For the second time within months, Amnesty International (has) thumbed down Nigeria in the performance of its (Nigeria’s) key law enforcement agency. It is a relief that at long last, the outside world is concerned about extra-judicial murder almost routinely if not statutorily by Nigeria Police.
This is an issue which can never be belated because not only have civilians been helpless over the years over the state crime of judicial murder by Nigeria police, but also the more the crime rises, the more seemingly incorrigible are those armed to protect us.
Unlike in the past, no official effort has been made to deny or challenge the report of Amnesty International on extra-judicial police killings in Nigeria because there is nothing to dispute in the report. And if anything is to be disputed, it will be the low figure cited by Amnesty International. Regularly, civil rights organisations, trade unions, student unions and other similar groups always agitate against the lawlessness of Nigeria Police. There is a particular pattern of the extra-judicial killings by Nigeria Police.
At anytime of such crime, the instant information from the police would be that the culprit had been arrested, put in guardroom and dismissed from the Force, even before trial, which angry Nigerians would be promised. That is the end as no trial ever comes thereafter.
By the way, no Inspector-General of Police in any memory escaped that stain. In fact, on the very day current Inspector-General Mohammed Abubakar was being appointed at Aso Rock, a policeman was shooting dead a motor driver at Ojoo, Ibadan for refusing to bribe his executioner. On-lookers descended on the policeman and were to lynch him unless he took the corpse of his victim to the mortuary.
That is the state of self-help to which frustrated citizens have been forced by the licentious acts of Nigerian policemen who commit murder as if part of their criteria for promotion in the service. What else could have caused police murder of a responsible young husband/father who, at the request of his wife and children one night, went to a fast food joint along Lekki expressway and on the way home was stopped by armed policemen at a check point by one of the roundabouts demanding bribe?
Bayo Awosika would not give, as he was not bound to, and for that reason, the man was shot dead? So disturbing was this particular case that Lagos State Government had to institute a Coroner’s Inquest at which every evidence was led to identify the policeman who shot the deceased.
The order was then given for the policeman to be arrested and produced. Till today, police authorities are still to obey that order. There was the case of Apo Six at Abuja some five years ago, if not more. Six happy-feeling Nigerians, five males and one female, were driving about at night and were accosted by a police officer and his men.
These police officers murdered their otherwise innocent captives and routinely labelled them armed robbers. But relatives of the deceased fought every obstacle to establish that the deceased were all of good reputation killed in cold blood by the police.
The investigation thereby forced, made the prosecution of the police criminal murderers inevitable. Midway through the investigations, police announced that a key figure among the accused, supposed to be a serving policeman, had escaped and till today, he remains free in Nigeria. Meanwhile, the trial of police murderers of Apo Six is still to be concluded, following request after request for adjournment by the (same police) prosecution. In numerous cases, Nigeria Police hardly arrest suspects alive.
The suspects are always displayed dead and alleged by the police to have been killed “…in a shootout…” after shooting at police first. Such corpses of alleged criminals are always decorated routinely with arms, rounds of ammunition and charms purported to have been found on them. Victims of police extra judicial killings are regularly in public transport at checkpoints on the highways or within our cities.
There had been numerous cases of innocent passengers falling fatal victims of police stray bullets shot at drivers who refused to stop at such check points, especially in cities like Lagos, Ibadan, Port Harcourt, Enugu, Asaba, Benin, Onitsha, Aba, Umuahia, Owerri, etc. Drivers’ refusal to stop at supposed checkpoints is their way of avoiding the bribe often extorted by the policemen at the checkpoints.
In any case, which law mandated police to be collecting bribes or to shoot at drivers in major cites or even on inter-state highways?
To be fair to the current Inspector General Abubakar, the first clearance he carried out on his appointment was the removal of all police checkpoints throughout the country, erstwhile major scenes of police extra-judicial murders. Where Nigeria Police is not directly involved in clear extra-judicial murder, the law enforcement agency is (not so) artful in playing the role of accomplice in covering up murders when convenient.
A retired Deputy Inspector-General of Police left his home somewhere in the country, armed with his revolver and headed for a hotel in Ilorin, Kwara State, where he alleged, his wife was committing adultery. The retired DIG was sane up to time of murdering his wife.
But immediately after the murder and the accused was arrested, Nigeria Police came up with the alibi that the murderer was mentally ill. Would the murderer have been so saved from prosecution if he were an ordinary civilian? Is execution without trial the penalty for adultery? Must an aggrieved party in any dispute assume the roles of complainant, prosecutor and judge in his own matter? A retired Air Force chief murdered one of his domestic staff for allegedly stealing his money (foreign exchange).
Till today, Nigeria Police has never been concerned. Mr. Olaitan Oyerinde, one of the close aides of Edo State governor Adams Oshiomhole, was murdered in his house in Benin City. This particular case should have attracted the special attention of Nigeria Police for the necessary prosecution. Instead, it was the same Governor Oshiomhole, who took the podium at a public summit on national security to accuse police of complicity in what he (Oshiomhole) called conspiracy to cover up those who killed one of his personal staff.
Amnesty International’s report on extra-judicial killings by Nigeria Police will not be diminished by the usual excuse of lack of equipment or lack of motivation. Such handicaps have nothing to do with either criminal murder by police personnel or cover-up of the murder of Apo Six or Governor Oshiomhole’s aide.
Multiply these cases hundreds of times and that is Nigeria Police. As to be expected, when pushed to the wall, victims occasionally react, be they ordinary civilians or co-military. Defying all risks and odds, civilians burn down police stations if not policemen while soldiers react like mad dogs when retaliating against the police. A conspirator in covering up a crime is as guilty as the chief accused.