Amnesty Intentional has said hundreds of fatal police shootings which each year “leave families anguished and bereaved are not being investigated effectively because of a failure of the Nigerian justice system”.
Amnesty said in a statement yesterday that as a result there is “no justice for the dead,’ adding “relatives are often left with no answers about the fate of their family members and rarely receive justice.” The statement said “Rivers State is representative of other Nigerian states where violent deaths at the hands of the police are not investigated adequately saying basic techniques of crime scene protection and investigation are not applied and autopsies and inquests are either not carried out or are inadequate.
“Medical and legal sources revealed that there is a practice of doctors signing death investigation reports without examining the body properly. “In many cases the identity of the deceased is not known to the police and bodies are registered as ‘unknown’. Little effort is made by police to identify them.” Police headquarters spokesman Frank Mba said the report was not made available to the police and he knew nothing about its content. “I haven’t seen the report and I am not going to speak about it. I checked with the office of the Inspector General to confirm if the report was forwarded and I was told it wasn’t. The only letter from Amnesty International is the one seeking audience with the IG and I learnt the IG had accepted to meet with them and asked them to fix a date.”
According the report, lack of investigation in Nigeria means that many of the police officers who appear to have used unlawful lethal force enjoy impunity, seriously undermining human rights protections. “To have one of your friends or family members killed by the authorities causes terrible anguish, but never to find out the truth of what actually happened to them causes a particular agony for relatives of the victims,” said Lucy Freeman, Amnesty International’s deputy director for Africa. “Many of the victims killed by the police each year may have been unlawfully killed – including in what constitutes extrajudicial executions. Effective and impartial investigations are crucial in determining the truth about human rights violations, including extrajudicial executions, and gathering evidence to hold the perpetrators to account.”
Amnesty International found that in most cases of killings at the hands of the police, there was almost no action to hold them to account. In the report, one Pastor Ken Neele said that after learning of the shooting of his brother following police action in November 2011, he went to several hospitals in search of his body which he finally traced to Braithwaite Memorial Specialist Hospital in Port Harcourt, Rivers State. Pastor Neele was distressed by the disrespectful handling of his brother’s body, which was lying at the bottom of a pile of other bodies. More than a year later, Pastor Neele has still not been able to bury his brother - police have yet to approve the body’s release.