COVID-19: RULAAC Makes Case for Police Brutality, Impending Public Upheaval

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By Sunday Ehigiator

The Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre (RULAAC), has condemned the rising cases of police brutality in Nigeria occasioned by enforcement of lockdown in most parts of the country, in a bid to curb further spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

In a recent statement made available to THISDAY and signed by RULAAC Coordinator, Okechukwu Nwanguma, the centre warned that, there is likelihood of a violent disorder in the public against law and order should the situation continues.

Okechukwu likewise commended the prompt response of the Inspector General of Police and some state commissioners in the affected stated, but like the literary Oliver-twist, he demanded for outcomes of investigations into several cases of police brutality still under investigations.

“In the last one week, after the National Human Rights Commission raised concerns about the high numbers of killings by law enforcement agents supposedly enforcing the lockdown imposed across States in Nigeria in the wake of the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic, and the disturbing revelation that more citizens have been killed by law enforcement excesses and brutality than the ravaging virus, cases of killings, particularly by the Police have been on the increase with resultant unacceptable casualties.

“From Anambra State where two persons were shot and one other citizen had two of his car tyres shot at and bursted by a member of a Police team who demanded bribe from him but he refused to oblige them; to Abia State where one was shot dead, precipitating a riot and retaliatory attack and burning of a Police Station and police vehicles and release of detainees in the Police cell by the rioting members of the community.

“To Osun State where police officers were seen on a trending video repeatedly flogging a lady, it’s been an increasing spate of Police killings and brutality and reckless abuse of force and firearms.

“It’s commendable that the Osun State Police Command has responded appropriately to the dastardly act of unprovoked and unjustifiable brutality in the State. I have read the statement issued by the Command condemning it as a ‘discreditable conduct’ and ‘reckless incivility against civilians’ and promised to ensure justice. The Command said the unruly officers have been arrested and are undergoing internal disciplinary procedure.

“I commend the Inspector General of Police for always rising to the occasion in promptly ordering the arrest of unruly officers and investigation of acts of brutality and misconduct. But we need to see the outcome of investigations into these cases and RULAAC and its partner-organisations across the states are monitoring and will keep documenting.”

Okechukwu described as “regrettable”, and also condemned the actions of youth in Ebem Ohafia, who took laws into their hands by attacking and burning a police station and police vehicles, while also releasing detainees.

“It is regrettable that the youths in Ebem Ohafia went too far in taking laws into their hands by attacking and burning a Police Station and vehicles and releasing detainees.

“While we understand that police killings are capable of provoking public anger, uprisings and retaliatory attacks, which is why police officers should always act professionally, responsibly and with restraint, and avoid abusing police powers, we condemn the extreme actions taken by the youths by burning police stations and police assets.

“That violent response could lead to an escalation of the conflict and result to more loss of lives. We hope that urgent conciliatory and preventing measures are taken to prevent further escalation.”

In Anambra, Okechukwu alleged the police command of attempting to twist facts, cover-up and shield the killer police, who allegedly killed a 20 years old boy while enforcing lockdown in the state.

“In the case of Anambra, the difference we see is the apparent attempt by the police Command to twist the facts, cover up and shield the Police killers. We need to ascertain, between the police and eye witnesses, who is lying.

“We have already called on the Governor of Anambra State to invoke his powers and set up an independent inquiry to go to the root of the matter to unravel the truth and recommend measures to ensure justice and a prevention of the repeat of that tragedy.

“RULAAC commends the response of the IGP so far but calls on him to put in place an effective mechanism to monitor the conduct of police officers carrying out the duties of enforcement of lockdown across the state. The Standard Operating Procedures spelling out the code of conducts and rules of engagement should be made available to the officers.

“Investigations into acts of deviation from the standards should be promptly, transparently and effectively carried out and appropriate legal sanctions imposed for deterrence.”