The Nigeria Police Reform: A call to ACTION

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Ruhammah Ifere

After hours of deliberation by the Jury on Monday and Tuesday, Derek Chauvin was found guilty of killing George Floyd in May 2020. Chauvin was found guilty of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter.  Despite the desperate attempts by Chauvin’s counsel to cast aspersions on the character of George Floyd, these attempts were resisted fiercely by the George Floyds representative. On may 25, 2020, George Floyd was arrested on suspicion of using a counterfeit $20 bill. Although George’s arrest was not resisted, he was pronounced guilty by Derek Chauvin, a white police officer with the Minneapolis Police Department who knelt on Floyd’s neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds[ after he was handcuffed and lying face down. Despite pleas to stop, Derek refused to and this led to the untimely death of George Floyd. This dastardly act, which is not the first by the white police officers against Blacks, led to worldwide protests against police brutality, police racism, and police accountability. This movement is known as “Black lives matters”’.

Here in Nigeria, a scenario akin to this played out. In October 2020, the matter reached a head when a video showed the brutality meted out to innocent citizens by the defunct SARS(Special anti-robbery squad). Before that, SARS was controversial for its links to extrajudicial killings, extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances,  extortion,  torture, framing, blackmail,  kidnapping, illegal organ trade, armed robbery, home invasions, rape of men and women, child arrests, the invasion of privacy, and polluting bodies of water with the illegal disposal of human remains. SARS was investigated several times in response to protests, but without results; reforms were promised in 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019. The unit was disbanded on 11 October 2020 after worldwide protests under the motto ‘’End SARS’’occurred. As a follow-up to the protest that also resulted in the loss of some lives at the lekki toll gate, an Enquiry panel was set up. Recall that Rinuola Oduala, one of the youth representatives for the Lagos judicial panel on Restitution for victims of police brutality stepped down from this panel. In her words, ‘’it had become obvious that the Government was only out to use us for performative actions’’.

insecurity has become a matter of urgent attention and requires pragmatic solutions in reducing this issue to the barest minimum in a developing country like Nigeria will begin by reviewing policies and Acts that empower the police force. The American justice system has worked this time to serve as a deterrent to other intending erring officials that the long arms of the law will catch up with offenders. Justice may be delayed but will not be denied.
The purpose of law enforcement in a free society is to promote public safety and uphold the rule of law so that individual liberty may flourish.

For justice to be seen to be served, the following must be done-

1. Examples should be made of erring officials who are found guilty of extrajudicial killings. This must be done through the appropriate process- the courts of law, empowered to hear and try such cases and must be seen to have been done in a manner that promotes Accountability, Transparency, and the Rule of law.

2. There should also be a comprehensive reform of the police force- Training and reorientation of officials.

The excessive and unprovoked use of force and the arbitral taking of lives of citizens that are supposed to be protected by the police force is sacrilegious and should be curbed.

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