The motto of the police is Police is Your Friend. However, there have been cases of officers of Nigeria Police Force engaging in extortion, arbitrary arrest, detention, and torture and sometimes killing of innocent Nigerians. PAUL OKAH in this piece chronicles recent cases and seeks to know when the menace will end.
It is boldly inscribed on the walls of every police station across the country that Police is Your Friend and that Bail Is Free, but recent happenings across the country suggest otherwise. To many Nigerians, especially those at the receiving end of police brutality, policemen have black hearts, just as represented by their black uniforms. This is as a result of the method they adopt in the investigation, arrest, torture and detention of suspects.
Despite the addition of blue colour to the uniform of some police officers, there appears not to be a change in the manner that they have been conducting themselves when it comes to relating with members of the public.
Established in 1930, with the vision statement “to make Nigeria safer and more secure for economic development and growth; to create a safe and secure environment for everyone living in Nigeria,” members of the Nigeria Police Force are expected to serve and protect citizens with integrity. However, the extortion, torture and killing of innocent Nigerians by police have let a lot to be desired.
While many policemen have been commended and honoured in different quarters by organisations for diligently exercising their duties, others have come under intense criticisms and have drawn the ire of Nigerians for extortion, torture and sometimes murder of innocent Nigerians.
Girl killed, lover injured in Lagos
On Saturday, April 13, 2019, a 20-year-old lady and a young man that was reportedly with her were both shot in Ajegunle area of Lagos.
According to Punch, operatives from the Trinity Police Station in Ajegunle, Lagos, were alleged to be responsible for the attacks. The policemen reportedly chased and caught up with them, and shot them.
Police identified the girl as 20-year-old Ada Ifeanyi, and her beau as 32-year-old Emmanuel Akomafuwa and gave the address of Ada Ifeanyi as No. 4B, Amusa Lane, Off Ojo Road Ajegunle; and that of Emmanuel Akomafuwa as No. 52, Babatunde Street, Olodi Apapa, at Akpiri Street, Olodi Apapa.
“The incident happened on Saturday, April 13, 2019, around 7am,” the police said, contrary to social media allegations that they were shot at night while they were returning from a club.
According to reports, Ada died as a result of the shooting, while Emmanuel, suspected to be her beau, sustained grievous injuries and doctors are currently battling to save his life.
In a tweet via his verified Twitter handle at midnight, Nigerian rapper and actor, Ruggedman @RuggedyBaba, alleged that “Men of the Nigerian Police have killed another innocent Nigerian youth.
“They killed a 20-year old girl in Ajegunle, while the boy that was with her was also shot and is fighting for his life.”
The tweet was accompanied by gruesome images of the victims.
Another individual, VyralClips, tweeted that operatives from the Trinity Police Station in Ajegunle were responsible.
NSCDC officer murdered in Abuja
On Wednesday, March 20, 2019, a Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) personnel from Benue state, Mr Jumbo Ogah, died after an altercation with members of the Nigeria Police Force at Nyanya in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
In an exclusive chat with Blueprint Weekend, the widow of the deceased, Mrs Ada Jumbo, said her husband died in the hands of policemen at Area F Police Station in Nyanya.
She said: “My husband, a 42-year-old, superintendent of the NSCDC, was taking me and our two sons to school when he was accosted by two traffic wardens at Nyanya. They beat him up and dragged him to Area F police station at Nyanya, where they forced my husband to sit on a plastic chair and anyone that just comes would hit my husband on the head. All these beatings were happening in front of my two children, with Emmanuel, my six-year-old boy, begging them not to kill his father.
“As they were beating and pushing him, he fell from the chair and collapsed on the floor. My husband was still lying on the floor when the DPO came in. But the DPO said that he was just pretending by lying on the floor and for the officers to bring a needle for him to use on my husband to see how long he would pretend. It was several minutes later that the DPO instructed for my husband to be taken to a hospital. However, he was confirmed dead by a doctor at Asokoro hospital. Thanks to the police, I am already a widow at just 36.
“They police even lied to the doctor that they picked my husband from the floor, whereas he died at the police station before he was taken to the hospital. Since the incident, the police authorities have not visited to commiserate with my family. However, I have watched a video clip of police spokesmen, Frank Mba, lying about circumstances surrounding my husband’s death.
“All I need is justice for my husband. I need justice. I need justice. As I am, I am not doing any good job to cater for my children. My husband had better plans for his children. I need justice or let government give me back my husband in one piece. It has not been funny living without my husband. I have not been myself.”
The Linda Igwetu killing in Abuja
Furthermore, on Wednesday, July 4, 2018, a few hours to her passing out of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme, a female corps member, Miss Linda Angela Igwetu, was shot dead by a Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS) officer identified as Benjamin Peters around Ceddi Plaza, Abuja.
