MRA Says Justice Minister Has Duty to Protect Citizens Against Arbitrary Acts

0
14

Reiterates that the justice minister has failed to perform a duty imposed on him by the Anti-Torture Act.

Mrs. Bankeye Akinwale

Media Rights Agenda (MRA) has filed a further affidavit in its suit against the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN) saying it is the duty of the Justice Minister to protect citizens against arbitrary acts. The further affidavit was in response to the counter affidavit by the Minister in which he claimed that the death and injuries suffered by journalists in the course of their work were as a result of negligence on the part of the affected journalists, adding that law enforcement officers could not be held liable for the death of the journalists killed.

In the suit brought on behalf of the MRA by its lawyer, Mrs. Bankeye Akinwale, MRA claimed that although the Anti-Torture Act mandates the Attorney-General to make rules and regulations for the effective implementation of the Act, he has since 2017 failed to do so and that despite the enactment of the Act, 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.

Deposing to the further affidavit on behalf of the organization, Mr. John Gbadamosi, a programme officer at MRA, contended that the Minister in all his averment never denied any material fact contained in the MRA’s affidavit in support of the Motion on Notice dated February 23, 2022 but rather has raised new issues distinct from the issues contained in MRA’s affidavit in support of its application and the subject matter of the suit. He added that the Anti-Torture Act, 2017 did not impose any duty or state what MRA or any other party must do or comply with before instituting a suit against the Respondent under the Act.

In his deposition, Mr. Gbadamosi averred that the facts stated by MRA in its originating motion on notice dated February 23, 2022 are accurate, not fallacious and that they have basis in Section 11 of the Anti- Torture Act, 2017 which imposes a duty on the Justice Minister the duty of making rules and regulations for the effective implementation of the Anti-Torture Act, 2017. He added that the duty imposed on the Justice Minister by the Anti-Torture Act to make rules and regulation for the implementation of the Act is not in dispute as both parties made reference to the provision which imposes the duty on the Justice Minister as a subject matter.

He also averred that the Justice Minister vide a letter dated December 9, 2021 to MRA which was received on February 14, 2022 only acknowledged MRA’s demand and stated that the implementing rules and regulations made pursuant to the Anti-Torture Act will soon be published, but as at September 28, 2022 when he filed his response and up till now, the Minister is yet to publish the said Rules and Regulation as promised in his letter dated December 20, 2021.

He said that the Minister in his counter affidavit admitted the facts that individuals and journalists have been attacked and treated inhumanely by law enforcement agencies but claimed that the injuries that the victims sustained from the attacks carried out against them by the law enforcement agencies were self-inflicted when the victims were evading arrest or refused to heed protocol, without providing any evidence in support of this claim. Furthermore, Mr. Gbadamosi averred that in the document attached to his counter affidavit marked exhibit 1, the Minister also admitted that he has failed to ensure the effective implementation of the Anti-Torture Act when the chairman of the National Committee Against Torture (NCAT) stated that the committee cannot meet, investigate properly any torture case or send periodic reports to the United Nations due to lack of funding.

He also contended that the Justice Minister has failed to produce a draft of the guidelines he claimed to have submitted to the President for assent before the  Court and is trying to evade his duty of making rules and regulations for the effective implementation of the Act by placing heavy reliance on the approval of the president when the Minister has failed to produce the rules and regulations or show any evidence that he had submitted a draft of such rules and regulations for the approval of the President.

In conclusion, he stated that MRA is not aware of the Minister’s claim in his counter affidavit that the Department of Citizen’s rights in the Federal Ministry of Justice was created to oversee any reported cases of torture or inhumane treatment by any law enforcement agencies against any citizen.

He reiterated that the Minister is in breach of section 11 of the Anti- Torture Act, 2017 which imposes on him the duty of making rules and regulations for the effective implementation of the Anti-Torture Act and that MRA is entitled to damages against the Minister for his failure to perform a duty imposed on him by the Act, particularly as the organisation has incurred costs in filing the suit against the Justice Minister.