• Friday, March 01, 2024
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Afolabi Stephen and a Nigerian’s guide to interaction with police abroad

Nigerian student shot dead by Canadian police sparks demands for justice

Nigerians in Manitoba, Canada, are mourning the extrajudicial killing of Afolabi Stephen, a 19-year-old Nigerian who was shot dead by a Canadian policeman on December 31, 2023.

While the circumstances surrounding his death are still unclear, the Manitoba Police Department, in a statement available on its website, said its officers responded to a call about a young male who they described as acting “erratically”.

The police said that all efforts to calm the young man yielded no result, which led to the discharge of a firearm by its officer and, consequently, Stephen’s untimely death.

“Upon police arrival, they were confronted by an armed male. During this encounter, an officer discharged his firearm, striking the male. Officers provided immediate medical care and ensured the well-being of all other parties on the scene. Nobody else was injured.

The male was transported to the hospital in critical condition and succumbed to his injuries,” the statement read.

Netizens condemn the extrajudicial killing of Afolabi Stephen

Stephen’s death has generated quite a lot of emotional outpouring as many Nigerians at home and in the diaspora have condemned the killing of the young man.

Valentinefire O.B (@Valentinefire_) on X expressed his dissatisfaction, describing the police action as “pathetic”. He said: “You guys are pathetic… and with my personal experience with you folks, I know better than to believe this vague statement.”

Similarly, Mark Hildahl (@markhildahl19) described the police statement available on X (@wpgpolice) as “awful”, sending his sincere condolences to the victim and his family.

Winnipeg Police Cause Harm (WPCH), a community-centred police abolitionist group, highlighted names of people whom the Winnipeg Police have killed in recent times.

“So many people have been killed in recent months by the Winnipeg Police: Michael Sankar, Elias Whitehead, Dustin Hatcher, now Afolabi Stephen Opaso,” WPCH lamented.

In the last seven years, about 300 Nigerians have been murdered extrajudicially in foreign nations, according to a report by The Punch. This number calls for concerns.

The United Nations, in its article titled “Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials” identified two key things to be done whenever the lawful use of force and firearms is unavoidable by law enforcement officials:

(a) Exercise restraint in such use and act in proportion to the seriousness of the offence and the legitimate objective to be achieved
(b) Minimise damage and injury, and respect and preserve human life.

How to avoid being shot by the police: some nuggets
While many police officers do not hold on to these principles in their cause of duty, it is important to adhere to the following guidelines to avoid being a victim of extrajudicial killing:

Don’t flee from the police: Running away from the sight of the police may arouse suspicion, which increases the chance of a fatal misunderstanding. Whether you believe you are innocent of wrongdoing, do not run, walk away or threaten a police officer.

Avoid any sudden movements: Whenever the police contact you, stop and remain still. At this point, any unexpected movement you make is one step closer to getting shot. Do not move toward the officer, either.

Ensure your hands are visible: Do not make any sudden movements with your hands. Keep them visible.

Do not touch, hit, or assault a police officer: Assaulting a police officer will almost certainly result in physical force used against you. Police officers are authorised to use deadly force to defend themselves from serious harm or threat.

Please do what you’re told, and do it slowly: The officer will tell you exactly what he or she wants you to do. That typically includes putting your hands on the back of your head, walking backwards towards the sound of your voice, or lying down on the ground. Obey their orders, but do it slowly so you don’t alarm them.

NAMI condoles with the deceased’s family implores members not to hinder police investigation
Reacting to the extra-judicial killing, the Nigerian Association of Manitoba expressed concern and regret over the death of the Nigerian international student, pleading with the Nigerian community not to disrupt the process of investigation by the police.

“We extend our condolences to the deceased family and friends. We understand the anxiety, frustration, sadness, and distress this incident has caused within our community. We plead with everyone not to engage in any activity that may cause tension or hinder the process of investigation and the law.

“This is a challenging time for all of us, we need the Nigerian community to remain calm and composed as investigations are underway. We acknowledge the community’s right to seek answers and justice for one of our own. NAMI is closely monitoring the situation and seeking guidance on how to proceed.

“NAMI will continue to provide updates as more information becomes available. We extend our support to those directly or indirectly affected by this unfortunate incident, and we cannot over-emphasise the need for solidarity during these challenging times.”