If anything has changed in the last one year about the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) unit of the Nigeria Police Force, it is probably the change of name to Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT).
Nigeria paid a heavy price for the excesses of the Nigeria Police in Oct. 2020 but extrajudicial killings and other forms of police brutalities appear to continue nationwide.
Before the massive protest, many citizens on social media had long called for the ban of SARS operatives over their high-handedness. By Oct. 4, 2020, two officers were recorded in a viral video and they were accused of killing a man and taking away his car.
The ugly development triggered outrage on social media and, in the blink of an eye grew into a full blown national protest.
For weeks in Oct. 2020, many Nigerian youths took to the streets and their protests led to the disbandment of the police tactical squad. Meanwhile, the establishment of the SWAT unit to replace the SARS in such a short time was not enough for the youths.
The youths outlined five demands popularly known as the #5for5. It included the need for the government to release all the arrested protesters, to ensure justice is served, and families of all victims compensated.
The demands also included the establishment of an independent body to oversee the prosecution of erring officers, the psychological evaluation of disbanded officers, and increase of police salaries.
In a desperate move to quell the demonstrations, which had continued despite the proscription of SARS, soldiers were deployed to the epicentre of the nationwide protests at Lekki Tollgate on Oct. 20, 2020.
They shot at protesters and killed a yet-to-be ascertained number. The demonstration was later hijacked by hoodlums who looted stores, homes, warehouses, as well as private and public properties in different parts of the country.
Many state governments set up judicial panels to hear complaints by members of the public but one year after, the panels are yet to record much success.
HumAngle in an earlier report met with families of persons who lost their lives and victims of gunshots in the violence that marred #EndSARS protests. They continue to live in sorrow.
As against the promises of the government, many protesters are still in prison, hundreds of victims are yet to be compensated, and details are yet to be made public about punishment for police officers who have in the past been accused of irregularities.
HumAngle earlier reported that Nigeria has not witnessed improvements in policing and true police reform is still a mirage. As brutalities continue, extra-judicial killings by the police remain the order of the day.
A trigger-happy police sergeant attached to the Elelenwo Police Division shot a 38-year-old man, Abiodun Jimoh, in Elelenwo community, in the Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State on Dec. 19, 2020.
The Punch newspaper reported that the incident happened when a Police unit arrested the deceased and his younger brother, Ismail Jimoh, while they were returning from a party.
“The officer that shot my brother was drunk because I could smell alcohol on him. He refused to let us go, saying we must enter the cell. Other four officers were telling him to let us go, but he refused to listen,” the deceased’s brother, Ismail, said.
The police inspector repeatedly opened fire on residents at a lotto office on June 20, 2021. The Command’s spokesperson, Daniel Ndukwe, said in a statement that the state’s commissioner of police, Mohammed Aliyu, ordered a thorough investigation to unravel the circumstances surrounding the case but nothing has been heard four months after.
Other sad tales
In July, a bullet fired by police hit a lady hawking soft drinks at the Yoruba nation rally in Lagos. The lady, identified as Jumoke, was hit in the back and her lifeless body taken away by the police.
This was after police fired guns and tear gas canisters into the air and used water cannons in an attempt to disperse the peaceful protesters.
The police action came shortly after Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu, said the police were there to ensure there was no “security breach” in the state.
Also, a 31-year-old motorcyclist, Saheed Olabomi, was shot by a police Sergeant escorting a high ranking police chief in Osogbo, Osun State.
The sergeant, Garba Adamu, wanted to shoot in the air to disperse people at a traffic scene around Islaudeen Grammar School, Oke-Onitea area, Osogbo, when he shot Olabomi on Jul. 27, 2021.
After two days in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of Osun State University Teaching Hospital, Olabomi gave up the ghost.
His wife, Folashade who now lives in pain with two children said “He (deceased) left home around 3:30 p.m. He wanted to help me buy something and I asked him not to worry that I will get it by myself. That was the last discussion I had with him.”
Tears and blood
Last month, Police officers attached to the Panti Division shot and killed an 18-year-old lady, Monsurat Ojuade, during a raid in Surulere, Lagos.
Oluwatosin Ojuade, the elder sister of the deceased, said the victim, a fashion designer, was shot inside their compound in Mogaji, Surulere, one month after her 18th birthday. Although concerted efforts were made to save Ojuade, she died on the way to the hospital.
The victim allegedly took the 2021 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) and was awaiting admission into the University before the unfortunate incident.
Also in September, another police operative at Obinomba area of Umukwata kingdom in Ukwuani Local Government Area (LGA) of Delta State, killed a birthday celebrant identified as Gift.
The Nigerian Tribune reported how the 29-year-old was murdered in cold blood about 10:30 p.m. at the venue of the deceased’s birthday. He was rushed to Dominion Medical Center in Obiaruku where doctors confirmed him dead having lost much blood.
Also, family members and friends of Moses Adamu, protested at the entrance of the Edo State Police Command in Benin City on Sept. 21 over the killing of the 25-year-old man by a police officer.
ThisDay newspaper reported that they wept uncontrollably as they urged the police authorities to unravel the reason for the killing of their son and brother.
Again, a young man, Emmanuel Dickson, was shot dead on Oct. 10 by a police officer at Idua Eket in the Eket LGA of Akwa Ibom State. He had gone for a ceremony alongside his traditional performance group. He was shot in the head when returning home.
Will extrajudicial killings really stop?
To end extrajudicial killings, many lawyers and human rights activists believe that there is need for thorough reform of the security force but “the government isn’t willing.”
In an earlier interview with HumAngle, Abdul Mahmood, human rights lawyer, said the government has not demonstrated a true willingness to effect any police reform.
“My view is that this government has and continues to pay lip service to police reform. Police officers are still shooting defenseless Nigerians. A case in point is the killing of Shi’ites in Abuja a few weeks ago.”
“If we cast our gaze far across the public space, you’d find out that the demands of #EndSARS protesters, which form part of the larger reform of the police, have not been addressed. Only last week, the Lagos CP Odumosu threatened Nigerians who’ll be coming out to mark the first anniversary of #EndSARS.”
“How can civil police threaten citizens in a democracy, when it isn’t a force of occupation? It is this behaviour that Odumosu exemplifies that Nigerians seek to reform,” he said then.
The Nigerian Police Spokesperson, Frank Mba did not respond to HumAngle’s calls and text messages, seeking his comments for the continuous extrajudicial killings by the Police.
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