Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, has condemned the recent arrest and parading of Mr Dickson Akor, the National Commandant, Peace Corps of Nigeria, by the Nigerian Police. Falana spoke with newsmen on Saturday in Abuja after securing the release of Akor from police custody.
The police in a combined operation with the Depart of State Services and the Nigerian Army on Feb. 28, raided the headquarters of the Peace Corps of Nigeria in Abuja.
During the operation, they arrested Akor and 48 other members of the corps. A statement issued by the Police Spokesman, Jimoh Moshood, said intelligence reports showed that the Peace Corps and other similar groups were acquiring weapons and conducting covert trainings in different locations across the country.
In the statement, Moshood said such action violated a 2013 gazette of the Federal Government that banned such groups. Falana, who described police invasion of the headquarters of the Peace Corps of Nigeria as illegal and unconstitutional, said that the organisation was not operating illegally.
He said, “generally, the parade of criminal suspects in the country by the Police is illegal. “In this case, apart from the registration of its trustees under the Companies and Allied Matters Act, there are two judgments of the Federal High Court restraining the police from harassing and intimidating members of the organization.’’
The human rights lawyer said that he was also negotiating for the re-opening of the office of the Peace Corps of Nigeria. “They must be allowed to operate under the law and we will get to that state where the police will appreciate that Nigeria is under-policed.
“We need volunteers, young men and women who should be organised by the state to handle those duties that will not require the intervention of the Police,’’ he said.
The human rights lawyer emphasised that crime like terrorism, herdsmen attack, armed robbery and kidnapping thrive in the country because the country is under-policed.
“As at 2011, the Federal Government of Nigeria decided to engage the services of 380,000 police personnel, between then and now, only 10, 000 are being employed.
“There is no way you can police about 180 million people with barely 380, 000 police personnel out of which about 120, 000 are guiding the elite and corporate bodies in the country.
“I thought the police should have embraced a body like the Peace Corps of Nigeria to make their job easier because the Nigerian Police operates under very difficult situations.
“Most communities are not policed, so herdsmen move into farms and kill people. “Nigerians have not developed a litigation culture of challenging the killing of every citizen either directly or indirectly for which the government can be blamed,’’ Falana said.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the National Assembly on Nov. 24, 2016 passed a bill, which gives approval for the establishment of the Nigerian Peace Corps as an agency under the Ministry of Interior. The Nigerian Peace Corps Bill seeks to empower, develop and provide gainful employment for the youths.