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Extra-judicial Killings: Push for police reforms heightens amid rising brutality

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[FILES] Police boss, Adamu Mohammed

Amid the increasing spate of insecurity in the country, Nigerians now bear the extra burden of making sure they are safe while dealing with operatives of the Nigerian Police Force (NPF), the security agency saddled with the primary responsibility of protecting the lives and property of the citizens and maintaining law and order.

At the slightest provocation, some personnel of the force brutalise the citizens in a manner that negates the ethics of their job and calls to question the claim that the police are their friends. This category of policemen who appear eager to snuff life out of fellow citizens without any just cause have sent a lot of Nigerians to their early graves.

In this year alone, the police have extra-judicially killed four persons in Lagos State, an average of one killing per month. The Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu, revealed this when he recently paid a courtesy visit to Governor Akinwumi Ambode over rising cases of extra-judicial killings in the state.

He said: “From January to April 2019, Lagos State has recorded four incidents of misuse of firearms, which have resulted in extra-judicial killings of young citizens of this country and injury to others. More worrisome is that two of these incidents occurred within the last two weeks.”

One of the two most recent cases he referred to happened on Saturday, April 13, 2019 about 7am in Apapa area of the state when a team of policemen attached to Trinity Police Station shot one Ada Ifeanyi, 20, and her beau, 32-year-old Emmanuel Akomafuwa at Akpiri Street, Olodi Apapa. Initial reports had it that the duo were returning from a nightclub but the police debunked it.

The denial notwithstanding, Ifeanyi reportedly died on the spot while Akomafuwa was still receiving treatment at an undisclosed hospital for the serious injury he sustained as a result of the shooting.

Also on March 31, 2019, a team of policemen from the Anti-Cultism unit killed one Kolade Johnson while he was watching a football match in his Onipetesi, Mangoro neighbourhood of the state. This particular incident caused so much outrage that President Muhammadu Buhari issued a statement to commiserate with the family of the deceased and declare that his killers won’t go unpunished.

Outside Lagos State, reports of extra-judicial killings by the police abound. In the early hours of Wednesday, March 20, this year, a policeman allegedly beat up and killed one Ogar Jombo, a two-star officer of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) for violating traffic rules in Nyanya, Abuja. One of his children was quoted as saying: “Please, don’t kill my father; leave my father alone” but the plea fell on deaf ears.

Five days ago, a hunters association in Yola, Adamawa State capital stormed the famous Mubi roundabout and other major roads to protest the alleged killing of one of their members by the police.

Police personnel attached to the Doubeli Divisional Police Station in the state allegedly killed the victim, Ali Abdullai, during interrogation. He was allegedly tortured after he was accused of stealing a car. He subsequently went into a coma and was rushed to the state specialist hospital, where he later died, sources said. According to the secretary of the hunters association, Jibrin Modi, the police ‘mistakenly’ arrested the victim because he bore a similar name to the actual suspect they were after whose name was Abdullahi Ali.

These are just a few instances of how the police have become aggressors of the people instead of their protectors. And one could rightly guess there are many unreported cases. So, to many Nigerians the police have become ferocious wolves in sheep’s clothing.

Most intriguing is the fact that in all the reported cases, the police high command owned up to the crime. But they always assure members of the public that “the police officers were already facing internal disciplinary actions at the Command’s headquarters and if found wanting, they would be prosecuted in conventional court for murder.”

In fairness, some of the errant officers have been dismissed and subjected to trial for murder but Nigerians are at a loss how the force has degenerated lately.

Is it that the force has become an all comers affair, or the personnel are longer trained before being posted out for duty, or their welfare has become too poor and they are transferring their aggressions on Nigerians? The dominant belief among Nigerians is that something is definitely wrong somewhere. As they recount their ordeals in the hands of policemen in this report, they call for far-reaching measures that would stem the degeneration and uplift the force as a responsible agency.

The Nigerian Senate passed the Nigerian Police Trust Fund Bill. Photo/Twitter/NGRSenate


Police Allegedly Kill, Bury Victim In Yola
From Emmanuel Ande, Yola 

In Adamawa State, the police have lately turned their guns against helpless civilians. The reinvented Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (F-SARS) has been allegedly perpetrating the killings. 

This week alone in Yola, the killer cops snuffed life out of two helpless civilians, even when the killing of five young men in Gombi Local Government Area of the state by the police was yet to be resolved by the State Command.

