Policemen in Lagos seem to be running amok as acts of brutality and extra-judicial killings are now the order of the day despite repeated warning from their authorities, writes Chiemelie Ezeobi
In Lagos, the police seem to have run amok. It’s now the order of the day for the different social media platforms to be inundated with acts of police brutality and extra judicial killings. Just two weeks ago, it was the turn of 35-year-old Johnson Kolade. He was gunned down in cold blood by operatives of the Anti-Cultism Squad at a football viewing centre, where he had gone to watch a match.
His corpse was barely cold in the grave before the police struck again. This time around it was 20-year-old Ada Ifeanyi and her beau, 32-year-old Emmanuel Akomafuwa. Their run in with the police ended with Ifeanyi being killed in cold blood while Akomafuwa is battling for his life from the gunshot wounds he sustained in the encounter.
But before the duo, there was the case of the young boy who was accosted in one of the markets in Lagos. His only crime was that he refused to allow the operatives of the Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS) go through his phone, an act they have repeatedly been warned to stop. When he refused to surrender his phone, the operatives were seen in a video, which has gone viral, hitting the victim repeatedly with a big stick. The victim was so battered he could barely stand, yet they continued to hit him.
Back to Ifeanyi and Akomafuwa, the duo were returning home on that fateful morning when they were accosted by the policemen. Worried that they could be either armed robbers or kidnappers, as they weren’t wearing uniforms, Akomafuwa who refused to stop but the policemen trailed them to Ifeanyi’s home where they openned fire on them as soon as Akomafuwa parked his car. The bullets tore through the girl’s stomach, while her beau sustained injuries. The victims were rushed to the hospital and Ada Ifeanyi was confirmed dead while Emmanuel Akomafuwa is currently on admission receiving treatment from the injury he sustained as a result of the shooting.
As one who doesn’t tolerate indiscipline, the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Zubairu Muazu immediately ordered for the arrest of the culprits. As confirmed by the state Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Bala Elkana, the first line of action was to identify those involved and then disclose their identities to the public.
Preliminary investigation had revealed that the police team were from Trinity Police Station. After their arrest, they were brought to the command headquarters to face internal disciplinary proceedings. Also, their rifles were retrieved for forensic analysis by ballisticians. According to Bala, if found wanting, they will be prosecuted in conventional court for murder.
He went further to disclose the identities of the policemen as Inspector Adamu Usman, Sergeant Adeyeye Adeoye, Sergeant Kashim Tijani, Sergeant Lucky Akigbe and Sergeant Paul Adeoye while Inspector Dania Ojo, who escaped immediately after the shooting incident has been declared wanted by the command.
He said: “Lagos State Police Command condemned in total these senseless killings of unarmed civilians by few ‘bad eggs ‘ in the command, who are bent on denting the image and reputation of the police. The command will not relent in its efforts in ridding the force off these criminal elements.
“Those involved in extra judicial killings and abuse of power are promptly identified, isolated, tried through internal disciplinary proceedings, dismissed from service and prosecuted in conventional courts. Within the last one month, the command has dismissed four policemen for abuse of power and conducts unbecoming of police officers and awarded various degree of punishments to 41 others.
“The four dismissed policemen were charged to court and remanded in prison custody. Our collective resolve in building a more humane, professional, dedicated, courageous and people oriented police is a task that must be done and together we can make it a reality. “
While extending the command’s condolences to the Ifeanyi family, the CP had also promised to foot the medical bills of Emmanuel Akomafuwa.
Also reacting to the incessant killings, Lagos State Governor-elect, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, in a post on his social media pages said: “Dear Lagosians, we have been inundated with tags on various social media platforms on different incidences with our security agencies.
“We would like you to know we’re not totally unaware of all these issues, neither are we insensitive to them. We would also like to reiterate that we are strategising continuously on how best to deal with these issues without offending the sensibilities of affected parties.
“All lives matter, and no one, I mean no one is allowed to take part in any extra judicial killing. We frown at it, we would never tolerate it, and whoever is involved in such will be dealt with in accordance with the law.
