Two widely publicised deaths caused by policemen on duty in recent weeks kicked up a lot of dust and reopened the calls for a reform of the police force and a disbanding of the Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS), a unit whose notoriety for brutalising suspects matches its ruthlessness in dealing with armed robbers and other criminal elements.
The first was the March 20, 2019 killing of an officer of a sister security agency, the National Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Ogar Jumbo, right in front of his wife and children. Jumbo, according to reports, was taking his children to school along the Mararaba-Nyanya axis, which is eternally choked by gridlock in the mornings, and committed a traffic violation, for which a traffic warden flagged him down. According to reports, their exchange soon created a scene and another traffic warden came to back up his colleague and they descended on Jumbo, beating him with batons and dragging him on the ground by force to the nearby police station where he was treated with disdain until he gave up.
The dust raised by this incident was yet to settle when another youngman lost his life to trigger-happy policemen in Lagos. The victim, one Kolade Johnson, an only son of his mother, was watching a football match with his friends at a viewing centre when SARS men, who had come to arrest a suspect, fired sporadically and one of the bullets got Kolade. There was nothing in the report of the incident to suggest that the policemen faced any resistance.
These two were not the only ones to fall to police bullet in the last few weeks. On March 28, this year, a commercial motorcyclist, Ademola Moshood, was shot dead at close range by policemen attached to Soloki Police station, Surulere, Lagos, for not parting with a bribe of N200 demanded of him.
On March 18, and 18-year-old girl, Hadiyat Sikiru, died in Adamo community in Ikorodu area of Lagos after she succumbed to stray bullets fired by a detachment of police from Imota Police Division, Ikorodu, who had come to raid criminal hideouts in the community.
In the Kolade Johnson case, because of the way his death was featured in the social and traditional media, his family received condolence gestures from the state government, from police authorities and from even the presidency, among others. And quickly, too, the suspects were promptly picked up, given orderly room trial and the culprit dismissed from service, all within four days of the incident. He still faces further prosecution for the crime.
There are probably other Nigerians unfortunate enough to have been dispatched to an early grave but their stories are not in the public domain due to the silent nature of their killing or the inability of their relatives and friends to make enough noise to attract the necessary attention.
While we commend the speed at which justice was administered for the Johnson family over the loss of their son and father, the case of the late Abuja-based Civil Defence officer has not received such promptness. Even though the two suspects in Ogar Jombo’s killing were detained and the police instituted an investigation, the issue is yet to be resolved.
As a newspaper, we urge the police authorities to dispatch with the case and apply the full weight of the law on the policemen who brutalised Mr Jumbo to death in front of his family ostensibly, as it was reported, because of inter-agency jealousy.
However, the above incidents underscore the need for training and retraining of police personnel on various aspects of their expected responsibilities, from weapon handling to interaction with the public and other organisations in related fields of wok. In the last instance, there needs to be a careful study of the deep-seated animosity between policemen and personnel of other paramilitary agencies, especially the NSCDC. This is necessary not just to avert further conflicts which could lead to unnecessary loss of lives, but also to get both organisations working in synergy to tackle the myriad security challenges facing the society.
The police also need to reform its modus operandi and adopt the use of policing technology. This will limit, to a great extent, the use of physical interaction with the public.
Finally, there is the need for the police authorities to promptly expose and punish killer policemen among its ranks, as was done in Kolade’s case, to send the message across that the Force does not tolerate such elements.
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