On a breezy morning in March 2019, Ogar Jumbo, an officer of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), was driving his two kids to school when he was reportedly beaten to death by officers of the Nigeria police force in Nyanya, a suburb of Abuja.
Jumbo, who was also with his wife, was said to have violated traffic rules. An argument ensued and the police officers pounced on him, according to witnesses who said his wife and two children — aged five and eight — cried and watched helplessly until the man drew his last breath.
More than a year down the line, justice has not been served for the deceased, according to findings by TheCable. Desmond Jumbo, his elder brother, told TheCable the police never contacted the family after the incident.
Unfortunately, there are many more Nigerians that have gone the way of the late NSCDC officer.
After reviewing media reports and data from the Council on Foreign Relations, TheCable found out that 91 other Nigerians have been killed by the police in the past one year.
TheCable’s study, which also reviewed statements from various groups and affected persons, covered the period of March 2019, to February 2020, and so, did not extend to the COVID-19 lockdown characterised by high rate of human rights abuses.
The study did not cover crime suspects or those who died in police custody, neither did it touch on those allegedly killed by other security agencies such as the Nigerian Customs Service of which officers reportedly killed four residents of Oyo state on March 10, 2020.
Quick points from the study:
- Police officers allegedly killed Nigerians on 51 occasions in past one year
- Killings were recorded in every month under the period reviewed
- There were no reports of killings by police in only 15 states
- Lagos had the highest occurrences and highest number of reported deaths
- July and September had highest number of reported killings: 19
‘REFUSAL TO GIVE BRIBE, ARGUMENT, ACCIDENTAL DISCHARGE’ TOP REASONS
The data shows the sad trend of extrajudicial killings, most of which were reported to have happened during protests, and many of which were unprovoked.
Some of the most prominent reasons for such killings, according to the reports, include refusal to give a bribe, argument, “accidental discharge” and attempt to disperse protests.
For instance, on February 13, while residents of Azagba community in Edo state protested the death of one Frederick who was allegedly killed by a policeman during an argument, a team of policemen deployed to quell the protest ended up killing four more persons, a newspaper reported.
Also, when residents of Sagamu in Ogun state trooped out in their numbers to protest the death of Tiamiyu Kazeem, a professional footballer with Remo Stars who was killed by a policeman, little did they know that three of them would end up getting killed as well.
TheCable discovered that a good number of the reports involved the special anti-robbery squad (SARS) notorious for human rights abuses. On August 10, for instance, SARS operatives chasing a suspect ended up shooting a pregnant woman dead.
Alleged refusal to give a bribe to the officers led to the death of at least five persons, including a motorcyclist who was reportedly killed for refusing to give a N100 bribe to the police.
Also, some of the reported killings were during clashes between the police and members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), most of which were before the group was labelled a terrorist organisation.
While the police have at various times said the IMN members resort to violence during their protest, Amnesty International once said the security agency uses “lethal force rather than the rule of law” in addressing the group’s grievances.
What is surprising, however, is that even police officers themselves are not immune from extrajudicial killings. Three of them were reportedly killed by their colleagues on various occasions including while dispersing protests.
‘NEGLECT, DELAYED JUSTICE’ FOR VICTIMS
The victims were not just numbers. So, TheCable spoke to some of their families and friends, most of whom lamented that justice is yet to be served for the deceased persons. They said the officers involved have not been convicted and that most of them escape disciplinary measures.
Desmond, for instance, said the last time their family heard from the police about Jumbo’s case was the day after his younger brother was allegedly killed, saying there has been “no contact, nothing; even when he was buried”.
“It was only the day after it happened that the DPO (divisional police officer) visited but many people in the area were very angry with him” he told TheCable in a phone chat.
“He (the DPO) now went back to the Abuja command and lied that they wanted to kill him. And of course, they were hiding under the excuse that the place was not secured and they didn’t reach out.
“I am his elder brother and living directly behind the Garki police command, but they didn’t do anything.”
He also said the two cases in court against the two policemen, a criminal case and another civil which “the police were not happy” about, have been delayed for spurious reasons — the police did not show up in the last hearing last week.
