By Innocent Anaba
LAGOS — Amnesty International, yesterday, called on the Nigeria Police Force to stop shooting at protesters after at least three were killed and 25 injured in the past two days.
The organisation urged the authorities to reform police regulations in line with international standards, to prevent additional loss of life and ensure that the police only use firearms, when it is strictly necessary to protect life.
It called on the government to “repeal Police Force Order 237, which provides guidance in use of firearms by the police in Nigeria. It is so broad that it permits police officers to shoot protesters, whether or not they pose a threat to life.”
Amnesty said it was “unacceptable that Force Order 237 instructs police officers in ‘riot’ situations to ‘single out’ and fire at ‘ring-leaders’ in the forefront of the mob. The definition of riot is so vague, that all protesters, however, peaceful, are at risk. The force order also directs officers to fire ‘at the knees of the rioters’ and explicitly prohibits firing in the air. Shooting at people, regardless of where an officer aims, is likely to result in death.
“With more protests announced, President Goodluck Jonathan must demonstrate a commitment to protect the people. The President must repeal Force Order 237 and immediately announce that the use of lethal force is only allowed when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life.
“The President must also set up an independent commission of inquiry to investigate all reports of use of force by the police against protesters. International standards require that any use of force or firearms resulting in death or injury is investigated to ensure that the use of force was not arbitrary or abusive.
“The police must be provided with non lethal equipment to properly manage public order situations, including protests even if they turn violent.”