The year 2020 has been one big convoluted story with so many life changing twists and turns that would no doubt be discussed for generations to come. Asides a global pandemic that basically halted activities for all of humanity, and changed people’s life and society at large, another prime subject that would come up when discussing 2020 is social justice and how much progress was made in this area.
For Nigerians, 2020 marked the year where we nationally identified the Nigerian Police force, particularly the Federal Anti-Robbery Squad (FSARS) unit as a savage and lawless group. With this identification, outrage followed and a nationwide protest amongst the youth demography ensued; calling for an end to this rogue police unit.
To say the protest was eventful would be an understatement. From this one protest, a call to end bad governance erupted, many businesses and homes were looted by hoodlums who hijacked the protest, government officials were also attacked by said hoodlums. The Nigerian Army shot at innocent protesters at the Lekki Toll Plaza in Lagos, and when the smoke cleared, a lot of casualties were recorded; including the death of innocent people. Most of what was actualised however, was a promise of police reform as captured in the popular #5For5 Demands.
Unfortunately, a month after the protest, it seems not much has changed and the promise of better policing by the Inspector General of Police doesn’t hold much water as some men of the Nigerian Police Force are back to their old ways.
The Guardian on Friday, reported a case of police brutality that happened in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa state capital, on Tuesday 24th November. From the report, some policemen opened fire at a crowded market, leaving four women critically injured.
According to eyewitness accounts, the police officers who numbered around six shot at the crowd for allegedly causing traffic that delayed their van from passing through the popular Tombia market.
A woman identified as Miss Joy Robert gave an account of the ordeal and she narrated to The Guardian how the policemen began by shouting at the market women to give way, the women were hesitant and this triggered the policemen to start shooting.
She added that one of the bullets hit her mother (who was beside her at the time) in the leg, and she got help from people around to rush her mother to the hospital. Mrs. Robert in the midst of chaos said she captured the plate number of their vehicle; a white Hilux van with registration number: Terropol, NFF 8643C. For her, she can identify all of them if they are lined up.
This has presented an opportunity for the Police to prove their dedication to the Nigerian people. It must never be another case that gets swept under the rug. Beneath the rug is full and the men in question must be brought to book if the police force wishes to even remotely win back public trust.
Bayelsa was listed as one of the 22 states that set up an Independent Judicial Panel of Inquiry, to investigate police misconduct and extra-judicial killings. This would be a good time to employ the services of this panel.
Other victims of the Yenagoa shootings are; wife of one Onoja Majadu, a Pastor of Christ Embassy who told The Guardian how a bullet disfigured the bone in his wife’s leg, and an immediate surgery with a flat fee of N100,000 is needed to save her leg. 17-year-old Alice Baine, a periwinkle trader at the market and a Mrs. Ebinipre Majadu, whose only crime was buying some food items for her home are also victims.
The response of the Bayelsa Police Commissioner, CP Mike Okoli, is that:
“We have the particulars of the vehicle as Terropol, NPF 8643C, white Hilux. Be informed that the vehicle and the policemen involved in this unprovoked attack on innocent women have been apprehended and now in custody.
“I want to assure you that they are already facing severe disciplinary measures the outcome of which you will be informed. I thank you for your cooperation and concern especially those who made the particulars of the vehicle readily available.”
As we pray for the quick recovery of the victims and strength for the families of the victims, we await the commissioner to definitely define what “severe disciplinary measures” entail.