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A nation in the throes of extra-judicial killings

By Innocent Anaba

THE directive by President Umaru Yar’Adua  to the national security adviser (NSA), last week, to carry out a full scale investigation into the killing of Mohammed Yusuf, leader of the religious sect, Boko Haram, has brought to the fore  the issue of extra-judicial killings in the country.

Yar’Adua  had described the killing “as a serious matter” , while ordering a full  investigation into the Yusuf’s death. Aside the crisis which the Boko Haram sect plunged  the northern part of the country into,  this is the first time  the president would order an investigation into an extra-judicial killing.

While Yusuf’s death remains  controversial, a national newspaper had reported, last  week, that the Boko Haram financier, Alhaji Buji Foi, had also been also killed without  recourse to due process. Quoting You Tube, an internet website, the paper said that the 41-second video showed Foi, dragged down from a white Toyota Hilux van by a mobile policeman in bullet-proof vest for alleged execution and,  later, shots were fired to the jubilation of the officers that watched the alleged execution, and the lifeless body of Foi and some other persons were shown.

The video was allegedly shot with a video phone. Extra-judicial killings in the country have been of great concern to the Nigerian populace  in view of the fact that such killings negate the principle of rule of law and due process. Groups like the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), amongst others, had made  representations to the  authorities, including the Attorney General of the Federal and Minister of Justice, the Police Service Commission, Office of the Inspector General of Police, the military  and a list of other government and non-governmental organisations, on the killing of innocent citizens by the police and other military and para-military organisations, yet in many cases, the matters were never resolved. Even when investigations were ordered, the outcome  created more confusion. Most of these killings took place at  check-points, roads and, in some cases, houses are raided and innocent citizens killed.

Justice Dorcas Oluwayemi, a judge of the Lagos State High Court, Ikeja, in September  2008, sentenced a police inspector, Mr John Onwe, to death  for murder, holding that it had been established by prosecution  that “Onwe led police investigative team that tied one Nduriri Onyekwere with rope, and hung him suspended in the air before they started applying several bows with the bottom of guns and other hard objects”.

Onwe was of the State Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).  His  colleagues, Inspector Victor Ukah, Sergeant Abiodun Ogundele, Corporal Oladipopu, Corporal Kennedy, Corporal Benjamin Usman, who took  part in the battering of one  Onyekwere, all disappeared, even before the trial commenced. The said policemen were out to recover a debt for one Chief Gabriel Ezeze, who had claimed  Onyekwere was owing him and he promised to give policemen part of the money, when recovered.

The death of Gideon Ovikpokpo, an engineer, in the hands of some mobile policemen attached to the Quick Response Squad on Monday, September 8, 2008, in Warri, Delta State, is yet to be resolved, even though a rights group, Committee for the Defence of Human Rights, had called for investigation into the matter. On June  29, 2009,  a coroner inquest conducted under the new Lagos State Coroner Systems Law 2007 held the Nigeria Police responsible for the brutal killing of one  Mr. Modebayo Awosika.

“The evidence before me clearly established that the lives of the policemen on duty on the morning of October 2, 2008 were not in danger. Evidence before me shows a callous, unprovoked and unjustifiable shooting of defenceless Nigerian by a Nigerian police officer. I agree with the conclusion by the pathologist and also from the totality of evidence before me hold that the deceased, Modebayo Awosika, died of cerebral disruption with hemorrhage arising from gunshot injury,” the coroner held.

In April 2008, a coroner sitting in Ikeja also held the police responsible for the death of a herbalist, Mr. Samson Adekoya. It indicted one Inspector John Sawyer of Lagos  State Police Command for the  death of Adekoya and therefore ordered his arrest and prosecution for his failure to notify the authorities of the death of the deceased. Mrs. Ariyike Ipaye-Nwachukwu similarlyordered the state’s police boss, Mr. Marvel Akpoyibo, to conduct an investigation on Sawyer and others who might be connected with the death of Adekoya and prosecute them if found culpable.

Another coroner court is trying to unravel the circumstances surrounding the death of an  Editorial Board Member of Thisday Newspapers, Mr. Abayomi Ogundeji, who was murdered in Dopemu area of Lagos on August 17, 2008.

Militant leader, Ken Niweigha, was killed in controversial circumstances, after he was apprehended by the police. Niweigha, the alleged mastermind of the killings of 12 policemen which eventually led to the Odi invasion in 1999, was arrested by the police and less that 24 hours after his arrest, the police claimed that he died in a gun battle between his gang who came to free him and security operatives. Considering the circumstances surrounding his death, many knew that police, on their volition, killed him.

The police in Abuja led by DCP Danjuma Ibrahim, in what is now referred to as “Apo Six,” was alleged to have branded five Igbo traders and their female friend as armed robbers and killed them  extra-judicially. Even  though Danjuma is claiming that he was roped in the  incident, the matter is meanwhile still in court.

Citizen  Juliana Obiajulu was also felled by police bullet, at No  52 Makoko Road, Yaba, Lagos, when a team of mobile policemen, who were on the trail of prostitutes in the area, opened fire indiscriminately within the Obiajulu’s residence and Juliana,  who was dressing up after a bath in her one room apartment, slumped on the bed, bleeding profusely from a bullet wound which tore through her jaw to her brain.

Citizen Ebenezer Aisien  was shot dead by a mobile policeman at Nigerian  National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) mega station  in Benin City,  Edo State on September 15, 2008, where he had gone to purchase fuel. Aisien was shot after a heated argument with the policeman, even though the police command in the state later said the officer acted in self defencet.

Atlantic fringe

In Bayelsa State, operatives of the Joint Task Force, JTF, shot and killed a pregnant woman  and some people  on their way  from Furopa community on the Atlantic fringe. The CLO, which petitioned the Federal Government  over the incident which took place in August 2008, had noted that the JTF members had constituted themselves to security risk to law abiding citizens.

Ayuba Bello, a father of six, was gunned down by members of the Oyo State Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS) on November 11, 2007, after a minor incident involving the car he was in and a police patrol van.

On December 10, 2006, 48- year old  Isola Babalola and another female occupant  were killed when the police opened fire on the vehicle they were traveling in  to Akure, from Lagos, at a police checkpoint at Ilara Mokin, close to Akure, for failing to part with the  N20 bribe.

34-year old Olusegun Openiyi  was shot dead on August 19, 2007, at the University of Lagos gate, by policemen from Sabo Police Station. After he was initially stopped, he did and when  he drove off, he was shott.

The list of extra-judicial killings  goes on and on.

With the investigations into Boko Haram leader’s killing, one would hope that the Federal Government, will,  for once, take this issue serious.


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