The two young men, who were arrested over alleged theft, died in police custody. One of them, Emmanuel Nicks, 24, had gone to watch Champions League match last Tuesday, around Wuro Chekke in Yola Town and never returned home.

According to family sources, his mother spoke to him last around 10.00pm on that fateful day. It was after three days of searching for him that the family learnt that the police had killed their son and his body was deposited at the mortuary of the state Specialist Hospital by the killer cop.

The father of the deceased, Nicks Kaino, alleged that there was a cover up by the State Police Command because, “the police officer, Ahmed Suleiman, who deposited the corpse at the mortuary later went and retrieved the corpse for burial without the knowledge of the family.”

He added: “I was not contacted by the police over my son’s death. The police are conspiring to shield the killer cop, Ahmed Suleiman, the police officer, who deposited his body at the mortuary. Instead, the police are trying to frame the death on three vigilante men, who claimed they arrested Nisa with a jerrycan of diesel close to a telecom mast at Wuro Chekke, in Yola town and handed him over to the police alive.”

The second death involved Abdullahi Maimatarba, a father of five who also died at the state Specialist Hospital as a result of police brutality. Abdullahi, according to his family, died in chains on the second day of his arrest and interrogation by the police.

His wife, who spoke with journalists in tears, said Abdullahi was arrested by the police at his residence about 1.00am and taken to Doubelli Police Station. She alleged the police tortured him into a state of coma before taking to the Specialist Hospital, where he eventually died.

Business activities were temporarily shutdown when news of Abdullahi’s death filtered into town last Monday about 4.00pm as armed youths took over major streets in Yola protesting his murder by the police.

Imo: Families Of Victims Still Crying For Justice
From Charles Ogugbuaja, Owerri

In Imo State, residents are worried that families of victims of extra-judicial killings in the state are still crying for justice till date. It could be recalled that in January 2018, some cops in the state killed an enterprising young man from Okigwe area of the state.

The deceased had been actively assisting the community in building several projects and offering scholarships to indigent ones before the ugly incident occurred. But after the incident, the police allegedly dubbed him a kidnapper.

The Guardian’s findings showed that the deceased’s family and the community had been demanding for justice on the matter more than a year after the incident to no avail.

Also, two young boys were allegedly killed by the security men attached to Governor Rochas Okorocha at the Ejemekwuru, Oguta Road, about a month to the last general election. Okorocha was on his way to a campaign rally when the boys said to be in their early 20s attempted to protest poor infrastructure in their community. But the trigger-happy security operatives in the governor’s convoy immediately sent them to their early graves.

The Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) in the state, Orlando Ikeokwu, had told The Guardian that the police were not involved in the shooting, maintaining that it could be the handiwork of soldiers guarding the area. The matter appears to have been forgotten today even as the families of the deceased demand for justice.

Also, it is being alleged that the police could not account for many criminal suspects who were apprehended for offences, ranging from armed robbery, kidnapping and others, as they were said to have “gone to Abuja”. Many residents of the state interpret such explanations to mean that such suspects had been killed.

Speaking on the way out of the problem, Programme Director of the Development Dynamics (DD), a non-governmental group, Dr. Jude Ohanele, told The Guardian that the problem of police shooting at people could be handled if the nation opts for state police and even local council police.

According to him, the three tiers of government should be allowed to establish their own police force as a means of curbing extra-judicial killings. Ohanele argued that this was the practice in advanced countries like the Unites States, maintaining that the present system was a product of colonial rule.

Buhari


Ondo Youths, CISLAC Urge Disbandment Of Police Ad-hoc Squads
From Oluwaseun Akingboye, Akure

ALHOUGH there was no recent incident of extra-judicial killing by personnel of Nigerian Police Force in Ondo State, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and youths in the state have had cause to protest against the excesses and unruly behaviours of the security agencies in the state.

The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) during one of the protests demanded an overhaul of the police force in the country.

The Executive Director of CISLAC, Mr. Auwal Ibrahim Musa, attributed the unruly attitudes of the security agencies to poor intelligent gathering, inefficiency and inadequate response capacity.

He therefore called for the operational review and re-alignment of the police to accommodate well-defined rule of engagement in its dealing with civil cases.

