By Onyebuchi Sampson
An Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) has disclosed that the government’s decision to ban Twitter in June 2021, led to 60 per cent reduction in report of police human rights complaints in the country.
ACP Markus Ishaku Basiran spoke at the second convention of the Police and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) Situation Room, held in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.
During the ban, Internet communications were hampered as many users, could not switch platforms or circumvent the ban with Virtual Private Networks (VPNs).
Disclosing the impact, Basiran, who heads Police-Complaints and Response Unit (P-CRU), noted that complaints received by the unit went down by 60 per cent because of the Twitter ban.
The meeting, convened by Avocats Sans Frontières France (Lawyers without Borders France), in collaboration with its partners, the Carmelite Prisoners Interest Organization (CAPIO) and the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) was a follow-up to the first convening of the situation room established exactly a year ago, The Trumpet, gathered.
Expressing the challenge, Basiran said, though P-CRU explored other tools to receive complaints from the public, such as phone calls and Instagram, however, they were not as effective as Twitter.
He expressed optimism that with the lifting of the ban on Twitter, the complaints and response component of the unit will be reinvigorated.
In his remarks, representative of the European Union and Head of Governance, Peace and Migration at the EU delegation to Nigeria & ECOWAS, Mr Clément Boutillier, reinstated the commitment of EU to the SAFE project and for peace and security in Nigeria, saying ‘Peace and Security are at the core of the EU’s partnership with Nigeria.
According to him, the EU is very interested in this situation room and its deliberations, as it creates a platform for CSOs and the police to share their problems surrounding human rights, and jointly develop recommendations for implementation’.
Country Director of Avocats Sans Frontieres France, Angela Uwandu Uzoma-Iwuchukwu, in her contributions said, “the police and the CSOs are working for the same cause, which is to promote and protect human rights, thus it is really important for us to continue working together to achieve success. This platform also ensures accountability in the work to improve the level of human rights enjoyment in the country”.
At the end of the meeting, participants called for improved sensitisation of Nigeria Police officers on human rights standards and the Anti-torture Act (2017).
They also called for mainstreaming of the Anti-torture Act (2017) and human rights principles in the curriculum of the police training colleges.
They further stressed the need for the police to also sensitise members of the public on their fundamental human rights and techniques to identify and escalate human rights abuses by police officers and other security agencies.
Other key recommendations, which the Police-CSOs meeting produced include, the need for the P-CRU to establish physical presence in other states of the country for improved access, response and coordination.
The need for the P-CRU to invest in initiatives that widely sensitize the public on its availability and mandates, such as radio campaigns and tours, adverts, and dissemination of other key media visibility materials.
The need for the current police app for reporting crimes and human rights abuse to be tweaked to support other features that improve evidence-based real-time reporting such as live streaming. The app should also be widely publicized for improved usage.
The need for CSOs to prioritize the strengthening of the police force and the P-CRU through fundraising and visibility-based.
Coalition of CSOs must amplify voices for the demand of accountability in the work of protecting and promoting human rights and
Investigation rooms of the police force needs to be equipped with recent cutting-edge technology that makes influences the officers to rely on international standards of investigation and interrogation.
The situation room was established under the auspices of the EU and the Agence Française de Développement funded “Strengthening the National Actors Capacities and Advocating for an End to Severe Human Rights Violations in Nigeria Project” (SAFE), targeted at addressing issues of torture, ill treatment, extra-judicial killings and arbitrary detention in Nigeria.
In attendance at the second convening of the Police – CSOs situation room were 38 participants representing the Nigeria Police Force Headquarters, key CSOs working on justice sector reform in Nigeria, like Human Rights Watch, Avocats Sans Frontières France and relevant government institutions like; the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Legal Aid Council of Nigeria (LACON), and the Federal Ministry of Justice (FMOJ).
The objective of the meeting was to review the level of implementation of the collaboration set up between the Police and CSOs to drive reforms aimed at improving the status of human rights in the country, and accountability within the Police for human rights violations by its officers.