By Danlami Nmodu
The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre,CISLAC has petitioned the Minister of Federal Capital Territory and the Chief of Naval Staff over it described as the “Excessive Use Of Force, Human Rights Abuses And Dehumanization Of Abuja Residents By Members Of The AMAC AEPB Task Force” one of the petitions addressed to Senator Bala Abdulkadir Mohammed, the FCT minister drew his attention “to the persistent and increasing rate and levels of excessive use of force, highhandedness and brutalization of citizens by members of the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) Task Force. We are aware that the Task Force was established to improve the conditions of life in the FCT. The reality on the ground however is that it has become a source of terror to the people.
CISLAC I the petition signed by it executive director, Mallam Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani),who was also brutalized by the task force last week s said “It has become a frequent occurrence for members of the Task Force to arrest innocent and defenseless citizens and subject them to harassment, battering and humiliation. The Task Force routinely subject residents to physical and psychological abuse. One of the most serious aspects of this abuse has been numerous allegations of assault and rape of innocent women under the pretext that they were commercial sex workers. Many female workers, house wives and other women have been reported to have been raped -all in the purported bid to enforce environmental laws in the FCT.
The petition said “Although these events have recurred severally and have been reported widely by the media, we are compelled to write this letter because again on Thursday, August, 2013, about 5:30pm, in Wuse Zone 4, FCT, the Executive Director of Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, Mallam Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani), another law abiding citizen, while trying to enquire why an individual who was apparently dragged out of his vehicle, was being brutalized by members of the Task Force and was covered with blood, became a victim himself. Mallam Musa was pounced upon, beaten and inflicted with bodily injuries for daring to ask Task Force members why they were beating up an individual. This battering continued in spite of the intervention of members of the Nigerian Police who were present at the scene.
“As a group campaigning against impunity, we recognize the need to call for the respect, right and dignity of human persons which are guaranteed in our constitution and in the international instruments of human rights to which the country is a signatory. while we do not hold brief for offenders and violators of environmental laws we make bold to say that our laws under which they operate does not provide for beating and inhuman treatment of suspected offenders without trial. We also concede that laws must be enforced by relevant institutions but this can only be done within the legal framework of the country and the provisions of the relevant laws.
“A situation where the rights of citizens are violated and innocent individuals are consistently assaulted, brutalized and physically abused in contravention of laid down rules, procedures, laws and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is unacceptable. The process of law enforcement must be based on the rule of law and the Task Force cannot operate outside the law and subject citizens to humiliating, degrading and indeed criminal behavior.
“We therefore, call on the Honourable Minister to use his good offices to quickly intervene by investigating the activities of the Task Force with the view to sanctioning erring members, screening their recruitment processes, reviewing their methods of operation and putting an end to their dehumanizing treatment of innocent citizens within the FCT. The investigating process should include human rights organisations who have been keen observers and sometimes victims of the Task Force.
In a related petition addressed to the Chief of Naval Staff Vice Admiral Dele Joseph Ezeoba CISLAC also drew his “attention to the unprofessional conduct and abuse of power by a serving member of Nigerian Navy attached to the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) Task Force.
More specifically the petition to the CNS said “The methods of this Task Force, which is characterized by physical use of force, assault, dehumanizing treatment, harassment, battering, humiliation and inflicting of injuries on innocent citizens in the FCT, has assumed embarrassing levels of notoriety with which a disciplined force like the Navy cannot afford to be associated. The infamous activities of the Task Force which has been reported in the media have included appalling instances of manhandling of innocent citizens, highhandedness and inhumane gestures, including allegations of rape of innocent women with the pretext that they are commercial sex workers and in the purported bid to enforce environmental laws in the FCT. One of the most serious aspects of this abuse has been numerous allegations of assault and rape of innocent women under the pretext that they were commercial sex workers. Many female workers, housewives and other women have been reported to have been raped -all in the purported bid to enforce environmental laws in the FCT. It is indeed unbecoming that an officer in the Nigerian Navy can partake of such heinous activities.
CISLAC also told the CNS that “On Thursday, August 1, 2013, by about 5:30pm, in Wuse Zone 4, the Executive Director of CISLAC, Mallam Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani) who is known to be a law-abiding citizen was a victim of this inhumanity. He had stopped by to enquire why another individual who was dragged by the members of the Task Force was being brutalized by members of the Task Force and was covered with blood. Mallam Musa was pounced upon, beaten and inflicted with bodily injuries for daring to ask Task Force members why they were beating up an individual. This battering continued in spite of the intervention of members of the Nigerian Police who were present at the scene.
“The beating persisted and intensified upon the arrival of Naval Officer, Patty Ayuba with mobile phone number 07051566299 attached to the Naval Unit of Area 3 AEPB Security Patrol with unregistered Blue Hilux Van.
“The Nigerian Navy is reputed for its discipline and professionalism and the use of an officer from its ranks to perpetrate such ignoble purposes must be rejected, condemned and prevented.
“We call on you to use your good offices to investigate the role of the officer in question with the view to meting out appropriate disciplinary actions for conniving with ill trained and unruly people to violate the rights of innocent Nigerians and abusing the power of his uniform to inflict bodily injuries to citizens he is trained and paid to defend. We also request that you review the process that has made it possible for officers from your highly regarded force to participate in such pedestrian activities as chasing traders on the streets” CISLAC said in a petition also signed by Rafsanjani the victim of the abuse.