Amnesty International (AI) says the proposed recipients of the human rights award by the Onitsha, Anambra state, branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) are undeserving of the awards.
In a statement on Monday, AI described the recipients as “human rights violators” whose actions it says “bring up memories of torture and other forms of cruel and unlawful treatment”.
It added that the event, which it described as “offensive and despicable”, is allowed to hold, “it will mark a dark and tragic moment in the history of the struggle for the defense and promotion of human rights in Nigeria which the NBA has invested its efforts, time and resources over the years.”
The recipients of the awards were listed to include James Nwafor, former commander of the Special Anti robbery Squad( SARS), Awkuzu, Anambra; Sunday Okpe, current commander of SARS, Awkuzu; Mike Okiro, chairman, police service commission; Fasugba Temitope, divisional police officer, Asaba (former DPO at Central Police Station, Onitsha) among others.
The recipients are said to have been selected “for an award for their individual contributions in defense of human rights and for having staked their lives in the fight against human rights violation”.
But AI, in its statement, said “the list of the prospective awardees is replete with certain persons the mere mention of their names in the community of human rights defenders and indeed, in any civilised clime will elicit disgust and angst due to their involvement and roles in several cases of egregious human rights violations for which they are yet to be brought to account in accordance with the law and in line with Nigeria’s obligation under international human rights standards.”
“Nigerian Bar Association Onitsha branch plans to give awards to human rights violators whose action still bring up memories of torture and other forms of cruel and unlawful treatment,” the statement read.
“This is a disgrace to the Nigerian bar and the Onitsha NBA must be called up to retrace its despicable step.
“For the purpose of clarity, James Nwafor’s time as the Commander of SARS, Awkuzu, Anambra State was characterised by unspeakable human rights atrocities.
“During his reign at SARS, Amnesty International carried out research on incidences of torture for two different periods (2014 and 2016) and produced damning reports which were widely circulated in Nigeria and abroad.
“The two reports not only indicted James Nwafor, but found that SARS Awkuzu under him was the headquarters of human rights violations, particularly torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and extrajudicial executions.
“The Amnesty International’s Report of 2014 captioned “WELCOME TO HELL FIRE”, and that of 2016 Captioned “YOU HAVE SIGNED YOUR DEATH WARRANT both contain gory details of many egregious violations of human rights by officials of SARS under CSP James Nwafor whom the Anamabra NBA now wants to glorify.
“With regards to Mr. Mike Okiro, current Chairman of the Police Service Commission, may we simply reproduce excerpts from a report written by NOPRIN in 2013.”
It therefore called on the leadership of the NBA to call off the award.
“We call on the leadership of the NBA Onitsha to shelve the idea of this treacherous award that can best be described as a mockery on all our efforts at promoting the human rights of our people and improving the human rights situation in Nigeri,” the statement read.
“The planned award is not only offensive and despicable, it will amount to dancing on the graves of the many innocent Nigerians who have been needlessly and unlawfully killed under the watch of James Nwafor and his ilk.
“We also use this opportunity to reiterate our earlier call on the Nigeria Police authorities to bring James Nwafor to account for his numerous human rights atrocities while he held sway at Awkuzu SARS.”