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Kolade Johnson’s death triggers outrage, #EndSARS campaign

By Odita Sunday and Ngozi Egenuka
02 April 2019   |   3:08 am
It took the death of Kolade Johnson on Sunday evening, the fourth extra-judicial killings by the police in Lagos State in the month of March to elicit a national outrage and the return of the #EndSARS campaign to public consciousness. The month of March 2019 had recorded the most number of reported killings by the…

Nigerian youth Kolade Johnson killed by stray bullet

It took the death of Kolade Johnson on Sunday evening, the fourth extra-judicial killings by the police in Lagos State in the month of March to elicit a national outrage and the return of the #EndSARS campaign to public consciousness.

The month of March 2019 had recorded the most number of reported killings by the police in the country in recent times. It began on March 2 with some trigger-happy police officers shooting a bus driver dead in Mosan, Ayobo area of Lagos for refusing to part with money.

Two weeks after, a teenage girl was killed by a stray bullet in a shootout between policemen and some cultists in Ikorodu, while on March 25, last week Thursday, an Okada rider was shot dead in Kilo, Surulere area of Lagos.

The victim, identified as Ademola Moshood, was a few blocks away from his house, when he was shot by an officer attached to Soloki Police Station, Surulere.

In what would end an inglorious month for the police, a young man, identified as Kolade Johnson, was reportedly murdered on Sunday, March 31 by operatives of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) who had visited his area in an unmarked commercial bus to arrest one of the boys of a major music producer who was wearing dreadlocks.

According to witnesses, the police suspected the man was a criminal because he was wearing dreadlocks. It was later learnt that the team carried out at least 12 indiscriminate arrests of young men with curly hair and dreadlocks on Sunday evening.

Events soon took a drastic turn and in an attempt to disperse a crowd, which had gathered during the raid, one of the policemen shot dead Johnson, a resident of Onipetesi in the Mangoro area of Lagos, who was trying to leave the scene while watching the English Premier League match between Liverpool and Tottenham. The incident led to the blocking of the busy Oshodi-Abeokuta Expressway as residents protested against the murder.

After allegedly picking up their target, the policemen allegedly started shooting sporadically, leading to a stray bullet hitting Johnson, said to be an only child who was watching a football match.

An eyewitness had disclosed that Johnson, who recently became a father, died before they arrived Ikeja General Hospital, which sparked protest that stretched to Mangoro Cement and Dopemu areas of the state.

Up until Sunday’s latest incident, the police had moved on, sometimes with denials of culpability, but yesterday, Nigerians took to the social media to condemn the murder of Johnson and repeated police brutality.

Coming under various trending hashtags that include: Kolade Johnson, #EndSARSNow #PoliceReforms #EndPoliceBrutality and #JusticeForKolade, the discussion generated scathing remarks on the police action, with celebrities joining in the conversion to condemn the killings.

The Amnesty International (AI) has also lambasted the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) unit of the police, saying the call to scrap SARS and reform the police had not been taking seriously. It said efforts put in place by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government had failed even as it blamed the judiciary for failing to punish police torture.

Specifically, the human rights group said the reforms Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo initiated during the heat of the campaign against SARS are not working.

In August when President Muhammadu Buhari went on vacation abroad, Osinbajo, who acted on his behalf, had ordered the reorganization of SARS. This had earned him commendation then but the killing of Johnson has sparked yet another outrage against SARS.

Responding in a statement yesterday, Amnesty International said the government must investigate the killing of Johnson. “Kolade Johnson is the latest victim of the SARS police unit, which has become notorious for extrajudicial killings, torture and extortion,” Osai Ojigho, director of Amnesty International Nigeria, said.

“This appears to be an unlawful killing, which must be impartially and thoroughly investigated, with any officers suspected of criminal responsibility for wrongdoing brought to justice in fair trial before an ordinary civilian court. It is shameful that more than two years since Amnesty International highlighted crimes under international law and human rights violations by SARS, these shocking incidents continue unabated. All subsequent government pledges to reform SARS, including one by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in August last year, have amounted to nothing.”

Also, the convener of the #EndSARS campaign, Segun Awosanya, has vowed that Johnson “will not die in vain”. Awosanya, popularly known as Segalink, made the vow in series of tweets on Twitter yesterday.

He wrote: “Now that the recalcitrant Anti Cultism acting as Criminal Fashion @PoliceNG have started killing our youth in the bid to intimidate, abduct and rob them of money, we will ensure this is the last time that unit operates. The end has come. We implore the public to help us get the contact of any of the family members of the victim so that we can reach out and help them through this. This would be the end of the fashion police. ”

A musician, Ugochukwu Stephens, otherwise known as Ruggedman, was yesterday blocked by the head of Public Complaints Rapid Response Unit, Abayomi Shogunle, for lambasting the SARS unit and condemning the killing of Johnson. Ruggedman, who is also a police ambassador, had gone on social media to ask Nigerians to take to the streets. He had also lambasted SARS officers for killing Johnson and tagged Shogunle to get a response from him. But the artiste was blocked on Twitter by the police officer.

However, three police officers have been taken into custody in connection with the fatal shooting. According to the spokesman of the Lagos State police command, Bala Elkana, a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), the team who did the kill is now in custody.
“At about 5:05p.m. the command received a distress call that Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway has been blocked by some angry youths who were protesting against the shooting of one Kolade Johnson of No.1 Beco Street, Onipetesi, Mangoro bus-stop by a team of policemen from the Anti-Cultism unit.
“A team of policemen from the Rapid Response Squads and Metro patrol were promptly drafted to the scene. The account of eyewitnesses helped in identifying the team, which fled the scene immediately after the incident. Members of the team suspected to be involved in the shooting have since been arrested and are currently in police custody undergoing interrogation.
“They will be subjected to internal disciplinary procedures, and may be prosecuted in conventional court if implicated by ongoing investigation. Meanwhile, the Commissioner of Police Lagos State, CP Zubairu Muazu, calls for calm, assuring that justice will prevail in this case. The Commissioner of Police also condoles with the family, friends and well-wishers of Kolade Johnson. 
“Members of the public who have complaints on the activities of Anti Cultism Squad or any of our police teams should call the following numbers 08063299264, 08065154338 and 08060357795”.