The government or its agents committed numerous arbitrary or unlawful killings.
During the year Joint Task Forces (JTFs), composed of elements of the military, police, and other security services, conducted raids on militant groups and criminal suspects in Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Kano, Kaduna, Kogi, Niger, Plateau, Sokoto, and Yobe states, resulting in numerous deaths and injuries to alleged criminals, militants, and civilians. According to credible eyewitness accounts, JTF members committed illegal killings during attempts to apprehend members of the extremist group Boko Haram in several states, including Borno, Kano, Kaduna, and Yobe states and surrounding areas. Local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), international human rights groups, and political and traditional leaders from the affected states accused the security services of indiscriminate and extrajudicial killings, illegal detention, inhumane treatment of detainees, and torture during the year.
On October 9, witnesses in Maiduguri claimed members of the JTF “Restore Order,” based in Maiduguri, went on a killing spree after a suspected Boko Haram bomb killed an officer. Media reported the JTF killed 20 to 45 civilians and razed 50 to 100 houses in the neighborhood. The JTF commander in Maiduguri denied the allegations. On November 2, witnesses claimed the JTF shot and killed up to 40 people during raids in Maiduguri. The army claimed it dismissed some officers from the military as a result of alleged abuses committed in Maiduguri, but there were no known formal prosecutions in Maiduguri by year’s end.
Reports also surfaced during the year that the JTF based in Maiduguri illegally detained and killed suspected members of Boko Haram in the Giwa barracks in Borno State. Former detainees accused security forces of torture and mistreatment, which in some cases led to the death of detainees. Authorities publicly denied the claims, describing them as inaccurate or unbalanced.
During the year both Amnesty International (AI) and Human Rights Watch (HRW) released reports critical of the conduct of security forces in these raids.
In October HRW released the report Spiraling Violence: Boko Haram Attacks and Security Force Abuses in Nigeria. The NGO conducted three trips to the country, including to Maiduguri, Kano, Abuja, and Madella, between 2009 and 2012. HRW researchers conducted 135 interviews with 91 human rights activists, government officials, and witnesses of Boko Haram attacks or security force abuses. The report condemned Boko Haram attacks but also criticized the heavy-handed response of the government. HRW accused the JTF of excessive use of force, physical abuse, secret detentions, extortion, burning of houses and property, theft of money, and extrajudicial killings. HRW estimated the actions of Boko Haram and security forces charged with combating Boko Haram resulted in the death of 2,800 persons since 2009.
In November AI released the report Nigeria: Trapped in the Cycle of Violence. AI conducted five trips to the country, including to Abuja and to Kano, Borno, and Bauchi states, from 2010 to 2012. They conducted interviews with witnesses of the violence, the families of victims, human rights activists, and government officials. AI also condemned the actions of Boko Haram and alleged security forces also perpetrated serious human rights violations, including arbitrary detention without trial of Boko Haram suspects, enforced disappearances, and extrajudicial killings. The NGO accused the government of failing to adequately prevent or investigate the attacks, bring perpetrators to justice, or provide prompt or adequate reparation or remedy to victims.
The government criticized the AI and HRW reports as inaccurate and unbalanced and claimed the human rights groups did not contact it for input. Both NGOs claimed they requested meetings with various government offices but did not receive responses from any.
In addition to abuses by extremists and security forces, both reports highlighted how the population’s grievances regarding poverty, government and security force corruption, and police impunity and brutality created a fertile ground for recruiting Boko Haram members.
While press articles often contained contradictory and inaccurate information, multiple sources confirmed allegations of abuses.
Credible reports also indicated other uniformed military personnel and paramilitary mobile police carried out summary executions, assaults, torture, and other abuses throughout Bauchi, Borno, Kano, Kaduna, Plateau, and Yobe states (see section 1.g.). The national police, army, and other security forces committed extrajudicial killings and used lethal and excessive force to apprehend criminals and suspects, as well as to disperse protesters. Authorities generally did not hold police accountable for the use of excessive or deadly force or for the deaths of persons in custody. Security forces generally operated with impunity in the illegal apprehension, detention, and sometimes extrajudicial execution of criminal suspects. The reports of state or federal panels of inquiry investigating suspicious deaths remained unpublished.
