The rise in extra-judicial killings is worrisome, writes Olawale Olaleye
Two weeks ago and indeed, for the better part of last week, the talk of the town was the killing of three police officers – Inspector Mark Edaile and Sergeants Usman Danzumi and Dahiru Musa – who were on a covert operation in Ibi, Jalingo, Taraba State, by some soldiers allegedly on the order of an army officer, a colonel to be precise.
The officers were on a mission to arrest a wanted kidnapper in the person of one Alhaji Hamisu Bala otherwise called “why do you mean” but mistaken for “Wadume” when they met their untimely passing.
Whilst the criminal and officer ally had since been arrested especially with Hamisu confirming fears that soldiers, who killed the three special police officers on the order of their boss, aided his escape, anger from that incident was yet to subside when another took the centrestage.
This time, it was the police, who had earned the compassion of the people on account of the incident of two weeks ago that were on the firing line. Four officers had last week killed two suspected phone thieves in the broad daylight suspiciously.
The officers, who were reportedly attached to the Iba Division Patrol team, were seen to have shot at the suspects in a video that went viral last Tuesday.
A statement issued by the Lagos State Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Bala Elkana, identified the officers involved as Inspector Fabiyi Omomayara, Sergeant Olaniyi Solomon, Sergeant Solomon Sunday and Corporal Aliyu Mukaila.
The statement explained that the two robbery suspects had already been arrested and should have been taken to the Police Station for the normal process of investigation and prosecution to be initiated as stipulated under procedural laws.
Explaining what led to the killings, Elkana said at about 3:00pm on August 19, the Iba Police Station received a distress call from one Anugu Valentine, who claimed he was attacked by a group of armed men numbering about four on two motorcycles at Ipayi area, and that they stole an iPhone max from him, valued at N450,000.
Immediately, the Divisional Police Officer, Iba, deployed a team to the scene. Arriving at the scene, two of the armed robbers were promptly arrested, while the two others escaped. Indeed, they were said to be part of a gang notorious for a series of robberies in Iba and environs.
Upon their arrest, two locally made pistols with six life cartridges and five expended cartridges were allegedly recovered from them.
Thus, while the police initially celebrated the arrest of the two suspects, this was cut short by the killing of the suspects, saying it “falls short of police professional standards and cannot be condoned by the Command. The Commissioner of Police Lagos State, CP Zubairu Muazu, has ordered a thorough investigation into the incident.
“The police officers are currently subjected to internal disciplinary proceedings known as Orderly Room trial and if found culpable, they will be dismissed from the Force and will be handed over to the State Criminal Investigation Department Yaba for prosecution in the conventional Court,” the statement noted.
Unfortunately, extra-judicial killing as a scourge is as old as humankind and known to be a sporting game of the police in particular. In fact, this is generally believed to be pastime of some police officers in charge of serious criminal cases in different parts of the country.
Curiously, different reasons can explain this killing tendency. While in some cases, it has a lot to do with poor training and inadequate understanding of the laws of the land, in other cases, it could be as a result of sheer exuberance of the officers in possession of arms.
But the most disturbing, however, is when the killings are related to fears by the officers that the criminals could give them up as accomplices, where such is established by the officers in charge of the case that the criminals are those they work with and could expose them.
Thus, rather than take chances, the best option would be to “waste” them under whatever cover, which was often the cases in a majority of the extra-judicial killings by the police. The killed criminals are either those they knew personally on the grounds of some ungodly relations or if the fellow’s confession could open up can of worms, as was the case in the Offa robbery.
Interestingly, the police are not alone here. Even the soldiers, who are often deployed to special operations sometimes fall short of these expectations and engage in extra-judicial killings. In fact, the likelihood that the soldiers get away with these operational excesses is higher in many instances. What more, this is not peculiar to Nigeria alone.
Therefore, it is important to see the scourge of extra-judicial killing as something that has always been with mankind, but has been tackled from country to country depending on the political willpower of the leadership of such a country and the capacity to make hard choices.
It is also worthy of mention that this ugly development shares closely with the alleged poor recruitment process into the different security agencies, which is said to have admitted more retired armed robbers, cultists and others engaged in all forms of criminalities.
Thus, when people with criminal tendencies now have the license to bear arms unguided, it is understandable why the level of unprofessionalism or the leaning towards misbehavior is staggeringly a norm.
However, because the killing of those two boys was brazen as usual and also suspect, the same way the reason advanced for the killing of the three police officers stands logic on its head, both the police and the army must use these two developments to start addressing some of the abnormalities in the operations of their men and use the opportunity to start weeding out the bad eggs.
Extra-judicial killings pose serious danger to democratic cultures anywhere in the world and undermine the rights and freedom of citizens in all forms and shapes, while at the same time presents a society that is descending into anarchy. Even the vilest offender has a right to defend himself before the law and remains innocent until found guilty.
The attitude of finding people guilty even before they are tried is in itself criminal, unconstitutional, illegal and not in tune with decent societies anywhere in the world. This is why saner climes always strive to rise above this existential menace of humanity, including the threats posed by mob justice by the citizenry.
To understand that such tendencies cannot be allowed to find a spot in societies that strives towards growth and development is to rise against all man-made infirmities that afflict mankind.