When will police brutality end?
A Nigerian man, Kolade Johnson, was killed on Sunday after being hit by a stray bullet fired by police officers during a raid in his neighbourhood in Lagos.
There were reports that the killers were from the notorious Nigerian police’s Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad, FSARS. But a police source at the Lagos State Police command revealed it was a detective with the anti-cultism unit who fired the bullet that killed the man.
The Convener of the #EndSARS Movement, Segun Awosanya, said the killers were men of the Special Anti Cultism Squad from the Gbagada station.
“The SACS/SAKS have continued in impunity must be shut down,” Awosanya said in a tweet on Monday.
Why was FSARS fingered in the death of Johnson? The answer is simple: the squad’s notoriety defies human comprehension and reeks of outright incompetence, deliberate violations of human rights, extra-judicial killings and unbridled extortion.
Such was the infamy of the special squad that it spurned a social-political movement that pushed for its abolition.
The intense outcry over the brutality of Nigeria’s notorious special anti-robbery squad seemed to get the attention of the country’s authorities when Yemi Osinbajo, the vice president, ordered the overhaul of the squad last August.
After the order of Osinbajo, the SARS was renamed as Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (FSARS) and were ordered not to attend to civil or commercial matters again, but attend strictly to armed robbery and kidnapping cases.
There were scores of reported cases of police brutality, youths corralled together on social media to share their torrid tales of extortion and wanton abuse in the hands of law enforcement agents meant to protect them.
From being harassed, threatened and led at gunpoint to empty your bank accounts to the near-death experience of a drunk officer discharging a live firearm indiscriminately.
Shortly after his appointment in January, Mohammed Adamu, the Inspector-General of Police, dismantled the reform, returning SARS to its old format of being a unit under a state police commissioner.
Police reform advocates criticised Adamu’s action as a drawback to citizens-led reform that kicked off under the former IGP Idris.
Barely two months after the IGP’s order, the rascality of the men of the Nigeria police was again in the public eye.
Since the protocol review, there have been fewer complaints of brutality from the unit. However, there are valid fears the Special Anti Cultism Squad could become the latest police unit involved in citizen brutality and extortion.
According to one of the eyewitness simply identified as Emenike, the officers had come to the area to arrest a man sporting a dreadlocked hair.
He alleged that they started shooting sporadically after the arrest, only for one of the bullets to hit Johnson.
The victim was subsequently rushed to the general hospital in Ikeja, where he was confirmed dead.
Almost 24 hours after the attack, no official statement on the death of the innocent Nigerian.
“It is also illegal for SACS/SAKS to do this but they have been acting with impunity based on the backing of some bigwigs within the system but their end has come with the death of Kolade JOHNSON,” Awosanya added.
“If we sanitize the system people need not bother about being apprehensive when they see security agents. The police are meant to protect lives and property not abduct, torture, extort and kill our youth. The punishment for this need to be capital. It must become a state crime!
“They can’t deny the killers are from Gbagada. We have witnesses who were there when it happened. They took these people to Gbagada after they murdered JOHNSON for extortion. They will testify. The SACS/SAKS have continued in impunity & must be shut down.
“Unfortunately not many know the difference between SARS and SACS/SAKS. I’m telling you authoritatively that SARS don’t do indiscriminate raids officially since the protocol review. If you see any, report them for armed robbery and kidnapping. It is illegal.”
The police have a Public Complaint Rapid Response Unit that receives complaints and feedback from the public from social media channels, e-mail and SMS. In the first quarter of 2018, the unit received 884 complaints, resolved 750 but just two officers were dismissed despite the number of complaints.
There has to be tougher deterrents, very public sanctions, jail terms that discourage members of the police from brutality and corruption.
With assistance by Solomon Fowowe
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