The Anti-torture Act, 2017-herein after referred to as ATA- by its Long Title makes comprehensive provisions for penalising the acts of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, ·and prescribes penalties for the commission of such acts.
Under this Act, the Attorney-General of the Federation-herein after referred to as the AGF- has been empowered by Section 11 to make rules and regulations for the implementation of the Act thus ‘11. The Attorney-General of the Federation shall, with the approval of the President, make rules and regulations for the effective implementation of this Act.’. This paper aims at assessing the powers of rules and regulations conferred on the AGF and how these powers have been utilized so far considering the facts that the ATA shall become 3 years old by the year 2019 since it was enacted into law.
By section 1 of the ATA, it is provided thus ‘1. The Government shall.– (a) ensure· that the rights of all persons, including suspects, detainees and prisoners are respected at all times and that no person placed under investigation or held in custody of any person in authority shall be subjected to physical harm, force, violence, threat or intimidation or any act that impairs his free will; and (b) fully adhere to the principles and standards on the absolute condemnation and prohibition of torture set by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and various international instruments to which Nigeria is a State party.’ Also, by section 2 of the Act, (1) Torture is deemed committed when an act by which pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person to – (a) obtain information or a confession from him or a third person; (b) punish him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed; or (c) intimidate or coerce him or a third person for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity provided that it does not include pain or suffering in compliance with lawful sanctions’. And what amounts to torture is defined in section 2(2) of the ATA. Also, the penalty against torture is provided in section 8 of the Act thus ‘8. (1) A person who contravenes section 2 of this Act commits an offence and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 25 years. (2) Torture resulting in the loss of life of a person is considered as murder and shall be tried and punished under the relevant laws. (3) The penalties specified under this section shall be without prejudice to the prosecution of other crimes and other legal remedies available to the victim under other existing laws, including the right to claim for compensation.’.
Furthermore, what is of a great concern to me as a human rights activist is the facts that considering the powers of making Rules and Regulations for the effective implementation of the ATA, the AGF has not utilized the conferred powers to make such or any Rules and Regulations for such implementation since the enactment and operation of the Act since the year 2017! For instance too, are sections: 9 and 10 of the ATA which provide thus ‘9. The Attorney–General of the Federation and other law enforcement and investigative agencies shall ensure that the function of overseeing the implementation of this Act shall be specifically assigned to a particular office or unit of the agency concerned. 10. The Attorney–General of the Federation and other concerned parties shall ensure that education and information regarding the prohibition against torture is fully included in the training of law enforcement personnel, civil or military, medical personnel, public officials and other persons who may be involved in the custody, interrogation or treatment of any individual subjected to any form of arrest, detention or imprisonment.’.
Also, it is observable that despite the making of the ATA, there are still some complaints against some government’s agencies still involved and or engaged in the act of torturing suspects in their custody. I have viewed that the provisions of Sections 9 and 10 (supra) have mandated the AGF and all other law enforcement agencies to assign the function of overseeing the implementation of the Act to a particular office or unit of the agency concerned which in my humble view, includes the Federal Ministry of Justice as well as the need for requisite trainings for such education and information regarding the prohibition against torture in the trainings of all security personnel and all public officials, thereby meaning that ‘anti-torture trainings and education’ must be inculcated into all public officials’ trainings and education at all levels or ranks including their annual examinations for promotion in their respective office. That is why a close study of the ATA especially by the concluding part of section 2(1)(c) of the ATA (supra) provides thus ‘…when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity provided that it does not include pain or suffering in compliance with lawful sanctions’, would reveal that the ATA is only against public officials or public officers as opposed to private persons, though in my view, there is no legal authority for a private person to inflict torture on another, more so that there are other laws that would have been violated by such private person both civil and criminal if he inflicts torture on another person.
Also, in my humble submission, the above provisions of sections 9 and 10 of the ATA and the current attitudes of some of the Nigerian law enforcement and investigative agencies and prosecuting agencies in the handling of suspects’ cases, without excluding the Nigerian Prison Service (as the Prison Service too could be prosecuted and penalized both in Civil and Criminal under the Act) would establish the necessity of the AGF to make Rules and Regulations on which Unit shall be responsible for the implementation of the ATA by his Office and by all other law enforcement and investigative agencies of government and the manners, curricula, syllabi etc. for trainings and education of security personnel of the government and all public officials, especially as we approach the new year 2019. For instance, almost if not all the government’s bodies have servicom as a complaints unit by individuals against such establishment. So, which Unit is responsible for implementation of the ATA in the Federal Ministry of Justice and all other law enforcement and investigative agencies?! That is why this paper is humbly asking the Honourable, the AGF whether there is any good news for Nigerians in respect of the conferred powers of making the Rules and Regulations under the Act?!
Finally, I am of the considered view that the powers conferred on the AGF to make Rules and Regulations by section 11 of the ATA is not expected to be a usual camouflage rather a power that seeks to compel an effective and efficient implementation of the Act, the powers which this paper encourages the AGF to utilize with the required importance and urgency. This would in a way compel respect for the human rights of suspects, convicts and the general Nigerian citizens in the hands of government’s agencies. And I hope that in no time from now, we all shall receive a good news from the Honourable, the AGF in respect of his observance of the provisions of sections: 9, 10 and 11 of the ATA! I further call on the non-governmental organisations, human rights activists, and all Nigerian citizens to hold the AGF responsible for the implementation or non-implementation of the ATA, for he is responsible for both its success and failure! I further submit respectfully, that the implementation of the ATA does not exclude the States of the Federation as they are bound to implement its provisions.
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