A Civil Rights Advocacy Group, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has disclosed that it got a phone call from the national headquarters of the nation’s secret police- Department of State Services (DSS) over her recent critique of the agency’s clampdown on Independent media.
In a media release by the National Coordinator Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko and National Media Affairs Director Miss Zainab Yusuf, HURIWA said the Director of publicity/media of the DSS made the call and defended the activities of the secret Police just as the agency faulted HURIWA for reporting on the DSS attacks on Journalists without reaching out to hear their side of the story.
HURIWA recalled that recently in a media statement by the National Coordinator Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko and the National Director of Media Affairs Miss Zainab Yusuf, HURIWA regretted that on daily basis security forces apply physical torture and brute force to stop and prevent media practitioners from exercising their functions stipulated in section 22 of the Nigerian Constitution.
“No day passes without reports of arrests or physical brutalization of Journalists by the Department of State Service (DSS) or the police just as there have been attempts even by the Federal High Court in criminal collusion with the security forces to bar Independent Journalists from covering litigation of public importance.
“Over a dozen Journalists have been killed by police attempting to quell peaceful protests just as these media workers are only just doing their duty as permitted by the Grund Norm.
“We totally condemn these systematic clamps down on Journalists. We condemn President Muhammadu Buhari for escalating attacks against the citizen’ enjoyment of freedoms of expression including the illegal ban imposed on the use of Twitter for over a month.
“There are scores of attacks against citizens for posting comments considered damaging to the reputation of political office holders and governors and there are other dozens of Nigerians who are languishing in jails over media rights related issues.”
The Rights group however confirmed that the spokesman of the DSS, Dr Peter Afunanya initiated a lengthy gentleman call to the Rights group during a “friendly” phone conversation in which the DSS said it has always operated within the bounds of the Nigerian law and global practices.
HURIWA is therefore restating an earlier proposition it made to the DSS to immediately set up a functional and public friendly Human Rights Desk with toll-free lines made accessible to Nigerians to lodge complaints against perceived Human Rights violations committed by the secret police against Nigerians.
“Once more, we urge the hierarchy of the nation’s DSS to set up a Human Rights desk whereby the members of the public can report cases of breaches of their constitutionally guaranteed Human Rights and for this unit or department to interface with credible civil Rights organizations for the purposes of man-power and capacity training of the operatives on global best practices and their legal obligations to respect the Constitutional rights of the citizens including those in conflict with the law because even section 36 (5) of the Constitution recognizes suspects as being innocent in the eye of the law”.
Specifically, Section 36 (5) of the GrundNorm states that: “Every person who is charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed to be innocent until he is proved guilty; Provided that nothing in this section shall invalidate any law by reason only that the law imposes upon any such person the burden of proving particular facts.”
HURIWA said the Department of State Services has a notorious reputation as a serial violator of the media rights and therefore is challenging the hierarchy of the agency to operate within the limits of the laws of Nigeria and to particularly open up their activities to the scrutiny of credible civil Rights organizations.
“We as an organisation has nothing absolutely against the Department of State Services or the Nigerian Police Force nor do we have problems with the Nigerian military.
“What worries us is that most operatives of these security services carry out their duties without due regards to the Constitutionally guaranteed Human Rights of citizens unambiguously captured in several international bodies of laws and the Nigerian jurisprudence including the GrundNorm of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“These security forces can’t work professionally well if they continue to blatantly refuse to abide by the due process of the law and continue in the egregious violations of the Human Rights of Nigerians “.
On the police, HURIWA said the revelations about the gross Human Rights abuses suffered by Nigerians in the hands of Police as revealed by the various judicial investigative panels on the #ENDSARS# Protests, there is the urgency of the now for the Inspector General of Police to carry out thorough house cleaning because obviously, professional standards of the Police is in steady decline and the operatives have become notorious extralegal executioners of citizens in custody.
The Rights group said the IGP needs to collate, understudy and implement the recommendations emanating from these investigative probes and he needs to understand that the Police is in a race against time to reform and become better-disciplined professionals.
HURIWA said the deliberate delay by the National Assembly and the Executive arm of government to accede to the groundswell of calls for the reforms of the notorious Nigerian police Force and create State Police has escalated the gross Human Rights abuses committed by the Police all across Nigeria with Imo State as the CENTRE OF USE OF EXTRAJUDICIAL EXECUTIONS OF CITIZENS BY THE POLICE.
HURIWA has also advocated the sustenance of the Human Rights desks within the police just as the Rights group said the National Assembly needs to pass a law compelling the Police and security agencies running detention facilities including the NPF, the EFCC, the ICPC, the DSS and the Military to open them up for impromptu investigations and monitoring by credible Civil Rights groups.
HURIWA said the decision to overlook the heightened cases of extralegal killings by security forces is a threat to the national security interest of Nigeria.