The Police will always regret the day they pushed Nigerian youths to explore the depths of mass protest, the first of its kind. Such protests don’t come naturally to Nigerians who, when they do protest, do so rather reluctantly, half-heartedly. ‘End SARS’ was different. It shows what happens when patience snaps in a long-suffering people. Police atrocities have been with Nigeria for as long as the beginning of colonialism when pacification campaigns saw colonial security forces razing towns and villages forcing the many communities to accept colonial rule. Then in 1949 the Police went to break a strike at the Iva Valley Coal Mines in Enugu, killing 21 miners. But it is easy to go back 10, 20, wven 30 years to see what Nigerians have had to endure and why they seem to have given up on reform.
Between October 1990 and March 1991, a dozen or so incidents of police brutality and extra-judicial killings were recorded in a monthly publication of the Civil Liberties Organisation:-
*On March 6, 1991, the Police in Agege area of Lagos State shot and killed seven persons at No. 568 Lagos0Abeokuta Expressway, Oko-Oba. The seven persons are Mt. Abiodun Garuba, abusinessman, his eldest daughter, 22-year old Abidemi Garuba preparing to join her fiancée in England in a few days from then, and his 16 year-old on, Saidu Garuba, a graduand of Lokoja Teachers College, Kwara State. Others killed in the incident are Shehu Salami, a graduate of Ogun State University, Ago-Iwoye, and friend to the Garuba family, Ifesanmi Anipapo, 23. A refrigerator technician who was fixing a faulty fridge for the Garubas on the day of the incident, and Bello Anagatone, 22, a water supplier who was delivering water to the4 Garuba family at the time of the incident. The seventh victim w3as Alhaji Taofik Shoyoye, 44, a neighbour to the Garuba family. The killings took placein the home of the Garuba family.
The Police claimed that the seven person were members of an armed robbery gang and that they were killed in a police-robbers shootout. To back up this claim the police tendered one gun as the weapon recovered from the gang giving rise to questions how a seven-man gang would engage the police in a shoot-out with only one gun. Autopsy reports showed that the seven persons were shot p[oint-blank most of them in the chest or in the back at very close range which would not be the case in a shoot-out. Many of the corpses were vadlu bruised indicating that they were beaten before they were deliberately shot. Furthermore no police man was injured during the ‘shoot-out’ and all the bullets recovered from the scene of the incident came only from one source.
All these corroborative eye witnesses accounts from th ssurviving members of the Garuba family that the killings were cold-blooded and premeditated after the police had arrested victims raken them to the station and then brought them backto the house for further investigation Friends and neighbours if the Garuba family found that the incident so incredible that even after the bodies have been carried away by the police sime went toi the Oko-Oba Police Station to inquire about the fate of their ‘arrested’ persons. One such inquirer, Mr. Francis Sule, friend of the Garubas had not returned to date. The last heard about him was an entry in the records of the Oko-Oba Police Station that he was detaijned for ‘stealing. But he could not be found uinb any of the cells in the station. Furthermore, a counsel to the families of the deceased persoins, Tony Ogbogbo Esq. was knocked dead by a hit-and-run vehicle shortly after he was briefed to handle the case, and police investigations into the killings have been lukewarm.
*Also in March (1991), the police in Jebba, Kwara State shot and killed three workers at the Jebba Paper Mill during a peaceful demonstration by junior workers in the company against non-payment of salaries and fringe benefits. A trade union leader, detained in connection with the protest later died in police custody Despite calls by trade union and human rights organisations, no inquiry has been ordered into the killings.
*May 15, 1991, Dr. Nwogu Okere,32, General Manager of Klinsite Outdoor Services was shot dead by the policeat a petrol station in Gbagada, Lagos. The Lagos State Cpmmissioner of Police, Alhaji Daura Ahmedclaimed that his men mistook the late Dr. Okere for an armed robber because his driver refused to stop at a police check[pont. Giweverm eye-witnesses report that the shooting took place not while Dr. Okere’s car was in motion but after the car had pulled up in a petrol station and its occupants – Dr. Okere, his wife, May, and their driver, Mr. Egboh – disembarked with their hands raised above their heads, and that Dr. Okere was shot point-blank in the chest in that defenceless position. Moreover there was nothing even in the police account that indicated that any of the car’s occupants was armed or in any way posed a physical threat to the police men had they desired to arrest them and charge them with whatever offence is constituted by the alleged refusal to stop at a checkpoint.
*On May 26, 1991 a 22-year old apprentice tailor WasiuMuniru was shot dead in cold blood by police men in Ademuyi Village, Agege, Lagos. Eye witnesses reported that a group of police men opened fire on some young men playing football, killing the late Wasiu in the process.
*On May 27, 1991,three persons wer3e shot dead by policemen at a checkpoint near Ota at the Lagos-Ogun States boundary. They are Mr. Dele Ojo a United States-based businessman and his two friends, Mr. Andrew Esiri, a university graduate and proprietor of Josiri Hotel, Bariga, Lagos, and Kayode Oladimeji, a US-trained nurse. The three friends were travelling in Mr. Esiri’s Peugeot 504 Saloon car when they were stopped at the checkpoint. Their corpses were later found by their relations at the Ikeja General Hospital Mortuary tagged ‘unknown armed robber.’
*On 28th May, 1991, armed security agents shot dead two students of the Yaba College of Technology, Lagos. The deceased are: Edirin FelixUkutsemuya, a final year student of Computer Studies and Olumide Steven, final year student of Accountancy. The incident took place when students of the institution staged a peaceful protest within’the campus over the arbitrary proscription of their union by the institution’s rector. In a press conference later that day, the Inspector General of Police Alhaji Aliyu Attah said the protesting students were intent on killing their Rector but for the timely intervention of the police, though he did not state the nature of the intervention. However, as condemnation of the killings spread the Inspector General issued another statement denying the involvement of the police in the killings and blaming it on unarmed secret cults in the campus.
*In June 1,1991,a driver with Ricco Furniture in Lagos, Mr. Japhet Eze died in custody in the Pedro Police Station, shortly after he underwent interrogation. Autopsy report revealed that he died of heart failure and that he had visible signs of bruises all over his body. Mr. Eze had been in detention since late May in connection with the loss to armed robbers of his duty vehicle.
On December 20. 1990, Elechi Larry Igwe, 26, was killed in custody at the Western Avenue Police Station in Surulere, Lagos. An eyewitness Mrs. Fanny Anukpe, a detainee at the station reported that Elechi was brought in on the evening of December 19 in handcuffs and was severely beaten by a number of policemen The circumstances of his arrest on December 19 are not very clear but on 20th December his corpse was deposited at the Lagos State General Hospital Mortuary where his relations found it after several agonizing days of search, tagged unknown. The mortuary register showed that the corpse was deposited by one Sergeant Joseph Ohihion of the Surulere Police Station.
*In Kaduna Chidi Nwaguma, 25,was killed in custody on or about December 10, 1990. On that date a police orporal Musa Andrew of the Sabon Tosha Police Station, Kaduna, delivered his corpse to a public mortuary where his relatives discovered it some three days later. On December 19, Corporal Andrew removed the corpse from the mortuary and moved it to an unknown destination. Sources reported that Nwaguma was arrested by the police on 9th December,1990, handcuffed and beaten to death. A post mortem report showed congealed blood weals and bruises. No inquiry was ordered into the killing.