Will Nigerian police officers ever be held accountable for the murders they have committed?
The term “Police brutality” was first used in the American press, specifically the 'Chicago Tribune', as early as 1872 when the newspaper wrote about the beating of a civilian under arrest in Harrison Street Police Station, and ever since then, the phrase has stuck.
Many countries suffer this particular misconduct by police officers, involving violence, the unnecessary show of power and undue use of force on civilians.
In the United States, we all watched the unsettling video of a white police officer apprehending and suffocating a black civilian with his knee, George Floyd, who later died of a heart attack after complaining about his inability to breathe. His pleas fell on deaf ears and the innocent man died of a heart attack which has since sparked a more intense awareness of the Black Lives Matter movement and different protests.
While we stood in solidarity with fellow blacks in the United States, we were sadly visited with the same situation here in Nigeria.
In Nigeria, police officers have killed more innocent citizens than the global COVID-19 pandemic since the beginning of this year and it seems nothing will be done about the continuous killings of innocent civilians by trigger happy officers.
Following the 2019 protests after several civilian murders by the officers of the law, especially that of Kolade Johnson who was shot on the 31st of March, 2019, many Nigerians thought their protests will serve as a cry for help. However, in 2020, these officers have proven that they are indeed above the law and the government has no say over them, with no measures in place to ensure they operate within the confines of the law.
During the compulsory lockdown in Lagos State, which was enforced by the federal government in March, these officers of the law in the guise of carrying out their duties of ensuring the safety and security of lives, extra judicially murdered over 20 civilians and these are only deaths which were reported. How about the daily harassment from these officers over 200 naira bribes for no offense? They have taken to extorting citizens as part of their delineated duty.
The fight against police brutality isn’t just for Tina Ezekwe, the 16-year-old who was shot and killed at Iyano-Oworo bus stop close to her home. There have been too many cases swept under the rug. The fight for Tina is for everyone who has been harassed and those who have been unjustly murdered by these officers of the law.
It is with heavy hearts that we sympathize with everyone who has had to endure police brutality. It is even more saddening that the police have stopped activists and other concerned citizens from protesting in Lagos.
It is painful but it seems Nigerian police officers will always get away with murdering innocent civilians and are indeed above the law.