Meet Our Members:

PRAWA, Nigeria

Torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment won’t end until we all say it must. Watch how a Nigerian NGO engages young people, the leaders of tomorrow, across the country, from classrooms to radio studios, raising their voices to speak out against torture.

Reviewing the Reluctant:

Nigeria Before the Committee Against Torture

Nigeria ratified the UN Convention Against Torture in 2001. But for two decades, the country refused to be reviewed on its implementation of the Convention by the treaty monitoring body, the Committee Against Torture. In November 2021, the Committee went ahead anyway, and IRCT’s member in Nigeria, Prisoners Rehabilitation and Welfare Action (PRAWA), was there. So, for the first time, were Nigerian officials.

Ambassador Abiodun Richards Adejola, Permanent Representative of Nigeria to the UN

“Our attitude over the years is regrettable. We are in the process of reforming and restructuring the National Committee Against Torture to make it more independent and responsive. Going forward we commit to be more proactive in our engagement and live up to our obligation to the Committee under the Convention.”

Ambassador Abiodun Richards Adejola, Permanent Representative of Nigeria to the UN in Geneva

Nigeria did not submit a report to the Committee, but the Nigerian officials did answer the Committee’s questions. Although torture is prohibited under Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution and the 2017 Anti-Torture Act, the Nigerian officials recognised legal gaps remained. The Criminal Justice Act, Correctional Services Act and prison and police reform were given as examples of Nigeria strengthening its torture prevention policies.

“The government of Nigeria recognises the need for urgent immediate and radical reform of our criminal justice system. It is also correct that the process has been slow, but you have to recognise that ours is a country of 36 states. To achieve meaningful reforms will require negotiation.”

Olawale Fapohunda, Vice-Chairman of Nigeria’s National Committee Against Torture

Supported by the IRCT’s Advocacy Director, PRAWA led the production of the civil society report submitted to the Committee which, among other things, called for the government to include rehabilitation of torture survivors as a policy under the Anti-Torture Act. That advocacy paid dividends: Paragraph 36 of the Committee’s Concluding Observations included just that recommendation. The Committee also noted nearly 30,000 complaints of torture and ill treatment between 2019 and 2020 had not been adequately investigated and urged Nigeria to end “an environment of impunity”. Two members of PRAWA attended the two-days of hearings in Geneva.

“Well as you can see, I’m all smiles. We have been clamouring for the recognition of rehabilitation for torture victims … Now we hope the government will collaborate with us to provide those services.”

Chioma Anuna, Team Lead Research and Documentation at PRAWA on her return from Geneva

PRAWA are now implementing an IRCT-funded project to push the government to begin implementing the Committee’s recommendations.

“It’s different when civil society in Nigeria complains about some of these things; the government just waves it aside. Now we have this extra boost to say to them, ‘Hey, this is not just coming from us. This is coming from the Committee Against Torture. So something needs to be done to ensure that these recommendations are fully implemented.”

Honest Munachiso Offor, Programme Officer at PRAWA


Capacity Building to End Police Brutality

Nigeria’s security forces have been in crisis for a decade, battling Islamists in the north, separatists and oil militias in the south, and a wave of organised crime. Amid the chaos, the State’s Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) became notorious for torturing citizens with complete impunity, leading to a wave of mass protests across the country, that were met with more police violence, torture and extrajudicial killings.

Amid the national outrage, PRAWA played a leading role in convincing the Nigerian government to disband the unit in 2020 and retrain its officers. The National Human Rights Commission subsequently set up independent Investigative Panels, at both state and federal level, to gather evidence of torture and ill-treatment and other human rights violations committed by SARS. 

PRAWA’s director was appointed as a member of the federal investigative panel. IRCT and PRAWA provided several online trainings to both sets of panels on how to engage effectively and respectfully with victims, how to collect and assess evidence of torture using the Istanbul Protocol and how to determine and award meaningful reparations. As a result of the trainings, the IRCT was requested to provide technical support to the federal and state-level panels responsible for investigating and issuing recommendations for reparation, accountability and prevention. The Investigative Panels are now finishing their work and IRCT is analysing the evidence gathered.

Credit: Shutterstock

“IRCT provided much needed expertise and guidance to strengthen the capacity of the Independent Investigative Panel so we can finally bring truth, justice and reparations to the generations of victims that have suffered.”

Dr Uju Agomoh, Executive Director, PRAWA and Member, Independent Investigation Panel on Alleged Human Rights Violations by Nigeria Police Force Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and Other Specialised Units

More information

From Torture Journal

Addressing a forgotten struggle: Victims of enforced disappearance in Africa

The efficacy of traditional cultural practices in the rehabilitation of victims of torture in Nigeria’s Niger Delta

Hear from Abosede Omowumi Babatunde, Senior Lecturer, University of Ilorin, Nigeria on her research and paper on ‘The Efficacy of Traditional Practices in Rehabilitating Victims of Torture in Nigeria.’


UPR Briefing note: Nigeria