Some African human rights groups have called for a reform of Nigeria’s criminal justice system to rescue the people from arbitrariness and denial of fundamental rights.
They said the system, as it is currently, is corrupt and subjects the people to arbitrary arrests, illegal detention and an erosion of their fundamental human rights to a fair hearing.
The groups, according to a statement they made available to PREMIUM TIMES on Friday, made the call at the 65th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) held in Banjul, Gambia.
The groups that signed the statement include Global Rights, Tap initiative, the Initiative for Equal Rights and the Institute of Human Rights and Development.
They said documented reports show an increasing trend in the arrest of journalists and other individuals found to share opinions contrary to the stance of the government of Nigeria or communications criticising the government.
This is as a result of the failure of the Nigerian government to reform criminal justice in the country, the groups added.
“In Nigeria, journalists risk prosecution under restrictive laws, including the broadly worded Cybercrimes Act. Bloggers were arrested under its provisions in 2016 but none has been convicted since then.
“A Nigerian journalist, Jones Abiri is facing prosecution under the Act he was held by Nigeria’s secret police without any charge for 2years and was rearrested in 2019. Agba Jalingo, a journalist and publisher is currently in jail and facing allegations of treason after he published a story on alleged diversion of N500 million by the Cross-River Governor; Abubakar Idris, popularly called Dadiyata, was forcefully taken from his home in Kaduna, his whereabouts remain unknown.
“Recently, Fisayo Soyombo, a journalist released an investigative report on the criminal justice system in Nigeria, documenting interactions with the Nigerian Police, the courts and the Nigerian correctional services, raising questions as to the competence and credibility of the criminal justice system in Nigeria.”
The human rights groups further said there is a need for the ACHPR’s mechanism on Prisons and Conditions of Detention and Policing in Africa to look into the findings of the investigative report of Mr Soyombo and request accountability from the relevant bodies in Nigeria.
The groups implored the Commission to invoke its protective mandate to call on the Nigerian Government to constitute an independent body to investigate the claims in Mr Soyombo’s investigative report.
The groups also want the government to release all journalists in detention and stop stifling the freedom of expression as enshrined in the Constitution.
The group, however, noted that the Nigerian Constitution guarantees freedom of expression and of the press and courts in recent years issued rulings that expanded legal protections for journalists.