( Lambert Oparah) Abuja: The Executive Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Tony Ojukwu Esq has said the Commission will commence a nationwide audit of detention centers from June 2018.
The NHRC boss said the exercise is in fulfillment of the Commission’s mandate to ensure that detention facilities across the country are kept in line with respect for human rights under the 1999 Constitution, and in accordance with the UN Minimum Standards for detention centers.
He said detention centers to be audited during the exercise would include those under the control of the Prisons, Police, SSS and the Military. He stated further that arrangements are being put in place for the audit of other detention centers in the control of other law enforcement agencies like the NDLEA, NSCDC, Customs, Environmental or Traffic Enforcement Agencies at both the State and Federal levels.
The NHRC CEO also underscored that under section 6(1) (d) of National Human Rights Commission Amendment Act 2010, the Commission is empowered to:
“Visit prisons, police cells and other places of detention in order to ascertain the conditions thereof and make recommendations to the appropriate authorities”
He added that in order to improve access, promote harmonious and cordial relationship with other arms of government, the NHRC as a matter of courtesy, informs any sister agency of an impending audit visit within a time frame.
He said the essence of this is to ease logistics for both the visiting NHRC staff and those Law enforcement officers responsible for keeping the detention centers. This practice has been on since the passage of the NHRC Amendment Act of 2010 he added.
While emphasizing that such information is not to seek permission of the Law enforcement agencies before commencing an audit of their detention centers, Ojukwu maintained that the aim is to ease logistics for NHRC Staff carrying out the audit. This will help to avoid situations where the responsible officers at the detention facilities may not be available at their duty posts to supply required audit details upon arrival of the NHRC detention facility auditors.
‘’For the purposes of clarification, information to the agencies on the timeframe for impending audit is not a request for permission or approval but purely information for logistics purposes to ensure a successful audit exercise. The absence of such information could result into hitches during the exercise especially if proper logistics is not put in place thereby compounding the tight financial arrangements for the exercise’’ Ojukwu said.
The Commission therefore wishes to correct the impression created by Head of Public Complaints, Rapid Response Unit (PCRRU) of the Nigerian Police, APC Abayomi Shogunle, who stated that the NHRC requested for permission or approval to carry out its mandate of visiting police cells and detention facilities, Ojukwu explained.
This year’s audit of detention centers would be carried out in collaboration with the National Assembly Committees on Human Rights, Judiciary and Legal Matters of both the Senate and the House of Representatives. It would be flagged off from Kuje Maximum security Prison, Abuja. Similar exercise would also be carried out in all the six geo-political Zones of the country.
The Rights Commission’s head is therefore using this medium to call on concerned Law enforcement agencies keeping such detention facilities to cooperate with the NHRC Monitors, adding that this is a requirement to fulfill Nigeria’s international human rights obligation which is aimed at improving the advancement of promotion and protection of human rights in Nigeria.