The Reign Of Extrajudicial Killings By Police Officers In Nigeria
At about 2pm of 25th December, 2018, i was at the Nigeria Police Headquarters at Ikot Akpan Abia, Akwa Ibom State to secure a bail of a friend. What i saw at the Police Station was so appalling, sickening and quite unbecoming of the police officers.
A young man was dragged on the ground, seriously beaten with batons and rifle; he was already bleeding on the head. One of the officers was shouting “say a word again let me kill you and nobody will ask”. Killing without anybody asking? I was dumfounded on such torture and malicious utterance. Who knows what followed!
On 14th day of April, 2019, it was reported by Sahara Reporters that “Two young lovers, identified as Ada Ifeanyi and Emmanuel Akomafuwa, were returning from the nightclub early on Saturday morning when they were waved down by the Police. Akomafuna, the driver, did not immediately stop; so when the Police chased him down, they shot both of them”.
According to the report, Sahara Reporters subsequently confirmed that Akomafuwa eventually died at the hospital while the young lady Adaobi Ojide died instantly on the spot; officers involved had been arrested, detained and subsequently dismissed.
On Sunday 31st March, 2019, Kolade was alleged to have been shot by a member of Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (F-SARS), while he was watching a Premier League fixture between Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur in Lagos.
As reported by Daily Post, Kolade’s foster father, Alhaji Remi Lukman while speaking to newsmen at his residence on Tuesday 2nd April, 2019, said the deceased was deliberately shot by trigger-happy policemen, adding that stray bullets couldn’t have penetrated his body twice.
Johnson’s death has since sparked widespread criticism, with a renewed call on the Federal Government to end the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (F-SARS) unit of the police but unfortunately, the public outcry is not heard.
Again, on March 20th, 2019, the news of how an Assistant Superintendent, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Jumbo Ogah Ochigbo, was allegedly beaten to death before his wife and two children by men of the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) for violating traffic rules permeated the media.
The Guardian gathered that gathered that he made a U-turn at the wrong spot and was flagged by the police officers on duty in the area. Ochigbo, who identified himself as an officer, pleaded that he was rushing to drop his children in school.
According to the report, the deceased’s wife and children intervened and pleaded on his behalf. He was, however, allegedly beaten to a stupor and died in the process. One of his children was quoted as saying: “Please, don’t kill my father; leave my father alone.”
“The NSCDC officer was confirmed dead at the Asokoro District Hospital, Abuja. The hospital was thrown into pandemonium as sympathizers started protesting, stating that policemen attempted dumping the body so they could escape” the report added.
Do we still need more examples? These are not the only infractions by the Nigeria Police as several others go unreported while others abounding the media are unreferenced in this article. It is indeed pathetic.
With these arbitrariness and recklessness that is sluggishly and seemingly becoming part of the police system; it troubles the minds of many whether extrajudicial killings are part of the functions and duties of the Nigeria Police.
Section 214 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended establishes “The Nigeria Police Force”. Section 214 (2)(b) of the Constitution confers the National Assembly with the power to make laws, setting out the powers and duties of the Police Force.
Consequent to the aforementioned provision of the Constitution, the Police Act, Cap P19, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 was put to birth. The Act clearly defines the scope of general and specific duties of the Police Force.
Section 4 of the Police Act state generally the duties of the police to include preservation of law and order, protection of life and property, due enforcement of laws and regulations, detection of crimes and apprehension of offenders among others.
In fact, the duty of the Police to ‘protect of life and property, preserve law and order’ under section 4 of the Police Act is equivalent to the primary duty of government under section 14(2)(b) of the Constitution which states that “security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose government”.
Deducing from the above, the Police Force as an agency of the Government is saddled with the duty of preserving life and properties of the citizens, safeguarding their Fundamental Rights under chapter four of the Constitution but sadly, today reverse is the case, we are from what is expected.
Instead of safeguarding our inalienable right to life as enshrined under section 33 of the Constitution, the Police Force is now an instrument of breaking the law it was meant to preserve and enforce, killing Nigerians unlawfully and without apology. What an unfortunate irony!
Sadly, among the provisions of the law we have examined above, incessant extrajudicial killing is never mentioned as part of the duties of the police but we keep seeing them on daily basis. It is almost a new way to identify our Police Force.
With the current trend, we will not be surprise if officers of the Nigeria Police Force wake up armed, move into public schools or market and start shooting, knowing fully well that they will be defended no matter how indefensible their actions maybe.
It is somewhat embarrassing, ridiculous and ludicrous that after each killing, the best the Force will do is to issue a “Press Release” denying the killing or consoling the family of the victim. If the culprits are arrested or dismissed, the song of justice being done will be sung. One wonders whether the dismissal or arrest will bring the dead back to life. Will it cater for the families that their breadwinners were killed? It is indeed worrisome.
Nnamdi Aduba in this book “The Right to Life under the Constitution, The law, the courts and Reality” while referencing Akintokunbo Adejumo in his work “The Nigeria Police and Public Safety” published in 18/01/2011 has this to say:
“It is a most welcome and eye opening report which really further exposed the Nigeria Police Force as one of the most if not the most, incompetent, inefficient, corrupt, brutal security organisation in the world”.
He continues: “in fact the Nigerian Police Force no longer protects the Nigerian public rather, the Nigerian Public should be protected from men and women of this out dated and corrupt force, and therein lies the problem because who is going to protect the public?”
“The Nigerian Police Force is now a danger to public safety and security and the conduct of its personnel could be the cause of a major public health and mortality emergency on a national scale”.
Well-meaning Nigerians should all stand up to resist the arbitrary, unlawful, illegal, sickening, worrisome, brutal and indefensible killings that are permeating our country. Life is too precious and should not be taken for granted. It may not be you today, but do you know tomorrow?
We should no longer fool ourselves with the popular but sarcastic aphorism of “police is your friend”, they are not our friends. We seem to be safer in hands of touts and robbers than police officers.
With this article, i hereby call on the Inspector General of Police, the Commissioners of Police; Police Service Commission to unanimously find and hold these killings as being intolerable and hideous to us, thereby issuing directives that will combat present tragedy we found ourselves.
Enough is enough. Injury to one is injury to all.
Edikan Ekanem is an Abuja based Legal Practitioner, a Contemporary Writer and a Columnist. He can be reached @ [email protected]