Worried by the spate of extra-judicial killings by some policemen due to unprofessional handling and misuse of firearms, the Acting Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu, warned policemen to end the inimical acts. The Police boss gave the warning during a condolence visit to the families of the victims of the recent police killings in Lagos. Adamu enjoined officers and men of the command to desist from acts that will likely pitch the force against the public.
The IGP vowed that henceforth, Supervisors, Divisional Police Officers (DPO) and Area Commanders would be held liable for any mishandling of weapons. Adamu disclosed that the force had embarked on administrative measures that will give a new orientation to its officers in areas of human rights and international best practices.
Adamu’s warning to the members of the force is welcome. We urge officers and men of the force to heed the advice. It is sad that Nigerians are inundated on a daily basis with reports of assault, illegal arrests, detention and extra-judicial killings of defenceless Nigerians by trigger-happy cops. The recent killing of a football fan, Mr. Kolade Johnson, in Lagos, by a policeman was reprehensible and condemnable. While we commend the police boss for showing concern about the killing of innocent Nigerians by some of his men, he must make sure that the culprits are apprehended and prosecuted according to the laws of the land. Those found guilty should be given adequate punishment to serve as a deterrent to other cops. It is, indeed, disheartening that despite pronouncements by the police that the force will secure lives and property of the citizens, extra-judicial killings and utter disregard for rule of law have continued to characterise the attitude of some of the cops. It is unfortunate that some policemen have scant regard for human life.
It is worth pointing out that any extra-judicial killing by the police is a violation of the Constitution. The 1999 Constitution (as amended) recognises the right to life of every Nigerian. Section 33(1) of the Constitution states that “Every person has a right to life, and so no one shall be deprived intentionally of his life, save in execution of the sentence of a court in respect of a criminal offence of which he has been found guilty in Nigeria”. Also, Section 28 of the Evidence Act 2011 dwells on free confessional statement by a suspect, and that such statement should not be obtained by torture. Sadly, the police are known to have flagrantly breached the law and in many instances, tortured their victims and detained them without trial. Not too long ago, the Civil Liberty Organisation (CLO), the Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy and Forum for Justice, jointly estimated that over 160 Nigerians were killed extra-judicially by the police between 2015 and 2016. About 500 others were reportedly maimed or detained without trial within the same period.
These violations and abuses must be stopped. The plan that the police will reintroduce the use of stun guns for routine patrols is also a welcome development. The technology was first introduced by former IGP, Solomon Arase (rtd), but was later discontinued by his successor.
Therefore, to curb the killings by policemen, there must be concrete steps to humanise the police and make them conform to basic democratic norms in the discharge of their duties. There is urgent need for training and retraining of all police personnel. We believe that this will make them accountable and professionally competent. It is in this regard that we laud the directive by Adamu for a nationwide training on weapon handling as well as laws and policies regulating the use of coercion.
Since every institution is as good as its personnel, the Nigeria Police Force should embrace reforms. At present, the unprofessional conduct of some of its officers has dented the image of the force. Extra-judicial killings have persisted because some unscrupulous police personnel believe that they can get away with any abuse in the course of duty. Therefore, the way forward is to ensure that any erring policeman is rightly sanctioned.