AT least 148 civilians have been killed by law enforcement agents over the last two years across Nigeria, media reports’ data has revealed.
According to the data, the killings, which may likely be higher, were perpetrated in different locations by 92 policemen, 35 soldiers and five other law enforcement agents from the paramilitary forces like customs and immigration.
Based on the statistics mined by this newspaper, which relied primarily on news accounts, the number of civilians killed by the police surged in 2022 compared to 2021 and 2020.
According to the data, 50 people were killed within nine months in 2022, while 43 and 49 were killed in 2021 and 2020 respectively.
Based on the record, the incidents happened in 33 states, where Lagos led the chart with 22; Osun 17; Delta 14; Edo 14; Rivers 11; Imo 10, while the rest shared the remaining 59.
The data revealed that the majority of the people killed were male and that the incidents were more frequent in cities.
In most of these incidents, as revealed by the records, the security operatives used lethal force to kill their victims over offences that ordinarily attract no fine when taken to a court of law.
Also, the killings, based on news reports, were done by security operatives who were mostly drunk, through shooting and beating.
The latest of the grim incidents was on this year’s Christmas Day, 2022, when an Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP), Drambi Vandi, shot dead a pregnant Lagos-based female lawyer, Bolanle Raheem, who was returning from an eatery with her four children and sister around 11am under the Ajah Bridge.
The ASP was said to have shot at their moving vehicle and a bullet hit Bolanle who later died in the hospital.
Reacting, the National Publicity Secretary of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Akorede Lawal, described the incident as unfortunate, adding that the president of the association, Yakubu Maikyau, was monitoring the situation.
Meanwhile, the officer responsible for the killing has been remanded till January 30, 2022, following his arraignment in court on Friday.
Another incident was the murder of a UN humanitarian aid worker, Alen Mulutega, by a soldier on Thursday, November 17, 2022 in Damboa LGA of Borno State.
Sources said the soldier went to the helipad in Damboa town and insulted the aircrew of a helicopter and the humanitarians; calling them all sorts of names before he opened fire on them and killed two of his colleagues, stabbed the aid worker to death and injured a pilot.
Another sad incident was the murder of Sheikh Goni Aisami Nguru who volunteered to help a stranded soldier with a ride on the Nguru-Gashua road in Yobe State.
The soldier flanked Sheik Nguru and sought help, which he obliged. After some distance the soldier asked the cleric to park claiming an odd sound was emanating from the car. But as Nguru opened the bonnet, the soldier came from behind and shot him in the head.
The soldier and his accomplice were later apprehended while attempting to escape with the car and handed over to police.
Another incident was on Tuesday, December 6, 2023, when a 31-year-old man identified as Gafaru Buraimoh of Land Estate, Ajah, Lagos, was shot dead at about 10pm while coming out of SkyMall by a policeman attached to Ajah Division.
A source said, “The police wanted to arrest those that were selling black market petrol and they started shooting because the boys refused to allow them to impound their fuel. Unfortunately, Buraimoh was coming out of SkyMall when he was hit by a stray bullet.”
Confirming the incident, spokesman of the Lagos State Police Command, SP Benjamin Hundeyin, said the officer behind the shooting, an inspector, was disarmed and had been detained and that investigation had commenced.
Before then, in March, 2022, a soldier Operation Hadin Kai in Borno State killed seven civilians, including a three-year-old girl, in Mafa LGA.
The soldier was said to be under the influence of psychotropic substances when he opened fire on the civilians without any provocation.
Also, in July, 2022, a viral video on social media showed a police officer carrying a man and his girlfriend into a vehicle, which many people alleged were shot by him at the Monkey Roundabout close to the EFCC office in Enugu.
The police spokesman in Enugu, Daniel Ndukwe, in a statement, said the Commissioner of Police (CP), Abubakar Lawal, immediately ordered investigation into the incident.
These are a few out of several cases, some of which were not reported.
The most disturbing aspect of the killings is that the officers are usually not indicted and sometimes are convicted to serve lesser terms in prison.
Several investigations have been launched into these unlawful killings by the security agencies but the outcomes take longer than expected due to what they usually term “lack of enough evidence”.
Killings pitch civilians against forces – Analysts
Many analysts described the killings as avoidable, saying unless security officers operated within the confines of the law, their attitudes would keep pushing the country into a state of anarchy.
The analysts believe that only a change of attitude will determine the reduction in the number of brutal killings of citizens by security operatives in Nigeria.
One of the security analysts, Dr Kabiru Adamu, observed that the attitude of most on-duty officers would bring mistrust and lack of community support to security agencies in the country.
He said, “In any counterinsurgency going, one of the first things to achieve is winning the hearts and minds of the affected population.
“Also, if the security operatives continue like this and fail to win the hearts and confidence of citizens, then the insurgents will get the opportunity to win the people.
“And, where the people feel they are being killed or maltreated by the state actors, it will further entrench them against the government and the bad guys will recruit them.”
Enlisting thugs, drug addicts, lunatics responsible – Psychologist
Also, a psychologist, Mahmud Sarki, said many factors contributed to the killing of civilians by security officers.
He noted that prominent among the factors were lack of background checks and sneaking drug addicts, thugs and lunatics by politicians into the forces without recourse to standard procedures.
He said, “People with established behaviour of thuggery, drug abuse and all sorts of ills are now found in the forces and the government has not done anything to work on them or change their past life.
“Also, these same people are being posted to harsh environments, with low salaries, stunted promotions and working under a lot of pressure. So, by the time they consume their substances and get provoked over an issue, one can’t predict what they will do.”
He further said, “It’s very common for people separated for too long from their loved ones or mentally ill officers employed without proper psychological checks to kill at the slightest provocation.”
He, therefore, advised the federal government to take the issue of recruitment seriously by screening candidates before enlisting them into the military, police and paramilitary forces.
He noted that, “The only way to do that is by resisting polluted candidates presented to them by irresponsible politicians to enlist.”