Anastacia Onyinyechi AZUMA
It is stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.” It is however incomprehensible that this simple right accrued to every individual on earth has become the hardest to achieve, and this is evident through the extrajudicial killings that have ravaged the society and the world at large. It is vivid enough that we cannot be oblivious to the fact that these incessant killings, one of such being a recent occurrence of the gruesome murder of an American Black man, George Floyd, by a White police officer which sparked the internet about a month ago, have become one of the highest ways in which people are killed in the world. Now, bringing this discourse to our country Nigeria, it is evident that the rate at which extrajudicial killings are carried out on a daily basis is alarming, and that which we can no longer turn a blind eye to, especially those targeted towards the youths of the country. It is in lieu of above that this article would explore the extrajudicial killings in Nigeria, the sub-sectors involved, and the way out of this ravaging cankerworm, in subsequent paragraphs.
An extrajudicial killing, or otherwise called extrajudicial execution is the killing of an individual by government authorities or individuals without the sanction of any judicial proceeding or legal process. Extrajudicial killings often target leading political, trade union, dissident, religious, and social figures.
Amnesty International, in their research on the extrajudicial executions in Nigeria, which spanned a total of three years, defines extrajudicial executions as:
“unlawful and deliberate killings carried out by order of a government or with its complicity or acquiescence… includes extrajudicial executions, as well as other types of killing, such as those resulting from excessive use of force by law enforcement officials…”
The above definitions evince the fact that extrajudicial killings are unlawful infringements on the rights of individuals in the country. However, despite the many organisations, institutions as well as individuals who have intervened and have created awareness about this vice, the unlawful killings and executions seem to rise gravely as a result of the inept nature of the Nigerian judicial arm of government who prey on those they had sworn to protect. Inasmuch as we cannot turn a blind eye to the gruesome events that occur in our country, oftentimes perpetrated by citizens, we must also dispel the notion that the law enforcement has the right to do whatever they want to the citizens, both guilty and innocent, without giving those people the freedom to exercise their legal rights.
Pertinently, it must be stated that a major perpetrator of the extrajudicial killings in Nigeria is the Nigerian Police Force (NPF). The Nigerian Police Force, a federal organisation established under Section 214 of the 1999 constitution, was created to enforce justice, public order and public safety of the President of the country, as well as its citizens. While we may not ignore the fact the Nigerian Police Force have had some wins in solving criminal cases in the country; however, we must not also forget that in the larger scale of things, we have been shown the inept, corrupt and delinquent nature of the force in the execution of its official duties. In charge of its special forces – the Swift Operation Squad (SOS), the paramilitary Mobile Police (MOPOL) and the most vile of all, hated by its addiction to harassing young Nigerians, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) – the Nigerian Police Force has been able to cover more grounds in terrorising and being the largest body to partake in extra judicial killing in Nigeria without sanction.
In the same vein, this leads me to address the on-going allegations against former commander of AKWUZU Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), CSP James Nwafor (rtd.), who has been tagged notorious through his dealings, as well as the numerous killings registered under his tenure in the force. According to Charles Ogbu, a socio-political analyst who posted on his social media account, allegations against the former commander,
“Between 2012 and 2016, hundreds of innocent youths were tortured, dehumanised and EXTRAJUDICIALLY executed under CSP Nwafor’s watch… Under this man, innocent people were rounded up for (a) no just cause and dumped in SARS cells with those whose family could afford thousands of naira making it out alive, while those with no money were SUMMARILY slaughtered.” He also went on to affirm that the victims were/are usually innocent, saying “…most times, your “offence” could just be walking on the road or even sitting comfortably in your own house when they come for their illegal raids. Students were not spared.”
However, despite the detailed research of Amnesty International in 2016 which called out the excessive use of force and the extrajudicial killings noted under the watch of this man, as well as the protests of several human rights groups concerning his tyrannical nature, in 2018, the executive governor of Anambra State, Governor Willie Obiano reportedly appointed CSP Nwafor as his special adviser on security. In essence, refuting all accusations against CSP Nwafor, and as has been said by others, in a bid to shield him from prosecution. The deadly dealings of CSP Nwafor have again been brought to the fore through the social media concerning the sudden “disappearance” of one Mr Chijioke, whose sister took to the internet to talk about her brother’s apprehension by AKWUZU SARS in 2013, and his disappearance till date despite huge amounts of money paid to seek his freedom. The questions that stand glaring in each of our faces are “would anything really be done about these allegations?” “Would CSP Nwafor be prosecuted for the many count charges that have been swept under covers since 2012?” It is indeed disheartening to know that the sector which has been put in place to protect the citizenry has become the predator itself, because the “disappearance” of Mr Chijioke since 2013 is one out of hundreds of cases that have been left unaddressed throughout the country. Many of which have been victims of “accidental discharges” from guns by police officers, or being packed in buses to unknown destinations. And the saddest of all is that these perpetrators are being shielded by a corrupt immunity that keeps them standing strong while citizens lose their lives, and families are oblivious of whether their children are still alive or not.
It is equally poignant to note that while a major emphasis is laid on the Nigerian Police Force, the Army and its hand in extrajudicial killings cannot be left out, as has been shown through history, there have been various extrajudicial killings perpetrated by the Nigerian Army, prominent of which is the assassination of renowned Nigerian Journalist, Dele Giwa on the 19th of October 1986, through a letter bomb. This, as well, is one of the many cases of extrajudicial killings spearheaded by the Nigerian Army in the country.
Therefore, if the X-Squad – which is the body responsible for investigating police corruption as stated by Amnesty International – and other judicial bodies in the country have refused to take action against the extrajudicial killings perpetrated by the Nigerian Police Force, what then is the way out of this situation? We might as well do what the sister of Mr Chijioke has done by coming out to the social media and calling out the atrocities of the Nigerian Police Force and that of its branches, as well as seeking justice for the many youths who have been assaulted and harassed by this sector. Also, the involvement of the President who is the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of this great republic would go a long way in reforming the judicial systems as well as in sanctioning erring sectors who take justice into their own hands without acknowledging human rights or arraigning a person before killing them.
In conclusion, we must note that the key to a better nation is in the collective work of its citizens, and a democracy is not one if it is not of the people, by the people and for the people. Thus, judicial reforms should be put in place in order to put a stop to the excesses of the aforementioned sectors of law enforcement, as well as other sectors whose bad dealings and corrupt tendencies have not been exposed to the society.