP and boss of CSP James Nwafor. Above all, NPF and all its law and units or departments belong to Federal Government of Nigeria.
However, the three named ex or serving State chief executives have moral explanations to offer specifically with respect to the atrocities of the Anambra Police SARS during their times. Former interloper Gov Ngige has moral explanations to offer concerning the killing on 4th Nov 2004 of twenty defenseless detainees at Awka CPS SARS Headquarters. Despite the public outcries that followed same, he kept mute and did nothing. For former Gov Obi, it is for him to tell the world what he did as the Gov during the Ezu River massacre and dumping saga where 25-40 unarmed detainees were found floating inside Ezu River. For incumbent Gov Obiano, it is not only that he knew and still knows that Anambra Police SARS slaughter citizens outside the law including starving and suffocation to death in 2017 of eight detainees at Nneni SARS Annex, but also his controversial appointment of retired CSP James Nwafor as his SSA on Security and role he played in 2016 in bringing him back to the State as “OC/SARS” despite his grisly human rights records.
Emeka Umeagbalasi & Intersociety wrote from Onitsha, Anambra State via firstname.lastname@example.org