Neo Black Movement of africa of Africa (London Zone) calls on the Nigerian government and the Nigerian police force to pursue investigations on all allegations of extrajudicial killings. We implore the Nigerian national assembly to pursue amendments to Section 33(2) (b) of the Constitution and Police Force Order 237 including all regulations governing the use of force by the Nigerian Police Force. We find alarming that our fellow citizens are being denied their "fundamental right" to live by law enforcement officers entrusted to protect them.
The 64 page report released on 09/12/ 2009, by the global human rights NGO Amnesty International, has plunged the Nigerian police into a crisis that has called their attitude, discipline and arrogance to question. Erwin van der Borght, the Director of the organization's Africa Programme exposed shocking levels of unlawful police killings in Nigeria, West Africa. His report accused the Nigerian Police of being responsible for hundreds of extra-judicial executions, other unlawful killings and enforced disappearances that occur in that nation on a yearly basis. The report described enforced disappearances in Nigeria as being a widespread phenomenon. And that typically, in the first days or weeks following arrest, families are allowed to visit their relatives in detention only to be subsequently informed by the Police that their loved ones have been "transferred to Abuja". But in most cases, the police simply deny any knowledge of their whereabouts. This trend is absolutely horrific and utterly despicable.
The report stated that majority of these killings are never investigated, and that the police officers responsible go unpunished while the relatives of victims usually get no justice or compensation. Relatives of the victims are often not informed by the police about what happened to their loved ones and The Nigerian Police frequently argue that victims of their shootings are 'armed robbers' killed in 'shoot-outs' with the police or while trying to escape custody. The report documented 39 cases of executions and enforced disappearances over a survey period of three years (from July 2007 to June 2009), and it also revealed that in June 2009, Amnesty visited the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) detention centre in Abuja, The NGO says they were unofficially informed by a policeman that many "armed robbers" are taken there and shot. The facility is located in a disused abattoir outside the city.
Erwin van der Borght said "Police don't only kill people by shooting them; they also torture them to death, often while they are in detention." His allegations were corroborated with pictures of victims, graphs and tables of killings. Amnesty International disclosed that suspects are detained in a vast warehouse previously used for slaughtering cattle. Some chains were found still hanging from the ceiling when the delegates of Amnesty International visited the building. Amnesty International says its delegates counted at least 30 empty bullet cases scattered on the ground and that the cells had 15 people in them at the time of their visit.
The Nigerian police must show adherence for the law and order they need to realize that unlike during the military regimes, when they acted arbitrarily in the exercise of their powers, their activities are constantly being evaluated under democratic rule. The police are expected to protect even their own suspects from harm. What happened to `innocent until proven guilty'? Suspects are now to being punished directly or executed by the police, even before have access to any form of legal prosecution. Amnesty International reports that some police officers in Nigeria see the killings of `armed robbers' in detention as an acceptable practice, thus going about this with reckless abandon. The organization’s allegations against the Nigerian police were supported by a video broadcasted on Al Jazeera which was filmed in July 2009, during the week of clashes between members of the religious group Boko Haram and security forces in Borno, Kano, Katsina and Yobe states; over 800 people are believed to have lost their lives.The images from the video has highly horrified the world. Most despicable is the extra-judicial shooting of a number of children of barely school age in the full glare of on-lookers of same age neighbourhood.
The video footage shows uniformed police officers ordering some unarmed civilians to lie face down on the ground before shooting their victims heads and backs, the officers in the video took turns aiming for the hearts of their victims through the upper right part of the rear torso. Two of the civilians in the video were physically handicapped, they limped with crutches on the orders of the police to lay beside the dead bodies before being shot. One of the victims in the video was told by the police that he was about to have his photograph taken; they lied. He was shot three times. The video footage is only part of the evidence presented by Amnesty International.
The leader of Boko Haram, Mohammed Yusuf, was also killed in police custody on 30 July 2009 a few hours after he was filmed being interviewed by police and a journalist. In the video he was in cuffs and was willingly cooperating with the press and his police interrogators. But the Nigerian police claimed that he attempted to escape shortly after he spoke to the press. Pictures of his body reveal that he was handcuffed at the time of his death.
The NGO also referred to the case of fifteen-year-old Emmanuel Egbo, who was killed by a police officer in Enugu in September 2008. Witnesses say he was playing with other children in front of his uncle's house when three police officers came up to them. One officer pulled out a gun and shot the boy, claiming he was an armed robber. He was unarmed. In August 2009, his family discovered his body had disappeared from the mortuary.
