Cases of extra-judicial killings in Nigeria have become so common-place that attention of international organisations is being drawn to the increasing dastardly acts.
The saddest part of it all is that such cases, even when they are reported, are not being prosecuted to logical conclusion. On daily basis, families of victims of extra-judicial killings cry for justice which does not come.
We are sad as it appears that the Nigerian justice system is defective in this regard. A situation where those who kill others without a cause are set free or are not brought to judgment, encourages other criminally-minded individuals to toe the part of impunity.
On Nigerian roads, many commercial drivers are killed by policemen for refusal to give N20 bribe. Many are being tortured to death at police stations on the pretext that victims refused to cooperate to release information.
These unprovoked and wanton killings have been blamed on lack of premium on human life by successive administrations in the country. Had government placed value on the lives of citizens as is the case in many developed countries, those whose primary responsibility is to protect lives and property in society should not have been taking the law into their hands.
It is common knowledge that Nigeria’s military forces act with impunity when dealing with civilians. A case in point is the Apo Six incident where six individuals were murdered by police officers. Up till this moment, no conviction has been made after many years. A few years ago, over 2,000 natives were massacred at Odi in Bayelsa State by men of the military. A few were also killed when soldiers were drafted to Zaki Biam in Benue State by the Olusegun Obasanjo government. Reports had it that many innocent citizens had been killed in the North by soldiers under the cover of trying to quell the Boko Haram insurgency.
A lawmaker, who reportedly watched one of the videos of an alleged extra-judicial killing, said: “If what we watched on the international news channel was true, then the Nigeria Police had deviated from the statutory duty of protecting the people. What I saw on Aljazeera television is horrible.
“I saw how people were lined up and shot by police, I saw young men and women, I saw cripples, I saw the under-aged. Police just opened fire on them; I could not believe my eyes. This is why I think we as parliamentarians must look into these killings. It is now on international channel and our image as a nation is at stake.”
Nigeria has been having a bruised reputation abroad on account of incessant extra-judicial killings. The 2012 Annual State of the World Human Rights Report of Amnesty International says: “Police operations (in Nigeria) remained characterised by human rights violations. Hundreds of people were unlawfully killed, often before or during arrests on the street. Others were tortured to death in police detention…Many people disappeared from police custody. Few police officers were held accountable, leaving relatives of those killed or disappeared without justice. Police increasingly wore plain clothes or uniforms without identification, making it much harder for people to complain about individual officers”.
Most state governors shy away from signing death warrants of condemned criminals. Whatever their reasons, it is our belief that the nation’s justice system is not thorough and reliable enough to kill someone based on court processes. In a society where people bribe authorities to condemn an innocent person, it may be very difficult for a state governor to convincingly append his signature for execution of a condemned criminal within his jurisdiction.
This is why we express some reservation over the recent call by President Goodluck Jonathan on state governors not to shy away from signing death warrants on condemned criminals. We must halt this ugly trend now!