POLICE BRUTALITY IN AJEGUNLE: CHARLES OKAFOR IS BURIED
POLICE BRUTALITY IN AJEGUNLE: CHARLES OKAFOR IS BURIED
For an adequate compensation to the families of Charles and other victims
By Dagga Tolar
Charles Okafor, who was murdered by the police in Ajegunle Lagos state on April 1 2010, was finally buried on August 7, 2010 at Trinity cemetery Apapa.
It will be recalled that Charles was clubbed and gun-butted to death at a viewing centre in the community on April 1, 2010 by the police who were on their usual illegal raid of the community to extort money from residents particularly young people. About 14 youths also present at the centre were arrested and not released until they parted way with some money. Immediately, there was a movement of youths in the neighbourhood, Charles’ remain was taken and handed over to police.
The members of Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), Ajegunle Peoples Movement (APM) and Ajeromi Ifelodun Community Movement (AICOM) intervened to give the movement a voice and direction. Then, a peaceful protest was held on the 3rd of April, 2010 to squarely lay the blame of Charles death at the feet of the police, to call for end to illegal raid, arrest and prosecution of killer police officers and compensation for the family of Charles Okafor among other things. The protest itself was violently dispersed with the use of maximum force by the police, resulting in the killing of Babatunde Olotu while Aderibigbe Kadri, Godwin Sunday and scores of other youths were wounded.
The police then embarked on manhunt of youths from various parts of the community and arrested 26 of them. Some of the leaders of the mass protest were also specifically targeted. At an arranged meeting with local government chairman of Ajeromi-Ifelodun Local Government and Frank Mba, the Lagos State Police PRO, Dagga Tolar, Ismaila Aderemi (both members of the DSM) and Akpos Okoro were arrested alongside Benson Joseph and Akin Fatungase who were forcefully bundled into a Police vehicle at gunpoint from their residence. It was the pressure and solidarity of comrades of DSM, members of the Committee for a Workers International (CWI) alongside other groups like CLEEN Foundation, LASCO and individuals like Daddy Showkey (a popular musician from the community) that forced the police authority to beat a retreat and subsequently released the incarcerated youths and socialist activists.
Though, the police brought in a new DPO, Silva Chinedu who has tried to calm the situation by calling for the support of the community, nothing whatsoever can erase the fact that the police are culpable in the death of Charles Okafor and Babatunde Olotu.
Unfortunately also, the “black market” medical certificate of cause of death, signed by one Dr. Ajibola-Bakare of the department of Pathology of Lagos State University Teaching Hospital which concludes that Charles Okafor died out of ‘Hypertensive Heart Disease” is another fraudulent way to cover up the killing. It is an attempt to obstruct the wheel of justice and an insult to the bereaved family of Charles Okafor who had stood resolute, seeking the face of justice for their lost son. It is not a mere coincidence that the report of the pathologist is in consonance with the state police command whose PPRO Frank Mba had initially announced to the public that Charles Okafor slumped and died with no connection whatsoever to the police.
This report has been rejected by the family of Charles and community organizations. The only path of honour for the police authority is the admittance of this obvious fact with official apology to the families of Charles Okafor and Babatunde Olotu, and other innocent victims of police brutality and the necessary compensation paid to their family members.
We however recognise the fact that because the rank and file police are poorly paid in addition to an appalling working condition and thus, there is always the tendency to extort and resort to unlawful activities in order to augment their meagre income or even carry out their functions. This situation is as a result of the ruling elite who are only in government to loot the treasury and pauperise the working masses in line with anti-poor neo-liberal capitalist agenda. In any case, this does not however provide a tenable and acceptable excuse for the police to unleash terror on the working masses and youths who also suffer from the neo-liberal capitalist attacks such like the rank and file police.
We therefore call for a police union so as to allow rank and file members of the police to democratically and legally possess a platform with which to canvass for improved working and living conditions.
We also call on working masses, youths and rank and file police to join the struggle to overthrow the iniquitous capitalist system that is responsible for mass suffering in the midst of plenty. This also means that trade union and pro-masses organisations should build a genuine working people’s political platform to wrest power from the thieving ruling elite at all levels and use the resources of the society to provide for education, health care, roads, water, power, decent jobs, decent housing and other basic needs of life for the vast majority of the people. To achieve this on a lasting basis, the commanding heights of the economy must be put under public ownership with democratic management and control by the working people themselves.
We call on all youths and members of the community to get organised to ensure that police and other public institutions serve the interest of the generality of the populace. It is only when we are organised and vigilant that such situation that resulted in the death of Charles Okafor could be minimised.