Nigeria is a country where serious cases of abuse of police authority and human rights infringements by security agents often stimulate intense public debate. Though there have been consistent denials by the leadership of the Nigerian Police on the use of torture-based interrogations to elicit information from arrestees, extant literature affirms that the police rely on different forms of torture as principal means of investigation. This paper appraised the recurrent problem of brutality and abuse of human right by the Nigerian police. Triangulating both quantitative and qualitative methods of data collection which included questionnaires administered on 1000 accidentally selected inmates, 50 purposively selected in-depth interviewees and 10 officials of the five prisons in Ogun State who were key informants. The study found that the police rely heavily on the use of torture to elicit “confessions” from arrestees.

Former detainees reported experiences that included being bound and suspended midair in painful positions, kicked and beaten with machetes, gun butts, boots, fists, electrical wires, animal hides, and other instruments. The lack of capacity to conduct proper criminal investigation is responsible for the reliance of the police on torture induced confessions. Therefore, there is need for the government to improve on the capacity of the Police in their investigative responsibilities and encourage professionalism amongst its rank and file.



1.1 Background of Study

In most countries, it has been accepted that democracy is the only system of government that seeks to protect individual liberty and guarantee the fundamental rights of all. The pursuit of these rights is however not absolute as there exist state institutions like the police whose mandate is to maintain law and order and curtail the citizenry‟s excesses within constitutional means hence:

Police power is the exercise of the sovereign right of government to promote order, safety, health, morals, general welfare within constitutional limits and it is an essential attribute of government.‟ Indeed, the police are the outward civil authority of the power and might of a civilized country. The generality of the public is potentially affected one way or another by their action or inaction

What this presupposes is that while democracy allows or guarantees freedom, the police as an institution policed that freedom and in carrying out this function, they are expected to operate within existing democratic norms, else the essence of democracy becomes defeated. This is because the role of police and the existence of these norms remain the standard benchmark in ascertaining an acceptable democratic system. As a result, most of the policing applications that are classified as democratic policing practices in an ideal society are designed to ordinarily promote democratic principles and human rights. In Nigeria however, many dilemma arose concerning the way and manner the police carry out its statutory responsibilities. Top on the striking balance of this is the need to respect the inalienable rights of citizens while carrying out their legitimate duties. These duties ought to be performed within the context of existing rules duly fashioned and recognized. It is however regrettable that despite more than a decade of democratic governance, Nigerians are still faced with lots of human rights abuses in the hand of the police. Contrary to what democracy represents, the police is still largely authoritarian in nature[2] .  McCulley[3] opines that the state of human rights violations by police officials is becoming a culture of impunity and this includes arbitrary arrest, extra-judicial killings, illegal detention and destruction of property by security forces etc. The question therefore is how democratic is the Nigeria Police Force and how well have they imbibe democratic policing principles? What is their response level with regards to the observance of human rights since 1999? It has been correctly pointed out that the police have not performed well in this regard.

The Guardian editorial opined:

The truth is that the police system in Nigeria is decadent at several levels, not least of which is the tunnel vision of our police men in their operational approach to investigations and the treatment of suspects and detainees. Driven by overwhelming corrupt tendencies, they are rooted to a mixed bag of torture tactics that have nothing to do with the enforcement of the law or the promotion of justice… Nigerians know too well that whether accepting commissions from individuals or groups to settle scores against antagonists, opponents or offenders, whether hounding persons or groups in the name of the state or making suspects plead guilty to a crime not committed in order to be saved from police brutality, or whether committing sexual violence against female detainees, our police are adept to making life hell on earth for their victims.

Reuben Abati observed further:

…the Nigeria Police Force is one of the most unpopular institutions in Nigeria today; it is distrusted by the same people whose lives and property it is meant to protect, and this has resulted into a resort to self-help in many ways. Every year, the Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch as well as local civil society organizations report on many cases of police brutality, police inefficiency and corruption. The crime rate is on the increase and the police have proven to be helpless and overwhelmed. This has been so in nearly every instance, be the matter of armed robbery, kidnapping, ethno religious violence or financial fraud. It is also generally regarded as a corrupt police force with policemen collecting bribes openly and showing tendencies of thuggery and mendicancy. It is so bad that rich persons hire the police for all kinds of unlawful purpose, or simply as bodyguards to oppress the less privileged.