On May 16, police and members of the local JTF in Kano reportedly beat and shot to death Gaddafi Salisu Soda as he passed a police station. Neighbors claimed Soda attempted to identify himself to police but they continued to beat him before shooting and killing him. Police announced they had begun an investigation, although there were no developments by year’s end. The family tried to sue the police, but on May 24, the court dismissed the suit, ruling it could not enforce fundamental human rights after death. The family instituted a suit against the police, but there were no updates by year’s end.
On July 15, soldiers travelling in a convoy through Lagos assaulted Adewale Olupitan-Hassan, cracking his skull. The soldiers claimed Olupitan-Hassan’s vehicle hit their vehicle, breaking the side view mirror. After beating him, the soldiers took Olupitan-Hassan to a police station where they made him pay for a new side mirror. On July 29, Olupitan-Hassan died of his injuries. Olupitan-Hassan’s family took the police to court. On October 24, the lawyer for the chief of army staff told the court he could not produce the soldiers charged with the assault because they had been transferred to other posts. The judge adjourned the case until November 28, but by year’s end there were no updates.
On May 6, the high court in Abuja awarded Eugene Okere 152 million naira ($974,000) after police shot and killed his wife in January 2011 while she was riding in a cab. Okere had not received payment by year’s end from the police and the attorney general, which was attributed by NGOs to a lack of enforcement of court decisions for punitive awards against the police.
The 2010 annual report of the Police Service Commission identified 253 pending disciplinary cases for misconduct by police officers. The report also said the commission had received 91 appeals and petitions during the year.
On January 9, after a lengthy trial, the Borno State government and the federal government and police paid 40 million naira ($256,000) and 60 million naira ($384,000), respectively, to the family of Baba Fagu, father-in-law of then-Boko Haram leader Muhammad Yusuf, for Fagu’s detention and murder by police in 2009. Buji Fai, a former state government official suspected of funding Boko Haram, also reportedly died in custody along with Fagu.
There were no new developments in the case of five police officers accused of executing MuhammadYusuf in 2009 at a state police headquarters. In July 2011 authorities arraigned five police officers in the federal high court in Abuja for the murder of Yusuf. The court granted bail to four of the officers, while one remained in custody.
In 2009 AI published Killing at Will: Extrajudicial Executions and Other Unlawful Killings by the Police in Nigeria, which documented 39 cases of security force killings and enforced disappearances based on interviews and research conducted between July 2007 and July 2009. According to the report, national police conducted hundreds of extrajudicial executions, other unlawful killings, and enforced disappearances each year. In a country where “bribes guarantee safety,” those who could not afford to pay risked being shot or tortured to death. Authorities did not investigate the majority of cases or punish perpetrators. When investigations occurred, they did not comply with international standards, and officers suspected of extrajudicial executions generally were sent away on training or transferred to other states instead of undergoing prosecution. Police often claimed the victim was an armed robber killed in an exchange of gunfire or a suspect killed while trying to escape custody. AI charged Police Force Order 237, which permits officers to shoot suspects and detainees who attempt to escape or avoid arrest, “lets the police get away with murder.”
Political violence remained an issue in Jos, but the frequency and level of violence lessened during the year in part due to a greater security presence, local efforts to reconcile communities, and the absence of local area government elections that were the root cause of violence in 2008 and 2010. In 2011 President Jonathan announced the government would release a harmonized white paper on the crisis in Jos, but by year’s end the report was not available. Additionally, neither the federal nor the Plateau State government, despite the recommendations of previous reports, had established truth and reconciliation committees by year’s end.
In July the CLEEN Foundation released the results of a national crime and safety survey revealing 31 percent of people claimed to have fallen victim to a crime over the past year. Only 21 percent of these self-reported victims reported those crimes to the police, possibly because 76 percent of respondents believed they would have to pay a bribe to receive services. The report noted that, over the past two years, incidents of robbery had increased 6 percent, while reports of domestic violence had increased 14 percent--possibly due to increased awareness of the crime. Of those who reported crimes, only 48 percent of respondents reported satisfaction with police handling of their case. The survey also suggested corruption, particularly among police, continued to affect the lives of many persons, and respondents pointed to government insincerity as the most significant obstacle facing the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offenses Commission (ICPC), the federal government’s two main anticorruption agencies. Respondents listed crime control as the top priority over all others deserving government attention.
