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Socialist Democracy Aug - Sept 2005

 

SIX APO KILLINGS

Nigerians Should Expect More Except �

Between 1999 and now, more than 3,400 innocent Nigerians have fallen victims of extra-judicial murder and killings at the hands the police and other members of the armed forces who traditionally and constitutionally are supposed to protect them. In some cases, these extra-judicial killings have been over dispute or refusal by commercial bus Drivers and Conductors to give N20 ($0.14cent) bribe at checkpoints or roadblocks by police officers. The above figure does not even take into cognisance, many of such incidents that never got documented, the torture to death and in some instances, outright killing of Nigerians in many Police Stations across the country.

The killings of six Apo traders by officers of the police last June 8, 2005 is just but a continuation of a long existing tradition that has been entrenched by the police in their relations with members of the public. The judicial commission of Inquiry into the Apo killing headed by Justice Olasumbo Goodluck has received the report of the autopsy it ordered, conducted by a team of eminent anatomists and pathologists like Prof. Olusegun Ojo, Prof. E.J.C. Nwanna, Dr. Aminu Said and Dr. Wilson Akiwu. Their findings bring again to the fore the already publicly known fact that the six victims were cold bloodedly murdered!

According to Prof. Ojo, the autopsy confirms that Ifeanyi Ozor, Paulinus Ogbonna, Anthony Nwekeke, Augustina Arebon, Chinedu Meniru and Isaac Ekene, had all died from "high velocity missiles" and "cerebral laceration". What this means in plain parlance is that they were shot at close range - on the skull, with an AK47 rifle - except for the female victim who earned the honour of being shot in the abdomen and her death consequently caused by bleeding, as she actually survived the shooting and was ferry to the police station where she was finally executed!

Would justice finally come the way of the Apo six? Would the Judicial commission, even though headed by a justice, be able to resolve this menace once and for all? Can the police high command be trusted to bring these officers to book and resolve this once and for all, or further still, can incidence like this be merely attributed to just the question of some "bad officers" who must just be weeded out and that would be it?

We cannot but agree with Inspector General of Police (IGP) Sunday Ehindero, who stated that "once you commit a heinous crime, you are on your own, because I can never support you to kill innocent people and you expect me to cover it up". But we are not deceived. This statement by the police boss should not be taken on its face value to mean that we now have a new police force and that things would indeed change. Nothing, in actual fact, would change. Corruption would continue to be the order of the day as long as the question of the welfare and remuneration of police personnel is not properly addressed. IGP remains a part and parcel of system that has seen to it that the Police remain ragtag, both in terms of welfare of the rank and file of members of the police, the continued resistance of the Police High command to a police Union, which would have employed open and legitimate means to highlight its grievances against its employer. As long as this is denied, it would be naive to think that killings like the Apo Six would ever come to an end.

It is even clear that if not for the timely interventions of other fellow traders at the Apo market who had organised themselves and protested against this unjust killing of their colleagues and succeeded in preventing the rushed burial of the victims, the truth of the matter is that nothing would have been done. The officers would most likely have earned for themselves promotion ostensibly for gunning down robbers and would most likely have even gotten congratulatory messages from the police high command or even from the police boss himself, who would have wanted to personally witness the decoration of these police officers to higher ranks while family members of the victims would be left with nothing else than to echo Fela Anikulapo�s song "...sorrow tears and blood/Dem regular trademark"

Left to them, the police would always cover their track. Or how else does one explain the escape of Superintend Abdulsalam Othman, one of the six officers being charged for the killings, from detention or even the mysterious death from poisoning of another police Constable late Anthony Idam also in detention? What are the police trying to hide from members of the public? What is the agenda of the Police High Command? Attempt a quick fix-solution, and put the blame on DPO Danjuma Ibrahim and others standing trial and that would be it? Even, if they are finally found guilty, and sentenced to death by a competent court of the land, we beg to state that without addressing the fundamental root causes and apportioning appropriate blame to the appropriate quarters, so long will extra judicial killing continue.

Again, we must also not fail to mention series of arm tactic approaches the government and the Police High Command have coined to deal with the phenomenon of stealing and armed robbery, which in the past, have gone through various appellations, like "FIRE FOR FIRE", "RAPID RESPONSE SQUARD" etc have in no little way served as an excuse for members of the Police to unjustly harass and maltreat innocent members of the public. As this policy has continued to prove a failure, the working masses are made to suffer from both ends, when it is clear to all that it is the policies of government that result into the mass unemployment and underemployment which leave most youth with no other option than to turn to crime. Instead of addressing the effect, government must and should address the cause by creating avenues for mass employment and a living wage as well as a living unemployment wage for all the unemployed. But unfortunately as things stand, we cannot in the least expect this from Obasanjo and his capitalist hangers on, who have presided over the whole scale privatisation of key sectors of the Nigerian economy resulting into massacre of hundreds of thousands of jobs.

WHAT IS TO BE DONE

Just like the recent killing of an okada rider, Peter Edeh, in Lagos by a Naval officer, Felix Odunlami, also reveals, the question of why officers of the state carry arms in the first instance in conducting themselves and their activities in a civil environment and even go to the extent of using them against defenseless and unarmed citizens needs to be addressed. The Naval Officer had been quoted to have said, " I can kill you and nothing would happen", and in fact, ordered Peter to open up his mouth and in a Hollywood horror style, defied all entreaties and shot him to death.

The implication of the above can only mean that the Armed forces and the Police in particular, cannot be trusted and indeed have failed in properly regulating who holds arms and for what purpose and when this can be used and not used. As things stand, we cannot but demand that members of the public i.e workers, is only then the excesses of the police can be checked. But as long as they remain lord onto themselves and the present neo-colonial capitalist command of the Nigeria economy hold sway, then, nothing much can be done than, from time to time, make scapegoats of some offending officers like Danjuma Ibrahim by the Police high command just to appease the anger of the populace and with time, return to business as usual.

Members of the police and armed forces must be told that while it is wrong for armed robbers to use the force of arms against Nigerians and they are punished by the law if caught in the act, it is also illegal and against the law, for the same arms to be used by officers of the state, be police men or members of armed forces against members of the public, no matter the provocation especially when they know that as civilians, they are not armed.

The right to life is a fundamental right, and all must see to it that this is fully protected. This much is enshrined in the1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. But as long as you have this kind of society where, according to the World Bank, 80% of its wealth and resources are under the firm grip and control of just 1% of its population, this inequality would only continue to guarantee that arms in the hands of a few members of the society would be used, one way or the other, as a bargaining instrument to aid and sustain the survival and existence of those who have these arms in their custody.

This therefore raises the need to transform the neo-colonial capitalist arrangement of the Nigerian economy which is the driving logic of the Nigerian economy. This calls for the overthrow of this arrangement by the mass of the working people and the entire members of their families. They would have to be in the forefront of this struggle to overthrow capitalism and put in place a democratic socialist workers and poor farmers government. Such a workers and poor farmers government would have no need of an armed force as presently constituted or the police, since this would be replaced by an armed people. Indeed, all able bodied men and women would procure the training and would be able, not only to bear arms but would be able to use it in defence of their collective rights and interest for a Nigeria where the collective wealth and resources of the society would be commonly owned and controlled and put in use for the benefit of majority as against this present capitalist arrangement that serves the interest of a very tiny minority. It is this kind of arrangement that makes it imperative for the state to arm a few of its members to protect itself against the anger of the entire population. Once capitalism is overthrown, like Marx and Engels make quite clear, this oppressive instrument must also naturally "wither away".

 

 

Socialist Democracy Aug - Sept 2005