She was said to have gone out with her friends as part of celebration for the completion of her one year service when the incident happened. The policeman who shot her said he heard ‘help’ in his subconscious mind and thought that she was being kidnapped and then shot at the convertible car she was in, with the bullet hitting her midriff. She died while awaiting treatment in the hospital, while the police claimed to have dismissed the trigger-happy police officer.
Linda’s sister reacts
In a chat with newsmen, the elder sister of Linda, Miss Chineye Igwetu, said her late sister had the ambition of becoming an air hostess before her life was cut short by the trigger-happy policeman.
She said: “My late sister l worked with an American company in Abuja. After work on that ill-fated day, she went out with her colleagues to celebrate the end of their last day at work, since the following day was their passing-out, having completed the National Youth Service Corps scheme. On their way around Ceddi Plaza, a policeman shot at their car, with the bullet piercing her midriff. She eventually died at the Abuja National Hospital.
“Our parents and other siblings are based in Lagos while she stayed with me in Abuja. She studied Geography at the University of Lagos. She was a very nice girl, third of four children and was full of life. She was a jolly good fellow filled with positive vibes, always friendly and ready to help. She desired to be an air hostess. She was even planning to attend an aviation school in January. Her dreams had been wasted and an innocent life was cut short.”
Kolade Johnson’s murder in Lagos
Another instance of the extrajudicial killing of innocent Nigerians by the police is the killing of Kolade Johnson in Lagos on Sunday, March 31, 2019. Johnson, 36, and a father of one, was shot by Inspector Ogunyemi Olalekan, a member of a team of policemen from Anti Cultism Unit, while watching a live football match between Liverpool and Tottenham at approximately 4:30 p.m. outside a Kingstine-Jo outlet in Mangoro, a transit neighbourhood near the international airport, Lagos.
The officers arrived at a fast-food and relaxation bar in an unpainted Danfo bus, and quickly moved to apprehend a man they thought was a criminal suspect.
Johnson’s killer nabbed, prosecuted
However, the police announced the arrest and dismissal of Inspector Olalekan, but discharged and acquitted another officer, Godwin Orji, a sergeant, who was also tried alongside Olalekan, but found not guilty of the offence.
A statement by the police spokesperson in Lagos, Bala Elkana, said Olalekan was found guilty of killing Johnson.
Police said the officer was guilty of “discreditable conduct by acting in a manner prejudicial to discipline and unbecoming of members of the Force by shooting and killing Kolade Johnson; unlawful and unnecessary exercise of authority by using unnecessary violence, by using AK 47 rifle on the deceased in total neglect to the provisions of Force Order 237b on the use of firearms.”
The two police officers alleged to have been involved in the shooting of Kolade Johnson on March 31, 2019, were apprehended and subjected to Orderly Room trial from Monday, April 1 to Thursday, April 4.
Jubril Mobolaji shot in Lagos over N100
On Tuesday, March 16, 2019, a policeman attached to the Special Protection Unit of the Lagos state Police Command, shot one Jubril Mobolaji in the Ajiran, Lekki area of the state over a bad N100 note. The policeman, one Sergeant Kabiru, who was posted as the orderly to a wealthy man in the community, had gone to buy a N200 recharge card from a shop operated by one Sherifat.
He was said to have given the woman N500 and collected N300 change – N200 and N100 notes. Kabiru reportedly complained that the N100 note was “bad” and requested a replacement, which resulted in a verbal exchange between him and Sherifat.
The woman eventually offered to return the N500 note and withdraw her card. In the heat of the altercation, Kabiru reportedly left in anger only to return some minutes later with his rifle. He allegedly shot into the ground and inflicted gunshot wound on Mobolaji, who was said to have gone to the shop to buy some items.
A resident, who witnessed the incident, said that the matter was reported at the Ilasan Police Station and the trigger-happy policeman was arrested.
A resident said, “On Tuesday, March 19, around 10:00pm, Sergeant Kabiru went to buy recharge card from a woman, who has a shop in Ajiran. He bought N200 recharge card and the woman gave him N300 change. He complained that the N100 note was bad and the woman said she did not have a better one. The woman tried to explain to him that she also collected it from a customer.
“It resulted in an argument between him and the woman and they abused each other. The man left her shop in anger. Surprisingly, he came back some minutes later armed with a gun and threatened to kill the woman. He fired a shot into the ground and a bullet hit a man (Mobolaji) who wanted to buy something at the shop. Policemen from the Ilasan Division arrested the cop but I don’t know the development on the case.”
The police public relations officer in the state, Bala Elkana, refused to react to the incident.
SARS’ invasion of Abuja community
Also, on Saturday, July 7, 2018, SARS officers from Karu division stormed Kugbo community, a suburb under Karu ward in the FCT, following a tip-off by the Chief of Kugbo ll community, Ayuba Knadna Kninya, that some unidentified people were allegedly planning a robbery operation.
During an operation that lasted for over thirty minutes, they arrested the chairman of the community, a Civil Defence officer, petty traders, barbers and anyone in sight.