Similarly, youths in the state under the aegis of Social Intervention Advocacy Foundation (SIAF) decried incessant killings by officers of the force.

In one of their peaceful protests against extra-judicial killings in Akure, the state capital, they displayed placards with different inscriptions such asd: “We are tired of police brutality,” “End SAKS, SACS and SARS now,” “Reform the Nigerian Police,” “We are tired of being killed like cows;” “Our lives are in danger,” among others.

The State Ambassador of the group, Mr. Olufemi Fasipe, urged the police to respect the sanctity of lives of Nigerians, calling for the scrapping of the ad-hoc squads within the police. 

The ‘End SARS’ campaigners, who recounted their sour experiences with the police, insisted that “all killer squads of the police force be scrapped and their responsibilities transferred to proper structures within the police.”  

Kwara, Oyo Residents Bemoan Police Harassment
From Abiodun Fagbemi (Ilorin) and Rotimi Agboluaje (Ibadan) 

IN Kwara State, the last time a case of extra-judicial killing was recorded in the state was on May 8, 2011. The killing had occurred when a truck driver allegedly failed to stop his vehicle when ordered by the police to do so during a stop and search exercise along Ilorin/Ajasse Ipo Express Way. 

Residents of the state are, however, concerned about the harassment of motorists in the state by policemen and the recent surge in extra-judicial killings by the police across Nigeria.

This is also the case in Oyo State, where residents have begun to ask if the police are actually friends of the Nigerian public.

An Ilorin-based constitutional lawyer, Abeny Mohammed (SAN), said that lack of training of the nation’s police officers on proper handling of weapons could not be divorced from the menace. 

He also believes that the absence of diligent prosecution of the officers involved in the crime by their fellow police personnel contribute to the rising cases of extra-judicial killings in the country.

Mohammed said: “No one has the right to take the life of another except by sentence by a proper court. In most cases of the extra-judicial killings by the police in Nigeria, sanctity of human lives as enshrined under the United Nations Charter on Fundamental Human Rights had been openly defiled.”

A Professor of Behavioural Science at University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital (UITH), who craved anonymity, canvassed psychiatric tests for all serving police officers and new intakes as a panacea to curbing extra-judicial killings by the police in the country. 

An Ibadan-based activist, Comrade Angel Folorunsho, said there were no recent reported case of extra-judicial killings in the state, but noted that there was the need to humanise police operations in order to eradicate the menace in other parts of the country. 

His words: “There has been no known police brutality leading to extra-judicial killings in Oyo State in recent times to me. Police brutality is rampant in Nigeria given the recent killings in Lagos of one Mr Johnson. Policing is supposed to be citizens-friendly in a humane society.

Even criminals should go through due process rather than being given jungle justice, let alone the law-abiding citizens now being felled by the bullets of trigger-happy police officer. 

“We need to humanise the police system by ridding it of drugs. Most of the killer police officers committed their crimes under the influence of psychotropic substance abuse. Consistent enlightenment campaigns need to be stepped up in the barracks. Any drunk police officer caught on duty should be severely punished. 
Human Rights defence should form part of the police study. Misuse of gun should be curtailed to avoid accidental killing. Police-citizen peace building relationships should be intensified.”

Folorunsho called for the payment of compensation to families of victims of extra-judicial killings by the Police Service Commission, adding that the force should be decentralised to relieve the federal police of pressure and archaic method of service delivery.

Plateau: Residents Lament Police Brutality
From Isa Abdulsalami Ahovi, Jos

ALHOUGH Plateau State has not recorded any new case of extra-judicial killing by the police of late, residents lament excessive extortion of money from motorists in the state.

An eyewitness to an incident where a truck driver was shot dead by policemen for refusing to give them N100 narrated the gory situation to The Guardian.

According to the eyewitness who refused to give his identity, the police stopped the truck on Bauchi Road last year.

“They asked for money. The driver came down from the truck and opened the truck to show them that he was not carrying anything.

“But the police insisted and when the driver did not play ball, thinking that the police were playing with him, they fired him and he died immediately.  Whatever happened after, the man had died. In this circumstance, can we say the police is our friend?” he queried.

A commercial driver who plies Jos to Shendam and Langtang in the Southern part of the state, Bala Idris, said policemen in the state see being posted to the routes as a licence to extort money from motorists.

