The Nigerian Security Forces High Commands and the National Rights Commission are shedding crocodile tears concerning the reported extra-judicial killing or killing outside the law of 21 defenseless citizens across the country. The deaths were recorded between 30th March and 15th April 2020 following barbarous enforcement by the drafted security forces of movement restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19 across the country. It must be boldly and factually stated that the conduct atrocities of subordinate armed personnel of the Nigerian security forces particularly the Army and the Police have continued untamed because their high commands and oversight institutions such as the National Rights Commission have always sanctioned or condoned them or facilitated ‘escape routes’ for the perpetrators particularly the superior officers who are vicarious or supervisory culprits.
In rare situations, subordinate culprits end up being used as “scapegoats” in place of their superiors who ordered and supervised the conduct atrocities or benefited from sharp practices such as police roadblock or custodial bribes. As a matter of fact, Nigerians have not forgotten the ignoble role of the country’s rights commission (i.e. facilitating escape routes for the COAS and his fellow culprits) in the genocidal massacre of not less than 1000 defenseless Shiite Muslims by the convoy of Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Tukur Buratai. The genocidal massacre took place in Dec 2015 during which close to 700 other Shiite members were maimed. The Shiites were in their routine annual religious processions in Zaria when the massacre occurred.
In the end, the victims of the massacre became the ‘perpetrators’ and the perpetrators became the ‘victims’; as can be seen in the ongoing phantom trial of Mallam Zaky el-Zaky and his beloved wife, Zeenat. In the Army massacre of August 2015 to Sept 2017 involving defenseless Judeo-Christian Igbo citizens, numbering hundreds and maiming of hundreds of others, the rights commission also remotely helped the Army in ‘finding’ that “no single soul was killed”. Today, the rights commission has somersaulted and ‘broken into crocodile tears’ over the COVID-19 movement restriction slaying of 21 defenseless citizens.
It has also been ages in the country particularly under the present political dispensation when superior security officers are vicariously held responsible including being sacked or forced to throw in the towel (resignation); for conduct atrocities perpetrated by their subordinates responsible for command and control”. It has despicably become a routine practice, too, whereby the country’s security forces high commands and Nigerians heap all blames concerning conduct atrocities on beat or operational subordinate personnel; living behind and exonerating their superiors thereby making them ‘innocent’ of the perpetrated conduct crimes and encouraging impunity and repeat offenses.
Apart from institutional barbarism and impunity that have chronically lived and still live with the country’s security forces high commands, corruption has also become a termite that has eaten up and re-baptized them and their high commands. As a matter of fact, corruption or intent to be same is remotely responsible for high rise in conduct atrocities including brutality (i.e. torture) and extra judicial killings; all perpetrated at roadblocks and police and military barracks.
It has been generally found that the chief motive behind the broad-day killing of 21 defenseless Nigerians “was refusal or inability of the slain victims to offer bribes demanded”. It is therefore deceitful, misleading and shameful that the same police high command that issues ‘a stern warning’ to it operational personnel ‘to desist from corruption including roadblock extortion’ will turn around to remotely partake in the sharing of criminal proceeds realized from same roadblock returns.
Today, corruption has become cancerous, producing chains or channels of conduit pipes in the country’s security forces. In the criminological study of policing and law enforcements in Nigeria, per Umeagbalasi, corruption in same is called “return culture”. This is also to the extent that apart from reported killing of 21 defenseless Nigerians by the Army and the Police, beat or roadblock corruption has rabidly characterized the anti COVID-19 movement restriction enforcements on the country’s roads, boundaries and borders. Apart from being cloaked in the layers of impunity, the country’s security forces high commands have also earned notoriety in falsehoods; totality of which has portrayed them as “battered, immoral and chronically corrupt security forces emerging from a protracted warfare, requiring total disbandment and re-organization”.
It is recalled that Intersociety had in its statement of 31st March 2020, sounded a strong warning to the effect that “the Coronavirus lockdown in Nigeria is likely to have provided another opportunity for official criminal enrichment and state sadism” and that “while COVID-19 pandemic globally calls for total humanitarian efforts, selflessness and collectivism, it is likely not so for Nigerian leaders including armed forces and police high commands. To them, it is likely business as usual: amassment of criminal wealth and infliction of state sadism on defenseless populace”.
Today, we have totally been vindicated! The country’s security forces have also engaged in ‘inter-state importation of the COVID-19’; perpetrated in conspiracy with some public transporters through roadblock bribery. In Onitsha, for instance, buses and mini buses still convey passengers to Lagos and other COVID-19 highly exposed States or cities. These they do thro and fro despite heavy presence of the country’s security forces on the roads and inter-state boundaries.
Only God knows how many COVID-19 cases or infections they have ‘imported’ into Anambra State and other States or cities in the Southeast. The sharp practices have become glaringly noticeable and unhidden that the Police High Command was recently forced to publicly admit and speak on same. If one official index case in Anambra could lead to tracing of 29 others who came in contact with him, it logically follows that ‘Anambra State is secretly living with thousands of COVID-19 infections.
As if these were not enough, the public media are today dotted with group photos of security forces including soldiers and police personnel on duty adamantly refusing to adhere to social distancing directives or wearing protective devices such as hand gloves and nose masks. That is to say that apart from compromising and undermining Government efforts at taming the spread of COVID-19 virus through roadway bribery and corruption, the country’s security forces are also ‘distributors’ of the virus by recklessly flouting social distancing and self protective orders.
Intersociety hereby strongly and totally condemns the extra judicial killing of Mr. Ebuka Agbaja of Frank Moore Street, Nkpor, near Onitsha by Police Corporal Christopher Ozor and twenty others slain across the country. Strongly condemned, too, are brutalities meted out to Mr. Muokwe at Umunze and Barristers Armstrong Ibekwe, Onyemachi and Harrison Chukwu at Aba as well as countless others across the country. It is our firm demand that these conduct atrocities must not be swept under the carpet or go unpunished.
Since the country’s police high command and rights commission are obviously and circumstantially proven to be a toothless bulldog, it is our firm call on the Police Service Commission to wade into the reported killings and molestations. By the provisions of the Police Service Commission Act of 2004 and relevant others in the 1999 Constitution, “the PSC is empowered to discipline and sanction including demoting and dismissing any culpable police officer other than the Inspector General of Police”.
The above was the position of the Int’l Society for Civil Liberties & Rule of Law as contained in a statement issued today and signed by its four principal officers: Emeka Umeagbalasi, Board Chair, Obianuju Igboeli, Esq., Head of Civil Liberties & Rule of Law, Chinwe Umeche, Esq., Head of Democracy & Good Governance and Comrade Samuel Kamanyaoku, Head of Field Data Collection & Documentation.