Abdallah Abba was at home with his father on Saturday, Aug. 5, when operatives of a state security outfit codenamed ‘Operation Farauta’ arrived in a Toyota Hilux.
The boy was a 17-year-old secondary school student residing in Wuro Chekke community in Yola South, North East Nigeria with his parents.
After the security personnel told Abdallah’s father, Tukur Abba, an immediate past librarian of Modibbo Adama University, that they would love to question his son over a stolen phone, he obliged and they went away with Abdallah. He was confident that things would go well and it would only take a short while before they realised he was innocent and brought him back home.
But hours later, Abba received a phone call from his son explaining that he was being tortured to confess that he stole an iPhone 7 belonging to a neighbour.
“Before the arrest, Abdallah had confided in me that he did not steal and insisted that the phone should be tracked. In fact, he personally went to the office of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) in Yola to lodge a complaint. This was why I did not hesitate when the security officers arrived to invite him for interrogation.
“The security would later return home with my son handcuffed and crying. He had already been tortured to a stupor. They searched the entire house but they didn’t find anything. My son told me that he had to tell me that he confessed to committing the crime because he was scared of being killed,” Abba told HumAngle.
While the ‘United Nations Treaty Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment’, adopted in 1975 prohibits torture of suspects in the bid to extract information or to subdue them, Nigerian security operatives have a history of brutality and disrespect for the rule of law. Many a time, officers disregard the human rights of accused persons as they did to Abdallah.
Abdallah who had suffered some physical injuries as a result of torture later became unconscious. He was therefore rushed to the hospital. After spending four days at the intensive care unit of Modibbo Adama University Teaching Hospital, he gave up.
In a bid to protect lives and properties in his state, Adamawa Governor, Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri in 2019 declared a total war against armed robbery, kidnapping and other violent crimes in the state. He rejigged the security architecture of the state and launched ‘Operation Farauta’, a military-led joint security task force. Members of the security operatives include personnel of the armed forces, police, and civil defence corps.
Fintiri also gave them operational vehicles, motorcycles, security gadgets and other equipment to help with the arrest of various criminals. However, its operatives have continued to violate the rights of unarmed civilians, including their right to life.
Aside from being a signatory to the UN treaty against torture, Nigeria ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in 1993, the Convention against Torture (CAT) in 2001, and the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT) in 2009.
Also, Section 34 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria provides that “every individual is entitled to respect for the dignity of his person.” It also forbids torture and inhumane and degrading treatment of citizens.
Despite all of these, security operatives remain notorious for brutalising suspects. Some of the tortures include spraying of tear gas in the eyes, sexual violence against female detainees, use of pliers or electric shocks on the penis, slapping and kicking with boots, and denial of food and water.
“My son was preparing to write his final year examination in secondary school and gain admission into a tertiary institution. All I am seeking now is justice. My son must not die in vain. We have filed a case before the court and we are only waiting to be assigned to a judge,” the deceased’s father explained in a bitter tone.
Concerned about the incident, Amnesty International, an international non-governmental human rights organisation, urged authorities to put an end to human rights violations by Operation Farauta. In response, Governor Fintiri directed the state’s police commissioner to investigate the murder of Abdallah, reveal the truth, ensure justice, and safeguard citizens’ rights.
Not the first time
HumAngle’s findings show that Abdallah’s case was just one of several. Two years ago, Joshua Kurboki, a 28-year-old student of Modibbo Adama University in Yola, set out to join his friends at Anguwan Buroba town where he normally spends his evenings.
Though Kurboki usually returns home around 6:00 p.m. daily, the situation was different on July 29, 2021. After waiting endlessly for his arrival, his elder brother, James, reached out to some of his friends who briefed the family about Kurboki’s arrest by security personnel attached to Operation Farauta over alleged phone theft.
“By the time we got to the security operatives camp, he was being tortured recklessly with a lot of physical injuries on him. Despite denying that he never stole a phone, the operatives kept beating him,” James told us. After a week of torture, Kurboki was released to his family.
“My brother was released after it was discovered that he wasn’t the person who stole the phone. The phone was tracked and found with another person. Kurboki could barely talk and walk after he was released, so we took him to the hospital. Sadly, he eventually died.”
James told HumAngle that he would be happy if the panel set up to investigate Abdallah’s murder also looked into the circumstances surrounding Kurboki’s death.
In another instance, many youths of Mayo Belwa town are demanding justice for 42-year-old Danjuma who was unjustly killed by Operation Farauta team on Yola-Jalingo highway in May. Late Danjuma was accused of being a kidnapper and was beaten to death without a fair hearing.
While Yahya Sulieman, spokesperson of Adamawa State Police Command is yet to respond to our enquiries on efforts in place to curb the irregularities of Operation Farauta, Sameer Muhammad, a human rights activist, told HumAngle that authorities need to fish out the inexperienced operatives among the security outfit and should be encouraged to work within the ambit of the law.
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