He said: “Sometimes, you come across up to 30 check points from Jos to Langtang. There was this fateful day I was travelling with my passengers. I was stopped along the road. There was no roadblock mounted there at all. They just stopped at that corner like that.

“They asked for my particulars. I gave them. They checked all other details about my vehicle but could not find any fault. But the next thing they said was that I should settle them. I told them that the money I collected from my passengers was not enough to fuel the vehicle. They then told me to park well.

“After parking for a long time, I pleaded with them to allow us to go. The policeman got annoyed and corked his gun to possibly fire me. But the next thing he did was to fire in the air. I went down flat on my stomach. I couldn’t move until they finished their on-the-spot operation and left.”

Nigerians No Longer Respect The Police
By Maria Diamond

Many residents of Lagos State who spoke with The Guardian on the increasing spate of extra-judicial killings in the state said the police have lost the respect and accolade they are supposed to get from members of the public due to their professional shortfalls.

A resident who simply gave her name as Isioma said: “The Nigerian police force should be scrapped and the Army should be responsible for the security of the citizens. Why? Because there is no amount of preaching that would change them. The problem is from their root and it is now in their genes. Even the scripture says if the foundation is destroyed what can the righteous do.

“There is no righteous policeman in this country especially the ones in Lagos. For as little as N100, a policeman would kill a commercial bus driver or okada rider and lie that they are armed robbers. Nigerian policeman not only takes bribe but also tell lies too.

“About three years ago, I witnessed a policeman here in Lagos chase an okada rider into a drainage. The young man hit his head on the bricks and was unconscious. He also broke one of his legs and before people could look around, the policeman and his team had fled. Their thinking was that the man died when he fell into the drainage and became unconscious. I was one of those who revived him and took him to the hospital. So, my position has remained, it’s either they re
lieve all the policemen of their duty and recruit new ones or scrap the entire police force.”

Another resident, Mr. Yunusa Olumefe said: “The Nigerian Police are no longer respected by citizens and they are solely responsible for that as they most times display derogatory behaviour and perpetrate inhumane acts. If you ask me, a Nigerian policeman is almost worse than the regular hoodlum you see at the bus stop.

A Nigerian policeman would kill or cause accident on the road just to collect his N100 bribe from vehicles, and God help the person who finds himself at their station as they would not only bully you but will torture you illegally. They act as though they are above the law and in this country they just might be.”

IGP Talks Tough
As Nigerians lament the excesses of police personnel in the country, the Inspector General of Police, Adamu Mohammed, has warned that all officers involved in cases of extra-judicial killings would be charged to court and made to face the full wrath of the law.

Speaking at Lagos House in Alausa, Ikeja, recently, when he paid a courtesy visit to the state Governor, Akinwumi Ambode over recent cases of extra-judicial killings recorded in the State, Mohammed said the affected officers had been arrested and tried internally, but that they would also face criminal prosecution for the act, which according to him, was against ethics of the Force.

The IGP, who was accompanied on the visit by the police topbrass, said it was on record that police officers in the state had been performing creditably well, but noted that the activities of few unscrupulous ones were denting the good work of others.

“I came to pay a courtesy visit to the Governor because I am in Lagos State to see the officers and men of the Nigerian Police. I came to talk to them on good behaviour and to remind them of ethics of the job. We are to serve members of the public; we are not their masters, we are their servants.

“The officers and men in Lagos State have been doing a lot of good job in fighting crime and they have been succeeding but the acts of few officers out of many in Lagos State are denting the good works that others have done.

“Recently, we have had some overzealous officers who went out of their way in the course of performing their duties. They shot a lady and she died and we felt that that is not acceptable; it is unbecoming and I had to come down to talk to officers and men to remind them of their duties and to tell them that anybody that goes out of his way to commit extra-judicial killing, such a person is on his own and he has to face the wrath of the law and in this particular case, the officers involved have been arrested. They have been tried in our internal way of dealing with such issue and at the same time, they would be charged to court,” Mohammed said.

He added: “From January to April 2019, Lagos State has recorded four incidents of misuse of firearms, which have resulted in extra-judicial killings of young citizens of this country and injury to others. More worrisome is that two of these incidents occurred within the last two weeks.

“Aside negating our professional calling, extra-judicial acts of any description or level by any police personnel is an unacceptable anomaly that creates disdain between the citizens and their police and widens the trust gap between them.”


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