‘THEM dey loot them dey shoot, them dey kill the leaders of tomorrow, instead of killing the armed robbers they are killing the sufferers.” These are the lyrics of a song by the great Nigerian reggae icon, Majekodumi Fasheke, popularly known as Majek Fashek. Sung a long time ago, he voiced his disapproval and dismay at the brutal actions of the Nigerian police force against those they are charged to protect. He sang, police brutality! Police brutality!! Though years have passed since the great icon vented his frustration through his music, then, as now, the status quo lingers and nothing has changed. As a matter of fact, exacerbated it has!
How ironic it is that those entrusted with the duty of securing the lives and property of the people are the same wreaking so much havoc on the lives of the commoners. As was written in this column months ago, the pathetic tale of the orphan Olaide Adebayo, blinded by the police years ago and that of other victims of police barbarism reported across the media almost begin to sound as normalcy in this country. It is no longer atrocious that those paid withtax payers’ money are the ones bleeding the tax payers dry, sending promising and hardworking tax payers in the most gruesome fashion to the afterlife. How disheartening.
How pitiful is it that “Police is my friend” but he treats me as a common criminal. This popular mantra of theirs is regularly bastardised, bestialised and betrayed by their actions. The Apo six were gruesomely murdered in Abuja, 36-years-old Uzochukwu Ozua was shot and killed unlawfully; Kudirat Adebayo, a petty trader, was shot and killed by a police officer; an innocent boy was murdered by a DPO and the infuriating list goes on and on. Sometimes, they send detained suspects to the afterlife, absent proper trial. Veils are drawn over these heinous crimes and in most cases, there is little or no investigation into these extra judicial killings.
Most of the culprits are treated with leniency by the police; sometimes, they label these irksome killings as mere “accidental discharge”.
The punishment of the perpetrators has become increasingly impossible. What reprieve do the families of these people have, who in most cases are poor and lack the means to pursue the cases to the end? What can we say will become of poor Olaide Adebayo, who only awaits darkness as his partially open remaining eye may as well take on permanent blindness consequent on the above- -the-law attitude of the police who after six years refuse to honour the court ruling and pay the due damages? He is only one of many whose lives our police have ruined!
It is pitiable that a system meant for the enforcement of law and order is home to the slimiest of law breakers. I am in tandem with the position that the investigation and punishment of officers suspected of extrajudicial killing should never be the duty of the Police Service Commission. In most cases, results are few and far between. All we hear is the disgusting mantra that investigation is ongoing. But weeks later, the same suspected police-murderer is free and wielding a riffle. A crime as nefarious as this should never be taken lightly. Suspected offenders should and must face the consequences as no one has the right to take the life of another. Our right to life is express and clear in the ground norm.
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions has made it clear as the sun at noon day that it is the sole responsibility and obligation of the governments of nations to carry out unbiased investigations into allegations of violations of the right to life and ensuring that such violators are brought to justice. Nigeria is no exception to the governments of the world and I think it is time she woke up from her comatose. Until then, just like the great icon sang, the police will continue to oppress, intimidate, abuse, harass, loot and shoot the sufferers. Leaving in their wake a cascade of sorrows, tears and blood.
- Kimi Isaac, a barrister and solicitor of the Supreme Court, writes in from Abuja.