|On June 12, it was chaos in Umuahia, Enugu State, after a Nigerian police inspector attached to a Special Protection Unit Base 9 shot five people in cold blood and injured four others.|
Gulf Estate residents had been at a lotto establishment to play early that Sunday when the officer loaded his gun and started shooting sporadically. A clear motive behind the shooting had not been established. However, the officer had been drunk.
According to the Tribune, “four of the persons said to have sustained gunshot injuries are receiving treatment and five others whose injuries were critical have been confirmed dead by doctors on duty and deposited in the mortuary for autopsy.”
The Enugu State Police Command had arrested the officer and promised to investigate the incident thoroughly. Though a welcome development, there are many instances of similar incidents such as murder, assault, theft, kidnappings by the police, and other security outfits against innocent civilians across the country.
The issue of police abuse and brutality is a rampant epidemic with no assurance of the Nigerian citizenry’s rights to life, liberty, and security of persons, according to Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. As a result, anger and a lack of trust in the Nigerian police had complicated their efforts to combat the nation’s security challenges.
In October 2020, the federal government had set up panels across the 36 states of Nigeria to investigate police abuses and other security agencies alike. The decision came at the heels of innocent civilians gunned down during the #ENDSARS and #EndPoliceBrutality protest. The panels had been given a six-month window to carry out its mandate.
According to Reuters, unofficially, 2,791 petitions had been submitted so far to 30 panels, and only 1,045 hearings had already taken place in fifteen states. Seven states had still not complied to set up a panel.
Over the years, previous administrations had set up similar panels to investigate police abuses and advocated for criminal justice reforms. However, the findings by the panels and civil societies had been ignored with no meaningful implementation.
In 2008, President Yar’Adua inaugurated a committee to investigate the root causes of police abuses. The committee provided various comprehensive recommendations, most notably setting up new guidelines for the appointment of the Inspector-General of Police to circumvent the force from political manipulations. The recommendations were rejected.
Again, as the country awaits the outcome of the hearings, it begs the question if these panels will be spared from another phase of political maneuver and manipulations? The citizenry had seen this movie before. Some of the actors are new, while others are veterans at the game of public appeasement while monetizing the process.
The Enugu state governor visited the injured residents at the hospital and promised to pay their medical bills. Though a federal government assailant had committed the crime, you can’t argue the benefits to those with vested interest in the status quo and great optics.