A group, Niger Delta Youths Advocate for Justice and Peace has sent a protest letter to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the Nigerian Bar Association over alleged cases of human rights abuses in Bayelsa state with over 300 persons languishing in the medium prison facility, Okaka prisons.
The group, in a three page petition, dated 2nd November, 2018 and addressed to the president of the Nigerian Bar Association, the Chief Justice of Nigerian and the Secretary of the NHRC, alleged that despite the reforms embarked upon by chief judge, Justice Kate Abiri, the activities of the state special prosecutor, Barr. Andrew Simeon Arthur, is a disservice to the state judiciary.
The group, in a statement issued in Yenagoa via electronic mail, said though the investigations into the alleged cases of human rights violations by the special prosecutor, Andrew Simeon Arthur, is ongoing, sources claimed those detained were subjected to trial in three marked courts allegedly used to pervert justice and violate the detainees’ rights to fair hearing.
The statement issued and signed by Comrade Bidemi Williams, said though the investigation was conducted by an undercover member of the group, the cases identified were those initiated by the special prosecutor, Barr. Andrew Simeon Arthur,
The statement said: “He is said to have been hired by the state government through the office of the attorney-general and commissioner for justice, Kemasuode to prosecute cases with fiat. Most of the cases did not follow due process and culprits jailed without proper judicial processes.”
“At the last count, the total number of detainees on Barr. Arthur’s list numbered 300.The detainees claimed they were political detainees. While some said they were detained due to their loyalty and affiliation to the All Progressive Congress (APC), others claimed Barr. Arthur used his fiat, handed to him by the state government, to settle old and personal scores.
“Some of the cases are alleged to lack proper police investigation before being charged before a selected judge and the accused detained. It is gradually turning the judiciary into mockery. And we learnt that his attitude towards judges during court proceedings smack of violation of court rules and processes to the embarrassment of lawyers in court.”
The group stated that though the state government has shown interest in the development of the judiciary through judicial autonomy and building of new courts, “the Governor Seriake Dickson administration in partnership with the NHRC, the Nigerian Bar Association and the Office of the Chief Judge, should take a second look at the issues of human rights violation, use of state judges and magistrates to victimize detainees and rising prison congestion at Okaka prisons.”
“We call on the relevant agencies and human rights groups such as the Civil Liberties Organisation, to assist in a second independent and open investigation into our findings to make it more verifiable and authentic. We are worried that as a state special prosecutor, the office of the director of public prosecutor is rendered useless and cases that would have been dispensed speedily are now turned into circus of witch-hunt and judicial comic. ”