20th May, 2010
Extra judicial killings by the police in Nigeria have not only elicited groans from the citizens of this country but also the concern of international watchdogs.
A recent study by New York-based Open Society Justice Initiative and the Network of Police Reform in Nigeria confirms the obvious. The report says the killing, torture and rape of suspects by the police in Nigeria are done routinely. The report says that the fact the Nigeria Police Force is under-funded and ill-equipped makes it easier for its men and officers to commit crimes than prevent them.
Unlike what obtains in advanced countries, the report says the NPF relies on torture as the main method of investigation with every major police station having its own â€œtorture chamberâ€.
The groups in the study lament that the rape of female suspects, especially prostitutes has become the stock in trade of policemen. The study quotes a policeman saying that is one of the fringe benefits attached to night patrol. The study said it is hopeless trying to establish the number of suspects in Nigeria. But it claimed that hundreds of Nigerians are murdered each year by the police, especially those accused of armed robbery.
The police tag those marked for extrajudicial execution are as â€œramsâ€ or â€œbush meatâ€. Large scale killings as well as mass burials in shallow graves are not strange to the Nigeria Police.
The report lists forms of torture by the police to include beatings, clubbing of soles of the feet, burning of suspects with hot irons or cigarettes, banging their heads against walls and tearing off finger nails.
But beside this report, other groups have earlier carried out studies on extra judicial killings by the police. One of them is the Amnesty International which has been said to raise several complaints and written petitions about the nefarious activities of the Nigeria police. But all of these seemed to have been ignored.
The police authorities have rather engaged in a vain attempt to project a good image for the Force. Credit must however go to the immediate past Police Affairs Minister Ibrahim Lame who in March complained about the rising cases of extra-judicial killings and human rights violations by the police. But several panels set up by the authorities to look into the cases of extra judicial killings are yet to stem the tide.
Policemen continue to harass and intimidate innocent citizens. We may not have stopped to hear about people being killed on the highway for refusing to part with money as bribes to the policemen.
So who will stop these killings by the police? we are compelled to ask. Who will make them stop killing innocent people and putting guns beside them in order to make it look as if they were armed robbers or they died while resisting arrest?
Who will make the police stop forcing people to write statements to implicate or incriminate themselves?
It is time the government started to look at the kind of people who are recruited into the Police Force and the kind of training they receive at the police academies; the welfare of the policemen; equipping and voting adequate funds for the police.
It might also be necessary to overhaul the Police Force with the aim of flushing out the bad eggs that abound there.Â All of these will probably pave the way for a Police Force Nigerians can be proud of.