Mass protests. Civil unrest. Hashtags. Anguish.
Last week was a whole lot to take in. This says a lot when one recalls that there is a subsisting global battle against a pandemic which has drastically altered social life as we know it. When one looks at different corners, it’s almost as though there is no good news anymore. Of all the saddening news items, the murder of George Floyd by Derek Chauvin, a police officer, was at the top of the list. Nigerians, like the citizens of other nations, were still coming to terms with this foreign development when the death of sixteen-year-old Tina Ezekwe, also at the hands of police officers, was reported locally.
Nigerians have long understood that the Police is anything but anybody’s friend, but their atrocities are utterly disheartening. In Nigeria, it appears that one’s life can be taken by the Police for simply looking suspicious or minding one’s business. This may spur the average Nigerian’s desire to jand, but then, the Nigerian remembers his or her skin colour and the likelihood of being killed or assaulted by the police in other climes for that very reason. People cannot even be faulted anymore if they deem the term, ‘police brutality’, too restrictive or sugarcoated. While they have indeed committed acts other than murder, ‘brutality’ just does not cut it anymore.
In times like this, one cannot help but make recourse to the substantive law for possible penalties, even if the procedure is fraught with irregularities. Here are the thoughts of some of our students on the lingering issue:
“Over time, I’ve been a very strong advocate against death penalty and that’s because of the irregularities attached to it, ranging primarily from wrongful conviction and most times, the inability of the deceased to exhaust his/her legal remedies. However, issues like these succinctly point out why the concept of death penalty shouldn’t be totally phased out. Let’s call it what it is. The question is, what is it? I say this isn’t police work, this is crossing the line…yes, but the correct answer is this is MURDER in itself. Now, this scenario is not strange, both to the blacks living in the US or the average Nigerian. It isn’t an isolated event. Rather, a recurring one. The fact that a racist cop or a trigger-hungry police officer out there will still have the effrontery to repeat these ugly events in no time shows that they don’t dread its consequences. On this note, I am of the opinion that they should pay with their lives as this will properly serve as deterrence to the potential troublemakers (racist cops, trigger-hungry officers, power-drunk law enforcement officers).
Well, there is no sense in decrying a situation without proffering solutions. There’s this saying that a fish can only be bent while it is fresh, because when you bend it when it’s old, it breaks. Drawing from this, the gospel truth is that the onus is on every parent to raise better children. There are values which, if a person fail to learn as a child, it would be difficult if not impossible to learn at a later time. This solution, I feel, is top of the list because there are times these people are advised to act with discretion. This is when you really know who is who.
Furthermore, these law enforcement agencies should consider their recruitment as important as their duties. The recruitment should be strict and other things like emotional balance and intelligence, discipline, response to pressure, amongst others, should be tested. For those already in the system, proper education on the sanctity of life, the regulations that guide the discharge of their duties and the consequences in the event of its breach.”
– Okpara Chinedu, 400 Level
“Actually, I don’t think its a black and white issue, I mean the killing of George. It’s just the constant oppression of the citizens by law enforcement agencies. Don’t get me wrong though, because there are actual cases of white police harassment in the US. I think the solution is staring us in the face. When things like this happen, we use the social media platforms to advocate for justice and eventually, we get what we want, just like the police officer is right now charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. Ahmaud Arbery’s killer too was brought to justice. If we continue in peaceful protests in the media, we would eventually get a voice in the parliament where a law would be passed against oppression of citizens by law enforcement agencies. I don’t think they should pay with their lives because if that’s the mentality, we are not different from them. They should serve reasonable jail terms.”
– Anonymous, 100 Level
“The police force have lost sight of the fact that they are public servants and this has led to the outrageous increase of police brutality around the world. This problem needs to be duly addressed immediately or else our fight for justice is a waste of time and also a charade, because how do we actively seek justice in a country where there is no regard for fundamental human rights?
The problem of brutality will continue until structural and institutional reforms are made and there is an adequate implementation of necessary change within the police force.”
– Omotesho Ibukun, Year 3
“Well, it’s nothing new. Racial tensions are now at a boiling point in America. America as a country has never been more divided since the 60s. But the fact the police officer is being charged with murder is a step in the right direction.”
(when asked about the #JusticeForTina movement) “The police in Nigeria are a cancer. There needs to be more regulations for the police force. But I can’t blame them when the average police officer barely read high school. The officers aren’t even trained properly. They’re imbeciles with guns. Still, they should face the full extent of the law.”
– Oluwasubomi Adekambi, 100 Level
“George Floyd’s murder clearly reeks of racism. Tina’s case is however unfortunate and echoes the incompetence and inefficiency of the police force. That’s what happens when you give little power to a novice. Too scared to face the real problems, they become power-drunk and act like one who really is drunk.
The orientation of these supposed law enforcement officers needs to be changed. They need to be re-trained tbh because it obvious most of them are clueless.”
(when asked for the appropriate punishment for police officers who kill the same citizens they are meant to protect) “Death penalty or life sentence to serve as deterrent to others.”
– Gbola, 200 Level
“The reason for racism and why it is being directed to black people in a disproportionate manner is because of class difference. A black man, everywhere he goes, is always seen as a poor man. If you see ten people of different races somewhere, the poor one is the black one. Black people are seen as symbol of poverty. We are the most backward set of humans on the planet. There is nothing good to write about our countries. Donald Trump once said, ‘Tell me one country being held by a Blackman that isn’t shit.’”