Like Jumbo, like Kolade Johnson, a young man whose life was abruptly cut short on March 31, 2019, when Lagos police officers opened fire at a viewing centre during a raid.
Boluwade, Jonhnson’s elder brother, told TheCable the last time the family heard from the police was in April, two months after his death, when they brought a condolence letter.
“Since then, no one has showed up. The police have never called the family since then. There was no compensation,” he said, adding, “it is only the governor that was showing up from time to time”.
Although Ogunyemi Olalekan, the policeman who reportedly killed him, was dismissed and later arraigned in court, Awakor faulted the manner in which the case is being handled.
“They say he is in prison but whenever he comes to court, he is looking like he is in a hotel,” he said of the officer.
TheCable reached out to all the police state commands where the killings were reported, requesting for an update on the officers involved, but no information was given.
While many of the command’s spokespersons did not respond to TheCable’s enquiries, those who responded denied the killings while others claimed to be ignorant of them.
Frank Mba, police spokesman, did not respond to messages seeking the police’ comments on the cases.
‘HOW POLICE OFFICERS BURY CASES, ESCAPE FROM COURT’
The Nigeria police’ style of operation has always been a source of concern, especially when compared to other countries of the world. And its rankings over the years confirms this.
The security agency was ranked the worst in the world by the International Police Science Association and the Institute for Economics and Peace in the 2016 World Internal Security and Police Index (WISPI) — its latest ranking.
And this is largely as a result of a lack of proper framework and misplaced priorities, activists and organisations told TheCable.
Segun Awosanya, an activist known to have intervened in many cases regarding human rights abuses by the police, told TheCable justice for victims of police brutality is hampered by a lot of factors such as failure of some officers to pursue justice.
Awosanya, who founded Social Intervention Advocacy Foundation (SIAF), a leading campaigner for police reforms in Nigeria, said the police state commands usually set up disciplinary panels to probe officers involved in brutality after which they reduce the ranks of the officers and transfer them elsewhere but “that means they are back to society”.
“There are situations where some police officers are accused of working to bury the case. An example is the case of Chima in Rivers state (Chima Ikwunado, a mechanic was reportedly tortured to death by police officers). The person it was assigned to has never done any justice in any case,” he said.
He said to ensure speedy dispensation of justice, police officers need to be trained on professional conduct while disciplinary measures must extend beyond the officers indicted to the divisional police officers.
“They should not only be charged; their DPOs and senior colleagues must be sacked. How many DPOs will hold their people to account, because they are seen to be part of the corrupt system?,” he asked.
Okechukwu Nwanguma, executive director of Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre (RULAAC), another organisation known to advocate responsible policing in Nigeria, told TheCable “police brutality is like an epidemic”.
He said: “Police brutality is like an epidemic because of the unwillingness of the police to punish the officers involved and also because of lack of adequate legal framework. The moment these cases go to court, there is no way of monitoring and following up.
“There have been cases where police officers charged to court disappear because nobody is monitoring or following up. A DPO was involved in murder and ran away; a court issued an arrest warrant and the police said they did not know his whereabouts. Two years later, the man was located at zone 9 in Umuahia where he was serving in the office of the provost, who is in charge of disciplinary measures.”
He also said there is hardly any remedy for victims and “and even when the court awards monetary compensation, the police hardly obey these orders; there are many cases where they have refused to pay or apologised as ordered by the courts”.
Below are details of the reported killings from March, 2019 to February, 2020.
