A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Femi Falana, has said individual police officers responsible for violation of human rights should be made to personally pay damages imposed by the court.
Falana said the reason human rights abuses remained prevalent was that when victims of rights violation got court judgments, it was the Nigeria Police Force, and the individual officer responsible for the violation that paid the damages imposed by the court.
The human rights lawyer spoke at a recent virtual symposium, with the theme, ‘Human rights violations in Nigeria: Time to end impunity and way forward’, organised by Legal Touch Initiative.
He spoke alongside the Executive Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission, Mr Tony Ojukwu; labour lawyer and human rights activist, Mr Femi Aborisade; a former special adviser to the FCT Minister, Henry Shield; and a human rights lawyer, Mr Tope Akinyode.
Falana said, “Arresting people in lieu of criminal suspects has been prohibited but still goes on everyday and the other painful one, and we must make this clear to the public; why is the Nigeria Police Force paying damages for the responsibilities and negligence of its officers?
“I have been pleading with the human rights community; if your client is detained, don’t sue the police alone, sue the police officer involved and ask for specific damages against him.
“If by the time the judgment is delivered, he has retired, let them take part of his pension; that will serve as a lesson for people. But right now, they detain illegally, some get killed, the officers involved get promoted, retire with their benefits. For me, that should not be allowed.”
Falana stressed that the parade of the criminal suspects was illegal, saying it was discriminatory against poor people.
“The parade of suspects, I have argued repeatedly, is a class matter. You only parade the poor; nobody will parade a permanent secretary or minister who has stolen N10bn. But those who have robbed people of a few thousand naira are paraded by the police.
“The parade of the suspect is illegal; it is against the right to dignity of persons because every suspect is still presumed innocent,” Falana added.
On his part, the NHRC Executive Secretary, Ojukwu, said the human rights situation in Nigeria had improved compared to what obtained during the military era.