The recent gruesome killing of one Mr. Godwin Onoja by a Customs officer on the Shagamu end of the Lagos-Ore-Benin Expressway has underscored, once again, the issue of extra-judicial killing by security agents in the country. The reckless killing has equally exposed the disdain of some security agents over the human rights of other Nigerians.
The Federal Government must check the abuse of power and unjustified killing of Nigerians by some security operatives in the country forthwith. According to reports, the victim was shot during an altercation between him and officers of the Federal Operations Unit, Zone A, of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Ikeja, Lagos, over the alleged extortion of N5,000 bribe.
The deceased was among passengers in a commercial bus travelling from Lagos to Benin. Initially, the NCS, through its spokesperson, Joseph Attah, said that the victim was not one of the passengers, but a friend to the Customs men who supplied water to them from the neigbourhood.
Later the NCS spokesperson said, “Following the unfortunate incident on Sunday February 17, 2019, at Shagamu interchange involving operatives of the Federal Operations Unit, Zone A, which led to the death of a fellow citizen, Mr. Godwin Agada Onoja, the Nigeria Customs Service has continued to maintain close contact with the bereaved family.”
The NCS said, “We are pained by this sad development and share the grief of losing a fellow compatriot in a seemingly avoidable circumstance. We are and will continue to take every necessary step that will cushion the pain associated with losing a dear one.”
Meanwhile, four officers of NCS had been detained over the incident. The Comptroller-General of NCS, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd) has set up a panel to investigate the killing. Ali vowed that any officer caught on the ‘wrong side’ would be punished accordingly. The investigation panel is headed by the Zonal Coordinator, Zone A, ACG Kaycee Ekekezie.
We condemn in strong terms the killing of Citizen Onoja by a Customs officer and decry the attempt by the NCS to deny the incident. The life of the victim said to be a Nigerian in Diaspora matters. While the NCS has set up an investigation team to unravel the circumstances that led to the unfortunate incident, we urge the team to ensure that the perpetrators of the heinous crime are tried and punished according to the laws of the land.
In order to strengthen the investigation and ensure that justice is done, we urge the police to wade into the matter and hasten the diligent prosecution of those involved in the dastardly act. This is the best way to ensure that the victim gets justice. This incident must not be swept under the carpet as witnessed in the past.
We urge officers and men of the NCS, especially those on patrol operations and indeed other security agents to treat Nigerians with respect and dignity. They should respect the right to life of other Nigerians and avoid resorting to self-help while performing their duties.
Section 33 of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution (as amended) states clearly that “Every person has a right to life, and 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.” The killing of citizen Onoja by the Customs officer is in total disregard of the victim’s right to life as enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution.
In fact, the killing of any Nigerian by any security agent must no longer be treated with levity. Although no amount of money will substitute a human life, we call on the leadership of the NCS to ensure that the family of the deceased is adequately compensated for the willful murder of their breadwinner. They should also tender unreserved apology to the family to assuage their trauma at this period of great grief.
It is sad that extra-judicial killing is becoming a norm in the country. According to a human rights organisation, International Society for Social Liberties and the Rule of Law (Intersociety), over 22,000 Nigerians had been killed extra-judicially since 2015.
The number may even be higher than what the group said if our poor statistical culture is taken into consideration. The rights group explained that killings were mainly by the Boko Haram sect, herdsmen, security agents and bandits.
We urge the NCS and other security agents to check the rising cases of extra-judicial killings in the country by ensuring that their officers and men obey the rules of engagement and respect the right to life of all Nigerians.