Blueprint Weekend’s investigations revealed that members of Black Axe Confraternity, on that Saturday, gathered in restaurants, beer parlours and every available space in the community, to celebrate what they called ‘7/7,’ which stands for 7th of July- a day they claimed the confraternity was formed many years ago. Later in the evening, gunshots rented the air, as residents, petty traders and aimless wanderers scampered for safety.
In a chat with Blueprint Weekend, the chairman of Kugbo community, Mr Ponfa Joseph Tannim, said he was arrested alongside a Civil Defence officer, a photographer, a secondary school teacher and other residents. He said many people were brutalised and tortured before being taken to the police station in Kugbo 1.
“I didn’t argue with the SARS officers when they told me to enter their van, because I knew I will identify myself when we get to the station. However, a man was greatly brutalised, dehumanised and tortured when he resisted arrest. His wobbling body was thrown into the vehicle. When we got to the police station, a police officer there identified me as the community chairman, while I identified other people. Seven of us were released, but the man who resisted arrest was further beating and pushed into the cell,” he said.
Similarly, a barber, Mr David Emeka, told this reporter that he was arrested alongside his apprentices, customers as well as other residents by members of SARS around 10:45pm, when they stormed the community.
“They used their koboko (horse whip) to flog us and dragged us into their vehicle where other arrested people were already waiting. They took us to the police station in Kugbo 1 and went back to arrest more people. Luckily, my boys and I were released around 12am when the Chairman came and identified me and my apprentices as law-abiding citizens. They told me to give them money to fuel their car to go back to Karu, but I was already in pains, because of the beatings I received from them, so I told them I didn’t have money on me,” he said.
Expectedly, reactions have trailed the extra-judicial killing of many Nigerians by the police. In fact, Mr Johnson’s death led many social media platforms to return with complaints sending #EndSARS trending again at number one on Twitter.
Some residents of Mangoro/Onipetesi community in Lagos went on the rampage, blocking the Oshodi/Abeokuta expressway in protest against the killing of Kolade.
The angry residents blocked the major roads with tyres and wooden planks.
“This is another death of Nigerian that should have been avoided if our push for a more efficient and accountable system had been allowed to scale through,” said Segun Awosanya, a police reform activist who triggered #EndSARS campaign.
The campaigner said deaths from police stray bullets and the so-called accidental discharges had gone up in recent years, despite frequent sanctions, including prompt dismissals, recorded against culpable officers in some of the cases.
Mr Awosanya said his non-profit, Social Intervention and Advocacy Foundation (SIAF), had commenced investigation into the killings, and would support the Johnsons in their pursuit of justice.
Justice for Kolade
While Linda and Jumbo are yet to get justice over their untimely deaths, following the outcry and public condemnation, an Ebute Meta Magistrates’ Court, Lagos, on Friday, March 5, 2019, ordered the remand of ex-police inspector, Olalekan Ogunyemi, for the killing of Johnson.
The magistrate, Mrs A. O. Salawu, ordered that Ogunyemi be remanded at Ikoyi Prisons, pending advice from State Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
Ogunyemi, 45, who resides at No. 17, Alhaji Ede St., Igando, was docked on a count charge of murder.
He said Ogunyemi used his Ak-47 rifle to gun down 36-year-old Kolade Johnson.
The prosecutor said the offence contravened the provisions of Section 223 of the Criminal Law of Lagos state, 2015.
Section 223 stipulates a death sentence if convicted. Olatunde informed the court that he had a remand application order by the police to remand the defendant for the next 30 days. The plea of the defendant was not taken by the court.
Counsel to the defendant, Sola Adeyemi, had urged the court to instead remand the defendant for the next 14 days as against the application of the prosecutor.
Magistrate Salawu granted the application of the prosecutor and ordered 30 days remand and adjourned the case until May 6.
Police spokesman react
In his reaction to the security situation in the FCT, the FCT Police Public Relations Officer (PRO), DSP Anjuguri Manza, denied reports of any tension between residents and officers of the Nigeria Police Force.
“There is no random arrest of anybody in the FCT. I am not even aware of the arrest of many residents of Kugbo community on Saturday, last week. To the best of my knowledge, the FCT is calm; there is no tension of any kind.”
SARS for restructuring
Reacting to Johnson’s killing on Wednesday, April 3, via his official Twitter handle, @MBuhari, President Muhammadu Buhari said the incident was regrettable and that SARS “will be restructured.”
He wrote, “The recent unfortunate action of SARS operatives from the Lagos state police command, which led to the avoidable death of Mr Kolade Johnson, is deeply regretted. Once again, our condolences go to the family of the deceased. I’m aware that the police authorities have visited the family.
“I acknowledge the genuine outrage from citizens and civil society groups regarding the activities of SARS. While important steps have been taken by the police leadership to restructure and reform SARS, in line with presidential directives, more need to be done. I assure Nigerians that this will be done. We will continue to work to ensure that we have a police force that adheres to the rule of law.”