OKOSUN OKHUELEIGBE & FAVOUR UMARU, in a chat with JASNA LAZAREVIC, Human Security Adviser, Embassy of Switzerland to Nigeria revealed that though there are reported cases of human rights abuses by security agencies, the Nigeria Police leadership is committed to addressing it headlong. Excerpts:
OVER the years your embassy has been sponsoring human rights programmes in Nigeria. How do you rate the performance of the Nigeria police generally?
Well, I think there is tremendous emphasis in the will to improve human rights-based policing in the Nigeria. We have been working with the Nigeria government in general and the Nigeria police in particular since 2011 on improving human-right based policing and respect for human rights generally. I think we have made tremendous progress. Nigeria is a very big country with many police officers so it takes time to train everyone and to make them compatible. The most important thing is that the leadership of the Nigeria police force is committed to human right policy. In the last two years, we have been working on the manual content and we only started training and implementation of the content this year of what we have put together in theory.
What particularly motivated you to go into this project?
Traditionally, Switzerland has been defending humanitarian affairs and with greater commitment to human right issues. We were among the driving states in putting together the human rights council that is based in Geneva. Human right is very dear to our heart. So Nigeria as a close partner of Switzerland makes it an area we want to work closely with the Nigerian government.
Have you heard cases of human rights been violated by the Nigeria police? What do you think Nigeria government can do to put an end to this?
We have all heard or read about the Amnesty International reports that were published this year that suggested that there were human rights violation against Boko Haram suspects and suspects detained by the security forces. I think the most important thing is to take this allegations seriously; make enquiry and put together a team to check if what they wrote was correct or not. If confirmed, actions need to be taken on all sides not just disciplinary measures but also preventive actions. The government, security forces and citizens of Nigeria need more information about human rights to avoid conflict especially as the President and the Inspector General of Police are championing a more people friendly police that is close to the citizens and trusted among Nigeria citizens.
How regular do you intend carry on training the police?
The programme started in June this year and we have had two sensitization workshops in the FCT and this week and next week, we are here in Lagos for various training and sensitization workshops. We hope that we will be able to establish training next year for the Northern part of Nigeria. At the same time, we hope that our partners will continue to work with us in other to continue the training. The most important thing is that the NPF will incorporate the training into their regular training for new recruits.
To what extent has your effort impacted on the NPF in terms of human rights abuses?
We are focusing on the Divisional Police Officers and have been very active during the training with robust questions from them. They have shared previous experiences and they are very enthusiastic, believing they would spread the knowledge gained to the rank and file. We must not forget that every police officer is also a human being so he also has human rights. They are not always in uniform so they also have rights and they need to learn about that and how to manage it with the right of the other citizens of the country.