The Network On Police Reform In Nigeria, NOPRIN has documented no less than 27 cases of police extrajudicial killing of citizens which does not include cases that may not have come to public attention.
Addressing the media in Lagos Thursday, national coordinator of the Network, Okechukwu Nwanguma, recalled that the outrage precipitated by the killing of Ada Ifeanyi, just about two weeks after the killing of Kolade Johnson in Lagos on March 31, 2019, prompted the Inspector General of Police, IGP to pay an unscheduled visit to Lagos State during which he addressed police officers in the state, where he warned them to refrain from abuse of power and misuse of firearms and promised to ensure that the killers are dismissed and charged to court.
He noted that the IGP during the visit also outlined a number of measures, including psychological evaluation of police personnel, reduction in the period of time when officers would be on duty and the introduction of the use of non-lethal weapons during police encounters with citizens as means of checking incidents of police killings.
Nwanguma, also acknowledged that both the Commissioner of Police, Lagos State Command and the Inspector General of Police have shown empathy by visiting the families of the victims (in the case of the CP) and visiting Lagos and addressing police personnel (in the case of the IGP), and appear to be serious in tackling human rights violations by the statements they have made and the measures they have rolled out in response to these incessant killings.
He regretted that Police brutality is a longstanding problem in Nigeria but has in recent times assumed epidemic proportions. It is increasing in both frequency and in the number of citizens killed through torture or reckless misuse of firearms by police officers.
He recalled that, “Between June 4, 2018 when police in Abuja killed Linda Nkechi Igwetu, the female National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) member, just one day to her passing out, and April 13, 2019 when the police in Lagos again killed Ada Ifeanyi (20) in the company of her male friend who was also shot by the same policeman who eventually fled and was declared wanted by the Lagos State Police Command.
The Coordinator, however regretted that after the IGP’s unscheduled visit to Lagos during which he made commitments to hold police officers accountable for abuse of firearms, and in spite of the strict measures taken by the Lagos CP against officers responsible for killings, violations have continued: random raids and indiscriminate arrest and extortion, harassment and more killings, which thus suggests that something is fundamentally wrong and needs to be addressed, radically.
“Any disease that kills 27 persons in 10 months (an average killing of more than 2 persons in each month) will likely be declared a public health emergency. But within the same period, the police have killed more than that number. Shouldn’t we therefore, declare a public safety and security emergency?
The incessant raids on Night Clubs and other public places by operatives of the police and some FCT agencies during which over 100 women were arrested, sexually abused, detained and charged before a kangaroo mobile court which imposed fines or prison terms on those who were forced to plead guilty has elevated police excesses to an intolerable limit”, he said.
According to him, Expectedly, public anger has boiled over amidst lack of public trust in the willingness or commitment by police authorities and police oversight agencies to take far reaching measures to ensure accountability, redress and justice and bring an end to police abuses and the corruption that feeds them.
Public anger and outrage over the excesses of the police and their predatory approach to law enforcement should be directed towards demanding for genuine police reform. Citizens must mobilise and take actions to push the government to respond concretely and appropriately to end impunity and hold perpetrators to account.
NOPRIN therefore called on police oversight agencies, particularly, the Police Service Commission (PSC) and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to wake up to their responsibilities of ensuring accountability for police brutality and human rights violations and the promotion and enforcement of human rights.
“We demand the quick passage of the Police Reform Bill and more importantly, call on the President to demonstrate his oft-expressed commitment to police reform by assenting to the Bill when it is transmitted to him.
We commend the civil society groups who came together and organised a march in Abuja in condemnation of, and protest against, discriminatory practices and violence against women by the police and agents of the FCT Minister. We call for the removal of the FCT Minister for ordering the despicable assault on the rights of women in the FCT”, NOPRIN insists
It invited other civil society groups in other States of the country to replicate the patriotic acts of resistance already commenced in Abuja as these acts of highhandedness and reckless abuse of citizen’s rights and liberties targeted especially against women and youths must end.
He said that many of these excesses remain unabated because the Nigeria Police is still organised and regulated with an out-dated colonial Police Act that has seen no comprehensive review since it was promulgated in 1934.
Nwanguma said, “Nigeria, at independence, inherited the institutions and culture of colonial police. Nearly two decades of uninterrupted military dictatorship cemented the colonial culture of violence, repression and corruption. Successive administrations under the current democratic dispensation have paid mere lip service to police reform by setting up successive committees on police reform but fail to implement the far reaching recommendations in the reports of the various government committees as well as civil society panel on police reform. A lot of the recommendations in the police reform reports form part of the provisions in the Police Bill.
We call on the House of Representatives to fast track consideration of the Police Reform Bill and quickly transmit it to the President for assent.”
The passage into law of the Police Bill, he observed will provide a legal framework to drive police reform and engender a modern democratic police that is citizen-focussed, service oriented, effective and accountable to the people. The bill will also address many of the challenges and deficits which make the police work force prone to violence and corruption and provide a basis to hold the police accountable.