- Police brutality, leading to the killing and maiming of innocent citizens, is absolutely unacceptable
Incidents of trigger-happy policemen, who waste precious lives of citizens they are supposed to protect, traumatize both victims’ family and the larger society.
The latest of such incidents in Lagos is excruciatingly painful. Poor Mr and Mrs Odebiyi, the parents of the victim, left to mourn their son, Kolade Johnson, cut down at his prime by a police bullet! Kolade, a football fan who was watching a match at a viewing centre, was wasted by a stray bullet fired by policemen, reportedly in the area to arrest an alleged cultist.
The alleged killer cops, Inspector Ogunyemi Olalekan and Sergeant Godwin Orji, belong to the Police anti-cultism unit. Like the special anti-robbery squad, the anti-cultism unit is gaining notoriety for their careless use of firearms against the citizens they are supposed to protect. Like the special anti-robbery squad, they also set their own rules of engagement, unknown to the basic laws of the land. The anti-cultism unit has their own ideas about allowable dress code and social norms.
For them, any person wearing dreadlocks, or having tattoos on his body, or wearing sagging pants, can only be a cultist. Who determined that standard of socially acceptable code of dressing, by which they judge the youths of our country, is unknown. How they came to the conclusion that such looks, or mode of dressing is akin to being a cultist, or a social deviant, is very strange.
But that is their mores, and they are ever ready to use police arms to enforce those illegitimate standards. Happy in their world, they care less that citizens are traumatized by their conduct, such that when they see policemen, rather than be reassured, their hearts leap into their mouth out of fear. The bullet that killed Kolade allegedly came from policemen shooting sporadically after arresting a suspected cultist.
What mind-set makes a supposedly trained policemen to shoot sporadically in well-populated vicinities, like the Onipetesi area of Lagos, should be of concern to the authorities. What nature of training has been given to Inspector Olalekan and Sergeant Orji, which did not put them on caution about where to use firearm, should worry their superiors. In what state of mind the duo operated, while exercising the enormous authority of police, should be examined.
The comportment and presence of mind, that should go with wearing police uniforms and bearing arms, are usually lacking amongst the Nigerian policemen. How to ameliorate these deplorable challenges should be of grave concern to relevant institutions of government, including the police authorities. To have a bunch of trigger-happy men wearing the uniform, and pulling the trigger on-the-go, is unacceptable. Whether during recruitment, at training or even while in service, the relevant authorities must weed out those emotionally unprepared to bear arms, to save Nigerians such trauma as the killing of Kolade.
We must, however, commend the new Commissioner of Police in Lagos State, Zubairu Muazu, who confirmed that the two policemen involved have been detained for questioning. The decision of the police chief to also visit the family of Kolade is welcomed. Such a gesture shows the humanity in the police, and while Kolade’s life cannot be replaced, empathy for the family and taking steps to bring those involved to justice will assuage the family and general public.
We urge the police authorities and the federal government to put in place a training programme to help the police realize they are a civilian force. Also, the work schedule of policemen must not be such that can put then on excessive stress, like when they work twenty-hours or more at a stretch.