|1||March 1||Police officer ‘kills’ Lagos bus driver after refusing to give bribe||1|
|2||9th||Election observer ‘shot dead’ by policeman in Enugu during confrontation||1|
|3||18th||Stray bullet kills woman during police raid in Lagos||1|
|4||19th||Civil defence officer ‘beaten to death’ by policeman in Abuja in the presence of wife, children during argument||1|
|5||20th||Stray bullet kills one as police, drivers clash in Lagos||1|
|6||28th||Police ‘kill okada rider over N200 bribe’ in Lagos||1|
|7||31||Police stray bullet kills boy watching Premier League match in Lagos||1|
|8||April 13th||Five policemen arrested after ‘killing’ woman returning from night club in Lagos||1|
|9||18th||Police ‘stray bullet kills’ 13-year-old in Rivers during protest over death of youth killed by policeman||2|
|10||21st||Police officer ‘kills’ Ogun resident after misunderstanding||1|
|11||21st||Police stray bullet ‘kills man’ while escaping mob attack in Ogun||1|
|12||May 8||‘Police kill’ Lagos motorcyclist ‘over N100 bribe’||1|
|13||20th||Police ‘kill one’ while dispersing crowd who lynched suspected kidnapper in Kaduna||1|
|14||June 3rd||Policeman ‘kills 21-year-old’ in Abia after being asked to dim vehicle light||1|
|15||July 9||‘Two killed’ during Shiites protest in Abuja||2|
|16||13th||‘One killed’ in protest over death of motorcyclist killed by policeman for refusing to give bribe in Ibadan||2|
|17||15th||SARS operatives allegedly kill Lagos cleaner mistaken for another suspect||1|
|18||22nd||11 IMN members, journalist, killed by police during Shiite protest in Abuja||12|
|19||23rd||Two killed as Shiites, police clash again in Abuja||2|
|20||August 7th||Policeman ‘shoots dead Lagos NURTW member’ during confrontation after stepping on his boot||1|
|21||9th||Police officer ‘kills driver over N1000 bribe’ on Kaduna–Abuja expressway||1|
|22||10th||SARS operatives ‘kill pregnant woman’ while chasing cyber-criminals in Lagos||1|
|23||13th||‘One killed’ as police try to rearrest fleeing criminals in Anambra||1|
|24||25th||Police stray bullet reportedly ‘kills man’ in Lagos||1|
|25||29th||One killed’ in police, motorcyclists scuffle in Benue||1|
|26||September 3rd||Xenophobia: Police officer allegedly kills protester in Lagos||1|
|27||9th||Policeman ‘kills motorcyclist’ in Jigawa for violating traffic rule||1|
|28||10th||‘Two killed’ as police shoot at protesting FUOYE students in Ekiti||2|
|29||10th||Police allegedly kill 12 Shiites during Ashura procession; 3 in Kaduna, 6 in Bauchi, 2 in Sokoto and 1 in Katsina||12|
|30||17th||One dead, 3 injured as police, vigilante clash during visit to Onitsha plaza||1|
|31||26th||SARS officials raiding Lagos street ‘kill youth’||1|
|32||28th||Delta policeman ‘shoots female colleague dead’ while shooting to disperse protesters||1|
|33||October 1st||‘Police kill two’ while enforcing ban on motorcyclists in Akwa Ibom||2|
|34||November 13||Policeman allegedly kills colleague in Lagos while dispersing crowd during clampdown on motorcyclists||1|
|35||29th||Policemen ‘shoot fun-seeker dead’ during confrontation in Lagos club||1|
|36||December 1||Policeman ‘kills truck driver’ in Ondo during argument||1|
|37||4||Policeman ‘kills motorist in Kano’ after intervening in argument||1|
|38||6||Police ‘shoot 18-year-old boy dead’ in Imo for retaliating slap||1|
|39||11||SARS officer’s stray bullet allegedly kills fruit seller in Abia||1|
|40||21||Policeman ‘kills self after murdering colleague’ in Abuja||1|
|41||27||Policeman ‘shoots man dead’ in Lagos after confrontation||1|
|42||27||One killed as police, Shiites clash in Sokoto||1|
|43||January 5||Policemen ‘kill’ three at protest over Oyo market fire||3|
|44||6||Bayelsa boils as ‘policeman kills driver, two passengers’ during argument for wrong parking||3|
|45||21||Police ‘shoot passerby dead’ during clash with Shiites in Abuja||1|
|46||February 3||Three killed as protesters clash with police over Okada ban in Lagos||3|
|47||5||Secondary school student, one other killed as okada riders, police clash in Lagos||2|
|48||13||Four persons killed in Edo protest over death of a ‘youth killed by police’||5|
|49||22||Father of four killed by police in Jos||1|
|50||22||SARS operative ‘kill’ Remo Stars player in Ogun||1|
|51||24||‘Three killed by police’ in protest against death of Remo Stars footballer in Ogun||3|