On Monday, March 18, 2019, policemen from Imota Police Division had stormed Adamo community in Ikorodu area of Lagos to raid suspected criminal hideouts in the course of which they began to shoot sporadically and an 18-year-old girl, Hadiyat Sikiru, was reportedly shot dead. Days afterwards, on March 31, 2019, a police team from the anti-cultism unit of the Lagos State police command reportedly killed a man, a Mr Kolade Johnson while watching a football match.
Recently, on December 4, 2019, killer cop Idowu Omosuyi killed Ado Saleh, a truck driver while on December 5, 2019, a trigger-happy police officer attached to a Commercial Bank in Kano state killed a man identified as Mus’ab Sammani.
We could go on and on listing persons that were victims of police brutality but that is not the sole aim of this piece.
The Police appears to have lost touch with its responsibilities and have resorted to taking the very lives they swore to protect.
Proposed reform of the SARS unit announced in 2018 by the Vice-President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo has been regarded as ineffective in curbing the excesses of the unit. Without disregarding any other factors, one thing is clear from these cases: the safety and security of Nigerians depends on a proper clarification of the extent of police powers with respect to the use of lethal force.
Section 4, of the existing Police Act states the duties of the Police which include the prevention and detection of crime, the apprehension of offenders, the preservation of law and order, the protection of life and property and the due enforcement of all laws and regulations with which they are directly charged, and shall perform such military duties within or outside Nigeria as may be required of them by, or under the authority of this or any other Act.
Unfortunately, the Police Act does not provide any guidance on the exercise of these duties and the scope of police powers remains largely ambiguous. Other criminal law statutes such as the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015, provides guidance in arrest and search powers but fail to do so about the use of force. However, there is a provision of Force Order 237 which defined the circumstances in which a police officer would be justified to use his firearms and the use of force.
The law needs to provide a suitable framework for any training program that may be developed by the administrative authorities. For instance, not every protest or disruption of public order requires the use of force. Furthermore, there are other non-deadly weapons e.g rubber bullets, teargas that can be used to maintain order in non-dangerous situations. I am glad about the statement of the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, that he has ordered for tasers or stun guns.
The impunity of corrupt police officers has eroded the public trust on Nigeria Police. Citizens are more careful with them because they believe all what police is after how they can extort you.
We implore the Senate to pass the Police Reform Bill which will eventually lead to the reform of that very important institution. There is a popular saying in Nigeria, ‘Police is your friend’. I wish this is our reality.