`Human Rights Watch' one of the world's leading independent organization dedicated to defending and protecting human rights says it documented over 133 accounts of police units going from house to house, summarily executing unarmed men and boys shortly after the riots. According to one of their reports, one eyewitness said he saw an unarmed shopkeeper plead for his life. Police ordered him to lie down on the ground, the witness said. "He kept saying, 'Please God, allow me to live.'... One of them said, 'Today you go die,' and then he shot him in the side. Then the same police shot him again. As he was going to shoot him a third time, one of his colleagues said ... 'Leave it, he's already dead.'"
The eyewitness said the shopkeeper managed to drag himself to a neighbor's house, where the neighbor tried to stop the bleeding from wounds to the back and abdomen. But police returned to the area and shot tear gas into the neighbor's house, the neighbor testified that the shopkeeper died a short time later.
The Nigerian government says that it does not condone extrajudicial killings. But they are clearly not doing enough to stop them or bring the police perpetrators to justice. A committee set up in August 2009 to investigate the circumstances leading to the crisis including the alleged killing of the leader of Boko Haram has not reported any progress in the matter. On rare occasions when police officers implicated in an unlawful killing are prosecuted, they are often released on bail or escape custody. Some are simply transferred to other states. The widespread disregard for human rights and due process within the police force has bred a culture of impunity. This and a plethora of similar cases, makes claims by the Nigerian government of a zero-tolerance on extra-judicial executions and torture unacceptable, especially when the government fails to investigate and arrest police officers despite mounting evidence incriminating them in hideous human rights violations. I
The Nigerian Police Force appears intransigent and unrepentant. DCP Emmanuel Ojukwu, the police force public relations officer in a reaction to the accusation, said "Amnesty International has an unholy penchant to denigrate police organizations in most parts of the world. It is quite obvious that the mission is to kill the Nigerian police, wipe out our record, and bury our aspirations." The constant denial of claims of extrajudicial killings by the police makes it hard to curb it. After all they are the ones responsible for reporting cases of suspected violations of the law to prosecutorial authorities.
Research for Amnesty's report also included interviews with family members of people who had been extra-judicially executed by the Police. It contained extracts from court cases, coroner's inquests, judicial inquests, policy documents and the reports of the Presidential Commissions on police reforms (the Dan Madami report in 2006 and the Yusuf report in 2008). The report contained 59 recommendations to the Federal Government, states, National Assembly, Police Service Commission (PSC), civil society, and international bodies. Their delegates spoke to police authorities at federal and state levels, Ministry of Police Affairs, PSC, Senate Committees on Police Affairs and Judiciary, Justice and Human Rights organizations, magistrates, state commissioners of justice and health, public defenders, lawyers and non-governmental human rights organizations (NGOs).
Extracts of the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria have been provided below. The reader is advised to a closer look at Section 33(2) (b & c) of the Constitution
Chapter IV of the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria
33. (1) 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.
(2) A person shall not be regarded as having been deprived of his life in contravention of this section, if he dies as a result of the use, to such extent and in such circumstances as are permitted by law, of such force as is reasonably necessary
(a) for the defence of any person from unlawful violence or for the defence of property:
(b) in order to effect a lawful arrest or to prevent the escape of a person lawfully detained; or
(c) for the purpose of suppressing a riot, insurrection or mutiny.
Apart from the constitution, it is general opinion of all concerned that the Nigerian Police Force Order 237 which allows police officers to shoot suspects and detainees who attempt to escape or avoid arrest whether or not they pose a threat to life is a major factor in the ever increasing numbers of claims of extrajudicial killings. Erwin van der Borght says "Force Order 237” is so impermissibly broad. It simply gives police officers permission to shoot people. It is against international standards, and it is being abused by police officers to commit, justify and cover up illegal killings," He urged the government to retract Force Order 237 and publicly announce that the use of lethal force is only allowed when strictly unavoidable to protect life. He said this simple step could make a big difference to the number of unlawful police killings being observed in Nigeria. Amnesty's report also urged legislators to review the Police Act and ensure that the treatment of detainees conforms with the Nigerian Constitution and to international law and standards.
Neo Black Movement of Africa (London zone) pledges unyielding support to all `human rights' organizations calling for an end to extrajudicial killings globally. We can not afford to remain silent because we believe hundreds of people will continue to die at the hands of the police if nothing is done. Now is the time to act. That is why we are united with Amnesty International in demanding that the Nigerian police force publicly condemn all extrajudicial executions and all other forms of unlawful killings.
We call on the acting president Goodluck Jonathan to empower a non-partisan board to investigate all reported incidents of extrajudicial killings. We also recommend that he utilises his office to facilitate a National Summit on Extra-judicial Killings and Forced Disappearances in Nigeria.