The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), has promised that Implementing Rules and Regulations made pursuant to the Anti-Torture Act, 2017 will soon be published in response to a demand notice served on him by Media Rights Agenda (MRA), requesting him to make regulations for the effective implementation of the Act.
The Minister did not, however, say when the Rules and Regulations would be issued, despite a lawsuit filed by MRA against him at the Federal High Court in Lagos seeking to compel him to perform his statutory duty by making the regulations.
Acting through its Legal Officer, Ms Obioma Okonkwo, MRA wrote to the Minister on August 20, 2021, demanding that he makes the rules and regulations as provided by the Act of 2017. The organization said in the letter that if he failed, refused or neglected to meet its demand within 14 days, it would institute legal action against him in a Court of law to compel him to do so.
MRA noted in the letter that Section 34 of the Constitution guarantees for everyone respect for the dignity of his person and prohibits torture, inhuman or degrading treatment, adding that as a member state of the United Nations, Nigeria has ratified the UN Convention Against Torture (UNCAT).
According to the organization, in a bid to ensure that the right to freedom from torture is respected and protected as a fundamental human right, the Anti-Torture Act of 2017 criminalized torture.
It however noted that “Despite the enactment of this Act four years ago, there have continued to be various allegations made by journalists, and other individuals and citizens of Nigeria of being subjected to torture, inhuman or degrading treatment by officials of law enforcement agencies and other government officials and non-state actors.”
Observing that claims of police brutality, torture, and other inhuman or degrading treatments by law enforcement agents, led to the nationwide #ENDSARS protests in 2020, and that many of those allegations have subsequently been verified and established by the various judicial panels of inquiry set up in different states around the country, MRA reminded the Minister that “the Anti-Torture Act imposes an obligation on the Attorney General of the Federation to make rules and regulations for the effective implementation of the Act.”
It expressed the strong belief that if such rules and regulations are made, the Act would enjoy more effective implementation and help to control the excesses of law enforcement agencies while also deterring other state and non-state actors from violating the rights against torture.
MRA, however, regretted that four years after the coming into force of the Act, the requisite rules and regulations had not been made by the Minister.
In a response to MRA written on his behalf by the Director of the Citizens’ Rights Department of the Federal Ministry of Justice, Mr. Faanee Bebu, the Minister said the Rules and Regulations would “soon” be published.
He thanked MRA for “the interest shown in the proper implementation of the Act.
However, prior to the Minister’s response, MRA filed a suit before the Federal High Court in Lagos on October 26, 2021 complaining that despite its demand to the Minister, he has failed, neglected and refused to comply with the demand and to perform his statutory duty.
In the suit filed on its behalf by Lagos-based lawyer, Mrs. Bankeye Akinwale, MRA is asking the court for:
- A declaration that the failure of the Minister to make rules and regulations for the effective implementation of the Anti-Torture Act, 2017 as imposed on him by Section 11 of the Act is a breach of the law;
- An order of mandamus compelling the Minister to carry out the duty imposed on him by Section 11 of the Act;
- An order of mandamus compelling the Minister to carry out the request contained in its letter of demand dated August 20, 2021 delivered to him on August 23, 2021, wherein MRA requested him to make the rules and regulations for the effective implementation of the Act;
- An order directing the Minister to pay the organization the sum of
N5 million as exemplary and aggravated damages for the flagrant violation of the Section 11 of the Anti-Torture Act, 2017.