• Thursday, July 18, 2024
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Global Rights Group demands release of 127 Akure boys arrested over suspicion of ‘Yahoo’

Global Rights Group demands release of 127 Akure boys arrested over suspicion of ‘Yahoo’

The Global Rights Group has called on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to immediately effect the release of 127 persons, arrested in Akure on Saturday, during a pre-dawn raid over suspicion of being internet fraudsters (yahoo boys).

While calling for the immediate return of phones and personal seized during the raid, Abiodun Baiyewu, executive director of Global Right in a statement yesterday, said those being prosecuted should be charged according to the timeline provided in the Nigerian Constitution

In Baiyewu’s words, “The EFCC should immediately release the suspects arrested in Akure on Saturday. Those who are being prosecuted should be charged according to the timeline provided in the Nigerian Constitution.

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“The EFCC should immediately return phones and other personal items seized on Saturday’s raid to their rightful owners while urging the commission to compensate the owners of the properties they destroyed on Saturday while effecting the arrest. A public apology should also be issued.

The Activists further called on the EFCC’s officials should adhere strictly to the directive issued by its chairman last year banning night raids and urged them to work with civil society actors and human rights defenders to help refine its rules of procedure for arresting and prosecuting criminal suspects.

While stating that Global Rights will continue to advocate for the protection of the rights of all Nigerians, whether they be criminal suspects or not, she expressed grave concern over the high-handedness displayed by officials of the commission during a predawn raid in two clubs in Akure on Saturday.

The statement read “The incident, which led to the arrest of at least 127 people, was carried out in a brazen and unnecessarily violent manner without due regard to the human rights of the suspects.

The EFCC’s response to their allegations of heavy-handedness, in this case, was focused on their belief that the victims were primarily “yahoo boys”.

“We stress that this is not the first time the EFCC has been accused of high-handedness in executing its law enforcement functions. It has earned notoriety for infringing on suspects’ rights while conducting arrests. EFCC officials have been credibly accused of conducting unlawful arrests, assaulting suspects, unlawfully seizing property, and, in some instances destroying the possessions and properties of suspects.”

“These actions contravene the spirit and letter of the Nigerian Constitution, which provides several protections for criminal suspects. Chief among those protections is the presumption of innocence until a person is found guilty by a court of competent jurisdiction.”

This is the gold standard in democratic societies and informs how arrests are conducted, especially in non-violent or white-collar offences. The EFCC’s approach of arresting non-convicts for non-violent crimes using heavy-handed tactics is more condemnable because none of the suspects has ever been convicted of a crime for which they were arrested.

The Nigerian Constitution further provides that everyone, including suspected criminals, is to be treated with a fundamental respect for the dignity of their person.

This sentiment underpins the United Nations Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment. Principle 1 of that document states, “All persons under any form of detention or imprisonment shall be treated in a humane manner and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person.”

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In applying that litmus test to this situation, it is clear that the EFCC displayed no respect for the dignity of the suspects arrested at Akure, as they allegedly employed the use of teargas to arrest suspects in an enclosed space. The victims also stated that their phones were confiscated, and the clubs where the arrests took place suffered significant structural damage.

The Global Rights Group maintained they are not averse to the EFCC’s core mission, as we recognize its importance in curbing the menace of corruption in Nigeria.

“However, it is our considered opinion that it can do so effectively without becoming a hazard to the rights of people whose interests it has been charged with defending. We thought the EFCC’s management understood this context when it issued a directive banning night raids by its officials last year. However, it seems this particular fever of crudeness has proved too difficult for the EFCC to break. Continuing down this path may permanently cost the EFCC the goodwill of the very people it owes its mission to. As you may be aware, protests have begun in Akure over the events of last Saturday”.