Police use of excessive force, including use of live ammunition, to disperse demonstrators resulted in numerous killings during the year. For example, although the January fuel subsidy demonstrations generally remained peaceful, security forces reportedly fired on protesters in various states across the country during those demonstrations, resulting in 10 to 15 deaths and an unknown number of wounded.
Police used gunfire to control or disperse political rallies; although there were no reports during the year of deaths from gunshot wounds at these rallies, the excessive force used occasionally resulted in deaths and injuries from the ensuing stampedes.
In February the newly appointed inspector general of police (IGP) announced the closure of all police checkpoints across the country. The order resulted in a decrease in the number of civilians killed at checkpoints, but violence and lethal force at unauthorized police and military roadblocks and checkpoints continued. According to AI’s 2009 report, police often stopped commercial drivers and asked them to pay bribes, the amount of which depended on the weight of the vehicle. Police shot drivers when they refused to pay, when disagreement occurred over the extorted amount, or when it remained unclear whether the drivers had paid. These police practices continued during the year.
On February 8, police at a checkpoint in Onitsha, Anambra State, reportedly shot and killed a bus driver after he argued with them about paying a bribe. The bus conductor claimed the driver offered the men at the checkpoint 20 naira ($0.13) but the men demanded 50 naira ($0.32). The driver refused, arguing that his boss had already paid during a previous trip, and proceeded through the checkpoint. Police reportedly followed the bus and shot and killed the driver while injuring some passengers with stray bullets. Police authorities reportedly made arrests, but there was no update on the investigation by year’s end.
In January an in-house police trial led to the dismissal of three officers for the “misuse of firearms” that resulted in the shooting death of Victor Emmanuel in Bayelsa State. Emmanuel had criticized police for extorting money from motorists on the road to his church. A representative for the National Police Force (NPF) stated police filed murder charges against the three officers, but there was no information on a trial by year’s end.
Despite some improvements resulting from the closure of police checkpoints in many parts of the country, states with an increased security presence due to the activities of Boko Haram experienced a rise in violence and lethal force at police and military roadblocks.
For example, human rights groups and local leaders in Kano alleged security force harassment, extortion, abuse, beatings, and killings at checkpoints in the city during the months following the January Boko Haram attacks. On April 16, security forces reportedly shot and killed Zaharadeen Musa Mohammed and injured three of the passengers in his car when he approached a checkpoint in Kano.
Security force personnel sometimes shot bystanders indiscriminately or by mistake. For example, on July 29, a naval officer shot and killed six and wounded another 15 people in Ilaje, Ondo State. The victims were part of a group attempting to enter a ceremonial distribution of welfare packages. Eyewitnesses claimed the officer appeared drunk and opened fire after members of the crowd protested not being on the guest list.
Police and military personnel used excessive force to quell civil unrest and interethnic violence, and to deal with property vandalism. For example, on March 28, antiriot police shot a Benue State University student in the chest while trying to disperse protesting students. The students were protesting after a truck driver allegedly struck and killed a university student while driving through campus the previous day. There were no updates on an investigation by year’s end.
Boko Haram increased its attacks on police and security forces, banks, bars, restaurants, religious sites, schools, and government buildings in the North and the FCT. Shootings and bombings in Maiduguri, Borno State, occurred on a weekly--and sometimes daily--basis throughout the year. Violence spread to neighboring Adamawa, Bauchi, Kano, Kaduna, Kogi, Niger, Plateau, Taraba, and Yobe states by year’s end. Attacks occurred against a newspaper office and a detention facility in Abuja during the year (see section 1.g.).
For example, on July 2, unknown gunmen stormed a workers’ compound in Maiduguri, Borno State, and killed nine non-Muslim construction workers. The construction crew had been working on an Islamic Cultural Center adjacent to the Shehu of Borno’s central mosque in Maiduguri, Borno State. Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the killings.