The claim by the Imo State government justifying the gestapo style invasion of a Church and the violent arrest of the former gubernatorial candidate in the 2019 Imo election Mr. Uche Nwosu has been described by HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) as nothing but a celebration of utter nonsense borne out of crass ignorance.
HURIWA recalled that addressing reporters on Sunday in Owerri hours after the incident of forceful arrest after sporadic gunshots by the police of Uche Nwosu, the Imo State Commissioner for Information and Strategy Mr. Declan Emelumba had claimed that it was not in anybody’s place to tell the police how to arrest a suspect.
Hear Mr. Emulumba: “Uche Nwosu is just an indigene of Imo State and a citizen of Nigeria, and if he has run afoul of the law, the police have every right to arrest him, and nobody should dictate to them how they do it. “It depends on the gravity of the offence, and it depends on the information at their (police) disposal.”
HURIWA recalled that on the day of the arrest of Uche Nwosu there was panic at Eziama-Obaire in Nkwerre Local Government Area of Imo as security operatives stormed St. Peter’s Anglican Church and left with Nwosu. The heavily armed operatives stormed the church with high-powered security vehicles, shooting sporadically into the air before arresting Okorocha’s son-in-law.
But HURIWA through a media statement authorised by the National Coordinator Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko dismissed the notion that the police has the right to adopt any style they deemed necessary in arresting accused persons, saying that that illiterate statement attempting to justify police brutality amounted to a fallacy because it seeks to state that Nigeria is a jungle whereby might is right and the rule of brute force holds sway.
HURIWA has therefore challenged the Imo State Information commissioner to come for tutorials at the Legal department of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA to understudy the essence, import and significance of the newly signed THE NEW POLICE ACT, 2020 and chapter four of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria of 1999 as amended.
“HURIWA wishes to refer to the scholarly presentation on the summary of the new Police Act done by some legal experts in which they rightly averred that the Nigeria Police Force (Establishment) Act, 2020 (‘the new Act’) which came into force on the 17th of September 2020, repealed the Police Act of 2004 even as the legal opinion moulders stated that the general objective of the new Act is to provide an effective police service that is based on the principles of accountability and transparency, protection of human rights, and partnership with other security agencies. In achieving this objective, the Act did not only improve on the provisions of the erstwhile Act, it has its own novel provisions.”
As adumbrated in the well researched piece by the authors, HURIWA asserted the following are the key highlights of the new Police Act which all Police operatives must comply with absolutely just as the Rights group pointed the following facts listed out by scholars including the necessity for observance of the right to human dignity of the person said to be in conflict with the law.
HURIWA restated that in ensuring that the new Police Act fulfils its objectives, provisions were made in accordance with global best practices and in compliance with some recent National Laws on Administration of Justice in Nigeria. This is to eliminate the areas of seeming discrepancies between the old Police Act and other corresponding national Legislations.
HURIWA State for instance, some of the novel provisions of the new Act are:
- Arrest on Civil Wrong
The erstwhile Police Act was silent on the power of the Police to arrest for a civil wrong, this void was abused by a lot of police officers and citizens alike as Police meddled in and even became an instrument of torment or oppression in purely civil matters. The new Act has specifically prohibited the Police from arresting a person merely on a civil wrong or breach of contract . This is to further give effect to the provisions of Section 8(2) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 which has a similar provision.
- Information about Rights when making an arrest
HURIWA explained that the extant Police Act made abundant mandatory provisions for certain rights that accrue to a person who is arrested just as the Police officer making an arrest has a duty to inform the suspect of his/her rights to remain silent or avoid answering any question until after consultation with a legal practitioner or any other person of his own choice; consult a legal practitioner of his own choice before making, endorsing or writing any statement or answering any question put to him after the arrest; and free legal representation by the Legal Aid Council of Nigeria or other organizations where applicable.
HURIWA said the violent abduction of Uche Nwosu from the Church and the attack on his wife and his mother in law by the arresting armed officers clearly Violates the provision of the ew Police Act on the Notification of Next of Kin.
The Rights group recalled that prior to the enactment of the extant Police Act, it was a common practice for a person to be arrested and denied the right to inform his/her people that he has been taken into custody; but not anymore! With the new Act, when a person is arrested and is being kept in custody, the Police have a duty to inform the next of kin or any other relative of the suspect of the arrest, at no cost to the suspect.
HURIWA said the deployment of physical torture violate both the newly domesticated anti- torture legislation and the provision in the 2020 Police Act that outlaws Torture and Inhumane Treatment just as the New Act provides for the right to the dignity of the human person as a fundamental right guaranteed in the 1999 Constitution. A person who is arrested must also be granted this right. He must not be subjected to any form of torture, cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. This provision is also included in Section8(1) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act of 2015.