Concerned by the reports emanating from the purported invasion of the Ibadan home of the Yoruba nation activist Mr Sunday Igboho by armed operatives that were several hours later identified as officers of the Department of State Services (DSS), a call has gone to the National Assembly to create an independent investigative commission on the use of firearms by security forces to be manned by tested and trusted forensic scientists and analysts.
Making the call is the foremost Civil Rights Advocacy Group-: HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) which averred that the Department of State Services has carried out many clandestine and late hour operations since the emergence of the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration that graphically painted Nigeria as a Banana Republic that has no Constitutional democracy in place.
HURIWA is worried that such unconstitutional operations by law enforcement officers may embolden kidnappers and men of the underworld to further escalate their daredevil attacks on unsuspecting members of the public just as it may be difficult to decipher which of these attackers are legitimate law enforcement officers and which are men of the underworld.
The Rights group specifically identified the attacks at the official residential quarters of Justices of the Supreme Court of Nigeria and particularly the very recently conducted invasion of the Ibadan home of the irrepressible Yoruba Nation self determination leader Mr. Sunday Igboho in which even by the official admission of the Department of State Services, some previous lives were lost during what they called a special operation to uncover stockpiled arms and ammunition.
HURIWA recalled that as a result of the illegal invasions on the homes of the Supreme Court jurists, those affected were taken to the competent Courts of law but not one of them was found wanting thereby rubbishing the essence and reason for the so-called clandestine operations by the Department of State Services just as the Rights group said the operations brought global opprobrium on the international image of the Country. The Rights group said such illegal operations lead to the institutionalisation of impunity and lawlessness.
“It is of imperative importance to note that whereas the official statement of the DSS emerged after nearly ten hours after the actual invasion took place and after several versions of the attacks were running in the diverse media outlets with a clear majority of the information affirming that the armed operatives shot sporadically within the compound and reportedly killed some persons staying at the building and destroyed many automobiles and even went as far as killing and capturing some cats, the Department of State Services then owned up to the attack which they classified as a special operation just as they stated that they came under attacks resulting in their action to shoot in which two persons were killed.”
“The DSS also paraded some weapons which they claimed were recovered but some photos in circulation in some online media contradicted this official claim and asserted that same sets of weapons were similarly paraded sometimes back as belonging to a certain politician. This media report which contradicted the claim of the DSS combined with the cacophony of counter claims about the nature, circumstances and texture of the late night invasion of the home of the activist has come up with the necessity for a clear and an objective probe of this and many other operations of the operatives of all security forces so the operatives of the security forces should be compelled and mandated by legal obligations to comply to the rules of engagement and avoid excessive use of brute force resulting in the killings of citizens”.
“The current mode of operations by these security forces in Nigeria are violation of the unambiguous provisions of section 33(1) which totally prohibits extralegal execution of suspects “. Section 33(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria ((CFRN) provides that: “Every person has a RIGHT TO LIFE, and NO ONE SHALL BE DEPRIVED INTENTIONALLY OF HIS LIFE, save in the execution of the sentence of the court in respect of a criminal offence of which he has been found guilty in Nigeria “.
HURIWA is therefore calling for a thorough, unbiased, forensic and evidence based assessment of the circumstances of the DSS invasion of the Ibadan, Oyo State home of Sunday Igboho in which citizens were slaughtered and then the DSS has claimed responsibility with the proviso that they too came Under attack, a claim that has yet to be accounted for and verified scientifically and a claim that many eye witnesses who spoke anonymously to the media contradicted substantially.
“We will on the long term, recommend the setting up of an independent Ombudsman patterned after similar institutional mechanisms that are in place in majority of Western Democracies including the United Kingdom in which all security forces’ use of firearms are made subject to independent forensic probe to ascertain if any law has been violated”.
“The National Assembly of Nigeria should note that the Police Service Commission is not such a body because of its inherent weaknesses and the lack of expertise in the area of ballistic and forensic experts. The Police Service Commission has no forensic and ballistic laboratory and facilities for such a sophisticated technical and technology driven tasks of investigating the use of weapons and firearms by security forces”.
HURIWA maintained that these kinds of clandestine operations conducted by DSS and all other arms bearing government institutions must come under the investigative authority of an independent body that would within short period of time, use scientific means to determine if the security forces used their firearms in compliance with the laws and the Rules of engagement.
HURIWA has also asked that in the time being before such an institutional mechanism can be actualized in Nigeria, the National Assembly should investigate the invasion of the home of Sunday Igboho because as it is now, there are doubts amongst millions of Nigerians regarding the transparency of that exercise and there’s the need for accountability which the DSS can not on their own give since nobody should be a prosecutor and a judge in its own case.
“We strongly recommend the observation by the armed security forces of the recommended rules on the use of firearms as set out by the office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights of the United Nations Human Rights Council. These Special provisions are that;
(9.) Law enforcement officials shall not use firearms against persons except in self-defence or defence of others against the imminent threat of death or serious injury, to prevent the perpetration of a particularly serious crime involving grave threat to life, to arrest a person presenting such a danger and resisting their authority, or to prevent his or her escape, and only when less extreme means are insufficient to achieve these objectives. In any event, intentional lethal use of firearms may only be made when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life.
(10). In the circumstances provided for under principle 9, law enforcement officials shall identify themselves as such and give a clear warning of their intent to use firearms, with sufficient time for the warning to be observed, unless to do so would unduly place the law enforcement officials at risk or would create a risk of death or serious harm to other persons, or would be clearly inappropriate or pointless in the circumstances of the incident.
(11). Rules and regulations on the use of firearms by law enforcement officials should include guidelines that:
(a) Specify the circumstances under which law enforcement officials are authorized to carry firearms and prescribe the types of firearms and ammunition permitted;
(b) Ensure that firearms are used only in appropriate circumstances and in a manner likely to decrease the risk of unnecessary harm;
(c) Prohibit the use of those firearms and ammunition that cause unwarranted injury or present an unwarranted risk;
(d) Regulate the control, storage and issuing of firearms, including procedures for ensuring that law enforcement officials are accountable for the firearms and ammunition issued to them;
(e) Provide for warnings to be given, if appropriate, when firearms are to be discharged;
(f) Provide for a system of reporting whenever law enforcement officials use firearms in the performance of their duty.”