A body, Network on Police Reform in Nigeria, has described the Nigeria Police as a ”danger to public safety and security” as it reportedly killed no fewer than 7,198 Nigerians in five years.
The body, which conducted investigations in 14 representative state police commands between January and September 2007, released its interim report on police brutality and criminality in Lagos on Sunday.
It concluded that extra-judicial killings have become a major hallmark of the Nigeria Police even as the police high command sees it as achievement in crime fighting.
NOPRIN investigators conducted their researches in 400 police stations in Borno, Admawa, Kaduna, Kano, FCT, Abuja, Plateau, Lagos, Oyo, Delta, Rivers Abia, Anambra, Enugu and Sokoto states.
The body said a former Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Tafa Balogun, told some Human Rights Watch researchers that the police killed 7,198 armed robbers between 2000 and March 2004.
This figure, according to NOPRIN, represents an average monthly killing rate of 141.37 persons and 4.7 on a daily basis.
Tarfa‘s successor, Mr. Sunday Ehindero, however, disagreed with his predecessor on the figure.
In a letter to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extra-judicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions in July 2006, Ehindero claimed that the police killed 2,402 and arrested 20,314 armed robbers between 2000 and 2004.
This figure was 4,796 less than the one credited to Balogun. However, the police reportedly admitted killing 329 robbery suspects in 2006.
NOPRIN said the Legal Defence and Aid Project documented 2,987 cases of extra-judicial killings by law enforcement agencies in 2004 alone.
It said, ”Whatever the explanation, extra-judicial executions appear to have become an acceptable tool of policing. The daily execution rate of 7.85 persons admitted by the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Mike Okiro, in November 2007 would produce an acknowledged annual killing rate of 2,865.25 killings from police encounters alone.”
Explaining why torture, extortion, rape, extra-judicial killings are the trademarks of officers and men of the Nigeria Police, NOPRIN said the situation under which the policemen worked was a major contributory factor.
It said, ”The remuneration of police personnel, especially at the lower ranks, is below subsistence levels, leaving most of them in or on the margins of extreme poverty.
”Police personnel thus carry out their functions chronically dehumanized by their own impoverishment. This contributes to the general climate of police abuses, especially extortion, but does not excuse it.”
The body said the police had discovered a new way of hiding their nefarious acts by throwing victims of extra-judicial executions into the lagoon.
NOPRIN said an assistant police commissioner in charge of the Criminal Investigation Department in one of the north-western states told its researchers that such people (robbery suspects) ”are dealt with according to the law of Moses.”
The body also observed that many police formations fail to keep record of suspects marked for elimination in the cells.