“That being said, we will make police reform, desensitisation and reorientation a major priority when we take over the reins of government in a few weeks. Please we implore everyone to be calm, and not take laws into our hands as two wrongs can never make a right. We feel your pains, we understand your agitations, and we will leave no stone unturned to ensure these unfortunate, and avoidable incidences become a thing of the past.”
Following the recent resurgence of extra judicial killings in Lagos, the police on Monday proposed scraping lethal weapons in favour of taser or stun guns for routine patrols, arrest duties and other low risk operations as a strategic approach towards reducing such fatalities.
The Inspector General of Police (IG), Mohammed Adamu, while reacting to these indiscriminate abuse of power, however, posited that the use of tasers and stun guns are a long term plan to ameliorate the misapplication of lethal weapons by the police as first line of response to any threat.
He said this at the Police College in Ikeja, Lagos, while addressing the issue of extra judicial killing and other acts of unprofessionalism by officers and men of the command. While issuing a stern warning that enough is enough for the incessant police killings in the nation, especially in Lagos, he said it was with deep sense of professional concern that he visited the state command to address personnel.
Lamenting the frequent cases of extral judicial killings by policemen, he however warned that henceforth supervisors, divisional police officers and area commanders, would be held responsible and liable for any indiscriminate use of firearms.
He said: “This visit has become expedient in view of recent trend of unprofessional conduct by some personnel who in utter disregard to their professional trainings, international protocol, constitutional dictates, force policies and ethical standards have continued to drag the force into act that pitch us agonist the citizens we were engaged, paid, and statutory obligated to serve and protect.
“From January to April, Lagos State recorded four incidents of misuse of firearms, which resulted in extral 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 on our professional calling, extral judicial act of any description or level by any police personnel is an unacceptable anomaly that creates distrust and disdain between the citizens and their police.
“It widens the trust gap between them, even most concerning is that the fatalities that resulted from such indiscretional deployments of lethal force leave behind trials of unbearable internal pains and sorrows within the families, friends and associates of the victims. No component of our laws or international protocols authorises the unlawful killing or degrading treatment of fellow citizens as law enforcement agents and no element of our professional training permits any police personnel to deploy lethal weapons either consciously or otherwise except as provided in our status and in Force Order 237.
“Unfortunately, all the recent incidents of misuse of firearms in Lagos state violated these provisions.
Therefore, our visit to Lagos State is to make a number of clear statements. First, is to condole the families of victims of the recent incidents of misuse of firearms or other forms of abuse of power by identified police personnel in the state and to share in their grief.
“Second, is to reassure citizens that the police do not and will never condone any forms of abuse of power, act resulting in misuse of firearms overzealousness and sundry unprofessional conducts by members of the police, regardless of his rank or position. Thirdly, our visit is to reinforce the extant force and accountability policy, which holds any officer professionally and criminally liable for the consequences of their actions, particularly if such misuse of power resulted into death, injury or indignity of the citizens.
“Towards this end, I am sounding this note of warning loud and clear that any police personnel that insist on being incorrigible in abuse of his or her powers or misuse his weapons with fatal outcome in utter disregard to statutory provisions will be arrested, investigated, and if found culpable shall be dismissed from the service and charged to court for murder or sundry offences.”
The IG further said that to minimise extral judicial killings, in the long term, rather than the use of firearms, “we shall henceforth use less lethal technologies and weapon system such as electro-muscular disruption technology which is commonly known as taser or stun guns by police for routine patrols, arrest duties and other low risk operations as a strategic approach towards reducing incidents of fatality associated with misapplication of lethal weapons by the police as first line of response to any threat”.
Visit to Affected Families
The IG who privately visited the bereaved family of the Ifeanyi’s had also assured that the force will embark on administrative actions and policies directed towards giving a new orientation to the personnel especially on human rights and international best practices.
While noting that there will be personnel re-organisation in Lagos State, the IGP has also directed nationwide training and capacity development programmes on weapons handling and laws and policies regulating the use of force.
The IG, earlier in a private meeting with the families, and assured them that justice will not only be done but will be manifestly seen to have been done in getting justice for the deceased and the injured. Responding, the spokesperson of the family of the deceased, Barr. Obuesi Philips, appreciated the IG for his timely response and appealed to him to ensure that he walks his talk.