The tragic killing of Tiamiyu Kazeem, a player with the Remo Stars Football Club, has again brought to the fore the issue of extra-judicial killing by policemen. The death of the footballer, who was also known as Kaka, has exposed some of the inadequacies of the nation’s police force, in terms of training and human relations. According to reports, Tiamiyu Kazeem, a defender and vice-captain of the Sagamu-based football club and his friend were arrested on that fateful day by policemen deployed to the Ogun State Command of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
While taking Tiamiyu and his friend to the police station, they allegedly pushed the victim out of the vehicle and he was reportedly crushed by an oncoming vehicle on the Abeokuta-Sagamu Expressway. He was later confirmed dead at a hospital in the state. Police investigations showed that the policemen were on illegal duty on the day of the incident and therefore not expected to be on the road at the time. The Nigeria Police Force has also dismissed the erring cop who was involved in the death of the footballer.
It is another instance of avoidable death and needless waste of the life of a citizen. Unfortunately, the police brutality against innocent citizens has become a familiar story. In 2016, a player of the Shooting Stars of Ibadan, Izu Joseph, was hit by a stray bullet when gunmen attacked a market in his hometown of Okaki in Rivers State.
Also, a renowned Nigerian athlete, Dele Udo, was killed in his prime at a police checkpoint in Lagos on a visit to Nigeria home from the United States. In December 2017, Nigerians protested against police brutality and extra-judicial killings and called for the disbandment of SARS operations nationwide. The campaign against SARS invariably forced the police authorities to reorganise the ubiquitous unit.
Despite the reorganisation of SARS, some policemen under SARS still violate the human rights of many Nigerians on a daily basis. They still terrorise many innocent Nigerians on the roads through their ‘stop and search’ operations. Many youths have been brutalised under the guise of the ‘stop and search.’
Following the death of Kazeem Tiamiyu, aggrieved men, women and youths demonstrated in Sagamu, thereby forcing the police authorities to disband the SARS units attached to the Ogun State Police Command. While it is good that the offending cop has been tried and dismissed by the police, he should be prosecuted for the murder of the player and be given adequate punishment for the offence.
We decry the rising cases of police brutality and condemn the tragic death of Tiamiyu Kazeem in the hands of some policemen. We call on police authorities to ensure that officers and men of the force are given adequate training, especially on gun-handling and dealing with the public.
All policemen should know that their primary function is to protect life and property. It is never their duty to take human lives through extra-judicial killings. Being a civil force and the first line of defence in internal security matters, the police should not be antagonistic to the citizens they are supposed to protect. The frequency and ease with which policemen pull the trigger on defenceless citizens, who they purport to protect, is too alarming and unbecoming of a responsible and disciplined force. Therefore, there is need for attitudinal change among the policemen in discharging their duties.
Many Nigerians are familiar with the regularity with which policemen harass and extort money from law-abiding citizens under the guise of one crime or the other. This attitude is reprehensible and must be done away with by our law enforcement agencies, if they are to earn the respect and cooperation of the people. For the police to gain the support of ordinary Nigerians in fighting crimes, they should begin to treat Nigerians with respect and dignity. The relentless abuse of human rights of the citizens can possibly explain why the police are not getting their assistance in combating crimes.
With the situation on ground, the police cannot elicit the buy-in of the citizens in intelligence gathering and sharing. More than the demands for improved remunerations and conditions of service, improved police-citizen relations hold the ace to a more satisfactory policing in the country.