The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has called on both the federal and state governments to immediately charge to court all those arrested and detained over alleged participation in the looting and destruction of public and private property that trailed the EndSARS protests across the country.
The NBA who frowned on the detention of Nigerians in various police facilities across the country beyond the mandatory period provided by law, lamented that the government and the leadership of the Police Force were yet to learn anything from the protest against police brutality.
In a statement titled, “A Call for the Respect of The Legal and Fundamental Rights of Nigerian Citizens”, the NBA National President, Mr Olumide Akpata, decried the condition in which many of the alleged looters and arsonists were being kept in breach of their fundamental rights.
“I have in the past 24 hours received several calls and complaints from lawyers and Nigerians generally, about the recent public parade of hundreds of persons arrested and detained by the Nigerian Police on the suspicion of taking part in the looting and destruction of public buildings and private businesses and/or for contravening the curfew declared by various State Governors in the aftermath of the #EndSARS protests that unfortunately turned violent.
“As I have continuously maintained, the Nigerian Bar Association (“NBA”) is completely opposed to any act of arson, vandalism, destruction of public or private assets, or other forms of force or violence. However, the legal rights of citizens who are arrested on account of such allegations must be respected, especially their right to the presumption of innocence”, he said.
Akpata in the statement noted that many of those arrested have been held incommunicado for days without access to their families or legal practitioners of their choice and under inhumane or deplorable conditions “in brazen breach” of the Nigerian Constitution.
“It beggars belief that this conduct by the Nigerian Police is coming on the heels of the #EndSARS protests which were precipitated by the historical abuse of citizens by men and officers of the Nigerian Police especially those of the now defunct Special AntiRobbery Squad (SARS), and the aftermath of which is yet to fully die down.
“It is highly regrettable that the Police in particular continues to carry on business as usual despite being in the eye of the storm in recent times and in disregard of the wide outpouring of condemnation by Nigerians at home and abroad as well as foreign nationals and international organisations about the misconduct of some of their officers.
“This gives the indication that the Police hierarchy has failed to get the message and/or is paying lip service to the calls for holistic Police reforms.
“The NBA once again calls on the Nigerian Police and the Attorneys General of the various States to immediately charge the suspects before courts of competent jurisdiction in accordance with contemporary requirements of the law, or to release them unconditionally”, he stated.
While he added that the NBA regrets the wanton destruction of public buildings and private businesses witnessed in the past week, Akpata however stressed that the cure for illegality cannot be illegality.
He disclosed that he had asked the chairpersons of NBA branches across the country to visit and monitor Police Stations within their jurisdictions to ascertain the extent of compliance of the Police with the fundamental rights provisions of the Constitution so as to enable the body take or facilitate adequate enforcement actions.