Incessant Police Brutality in Nigeria: Issues & Matters Arising!

April 8, 2019

Police brutality is one of several forms of police misconduct which involves undue violence by police members. Widespread police brutality exists in many countries and territories, even those that prosecute it. Although illegal, it can be performed under the color of law.

The term "police brutality" was in use in the American press as early as 1872, when the Chicago Tribune reported on the beating of a civilian under arrest at the Harrison Street Police Station. It is not unusual for a police officer to turn a blind eye to improper conduct of other officers.

The month of March 2019 in Nigeria had recorded the most number of reported killings by the police in the country in recent times. It began on March 2 with some trigger-happy police officers shooting a bus driver dead in Mosan, Ayobo area of Lagos for refusing to part with money.

Two weeks after, a teenage girl was killed by a stray bullet in a shootout between policemen and some cultists in Ikorodu, while on March 25, last week Thursday, an Okada rider was shot dead in Kilo, Surulere area of Lagos.

The victim, identified as Ademola Moshood, was a few blocks away from his house, when he was shot by an officer attached to Soloki Police Station, Surulere.

In what would end an inglorious month for the police, a young man, identified as Kolade Johnson, was reportedly murdered on Sunday, March 31 by operatives of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) who had visited his area in an unmarked commercial bus to arrest one of the boys of a major music producer who was wearing dreadlocks.

We don’t need to look closely at the eyes of our police-people before we know that they enormously differ from the journalist’s, for instance. And if there is any professional our police-people detest, it certainly is the journalist. Maybe yes. But that is another matter entirely.

No matter our tears for Kolade Johnson, no matter the well-crafted good-for-the-moment sentimental promise of the Lagos police commissioner to bring his killers to book, and his good-for-the- situation commitment to change the colour of the eyes of the average police, nothing will change sooner or later.

In fact, the Kolade Johnson incident had happened in several places in and outside Lagos City and Lagos State. Incidents such as Kolade Johnson’s will be replicated from one state to another state. This is our civilization, it is your civilization.

The alleged killers displayed no emotions of remorse maybe because the characteristic fragrances of Indian hemp were still in their smoky heads when they were paraded on television. One can liken them to the officers and recruits and soldiers who were ordered to murder our compatriots during the presidential and other elections.

Coming under various trending hashtags that include: Kolade Johnson, #EndSARSNow #PoliceReforms #EndPoliceBrutality and #JusticeForKolade, the discussion generated scathing remarks on the police action, with celebrities joining in the conversion to condemn the killings.

The Amnesty International (AI) has also lambasted the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) unit of the police, saying the call to scrap SARS and reform the police had not been taking seriously. It said efforts put in place by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government had failed even as it blamed the judiciary for failing to punish police torture.

Specifically, the human rights group said the reforms Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo initiated during the heat of the campaign against SARS are not working.

The seed of that “shoot-on-sight” order is still growing and will ever be growing in our land, in our country, our country where now we don’t know whether to continue crying or to continue laughing. How many compatriots shall we bury before their time in this country our country, your country? Who will halt the huge events that are happening and that will happen in our country? When will light that is light shine in our country?

In Nigeria, policing is interwoven with politics. There is no doubt that, the Nigeria Police needs total overhaul and this can be grouped into three core areas- leadership, methodology and, culture & attitude. If the Nigerian Police must be responsive to modern public policing standards and demands, reforms in the three areas mentioned above is imperative. For the Police reform bill pending in the Senatere to create desired change, all strategies and goals must be communicated and a buy-in among officers created – especially junior officers.