(when asked about the #JusticeForTina movement) “One policeman being arrested merely constitutes a papering over the cracks. To solve a problem you need to locate the root and uproot it. The system in which police are recruited in Nigeria is a shame. The kind of people they recruit is shameful too. How is a police officer suppose to enforce the law when he doesn’t even know what the law is? Apparently, the police officer made a mistake shooting Tina. But why did he attempt to use his gun in the first place? Using your gun on a civilian should be the last option. But he wasn’t educated enough to know that. The problem is the Nigerian Police Force, and the way forward is for them to fix themselves and raise their standard.”
– Rowland Onifade, 300 Level
“It’s murder borne out of racism. Racism in the case that they didn’t care about him. They knelt on his neck till he died. A genuine doctor that knows his anatomy would tell you that the kneeling on his neck and back started the chain that led to his death, if at all not direct. Besides, the police guy has eighteen cases on him alone. He shouldn’t be working with the force. And his punishment should be death, if not, dismissal with all benefits stripped away. To prevent more, a stronger punishment has to be given to these officers. Most times, they’d sack them in one state, they’d go to another state and get employed again.”
(when asked about the #JusticeForTina movement) “LMAO, those guys will go free. We have this mentality in Nigeria of not crying over spilt milk. In my opinion though, the officers responsible deserve death.”
– Anonymous, 500 Level
“The murder of George didn’t come as a shock to the black community because these things have been happening overtime and little or nothing has been done by the US government to curb this issue. Racism is not a new issue and has eaten deep into most European/American societies. So personally, I thought Floyd’s murder was sad, but I wasn’t surprised. But the murder of Tina was really painful – a sixteen-year-old girl who had her whole life ahead of her. Both deaths were caused by wreckless and brutality of the police, which is common among the Nigerian police. So both murders were painful but not entirely surprising, as it’s not a black versus white affair anymore. It’s a question of police ethics and Nigerian police officers’ access to firearms.”
(when asked for the appropriate punishment for police officers who kill the same citizens they are meant to protect) “Personally, I don’t think any punishment right now will suffice. Even death would be too lenient. This is because not only have their acts caused a global uproar and series of violent reactions, the image of the police and government is tarnished. Stripping these policemen of their ranks wouldn’t be enough; a good example of should be made of them. Alas! I wouldn’t be surprised if they are just charged with involuntary manslaughter and let go. That’s how decadent society is.
Capital punishment should be the penalty for murder. And also, stripping of that officers badge and declaring them a danger to society. I don’t know about the USA, but the use of weapons by Nigerian police should be heavily restricted. Police officers who are found drunk or under the influence of any substance should be arrested immediately and put away from society for a while in order to maintain order. Psychiatric evaluation should be carried out on these police officers and any one who has a history of mental illness or believes in an ideology which would be harmful to society should be prevented from joining the police. This psychiatrist evaluation should also be carried out monthly or yearly.”
– Michael, 200 Level
“There are three things I think would help us with this issue.
Firstly, the rule of law is important. I believe that the system should do better, such that it provides for quick justice so that the rule of law and adjudication of the court is so clear that, irrespective of being a law enforcement agent or politician, whoever you are, once there is a case against you, you will be charged to court. If you are innocent, no problem, but as long as you are guilty, you must face the music. The reason why the US police officers are still doing this is because they have gotten away with it countless times. They already feel protected. Derek Chauvin was charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. Why is he being charged with manslaughter? Because his charges would be shorter. Can you see?
Secondly, we need a mind orientation both for the people and law enforcement agencies. The fact that you put on a uniform doesn’t mean that you are not a regular human being. It does not mean you cannot operate with logic and common sense. Just look at how the police arrested the CNN official and his crew despite the provisions of the first amendment which allows for him to record the protest. This man even showed them his ID card.
In Nigeria, they can hold you in Police Station for more than twenty-four hours. Meanwhile, the Criminal Code states that if you arrest someone, you cannot keep them in custody for more than twenty-four hours without charging him. Police officers treat people inhumanely, torture them, mess up with their dignity and even starve them. Do you know that being a police is not just to carry gun? They are naturally meant to be first respondents, which means that a basic police officer should be able to carry out first-aid treatment. He should even be able to put out a fire and save lives when the need arises. This is supposed to be the meaning of “Police is your friend”. They need to become a twenty-first century police officer: well-trained and mentally balanced.
Why are SARS shooting and harassing boys? Black man is killing fellow black man all in the name of enforcing law. Where did all that come from? We really need to go back to the drawing book. We need a re-orientation for everybody. Was Nigeria once like this? Where there is no peace or security, no unity.
Lastly, something needs to be done about our leadership. Are our leaders standing against these things? Where is the report from our leaders? They are not taking actions against these people. All the SARS personnel that were claimed to be arrested, what else have we heard concerning the issue? Our leaders are not communicating.
Tina that died now, have leaders including Buhari said anything yet? If they can stand and condemn and say “OK o, I want a report within a week and so and so should be done to anyone that abuses his power,” it would go a long way. There should be a total overhauling of the system.
For the suitable punishment, I believe they should be given the life sentence. Allow them live the rest of their lives regretting their actions rather than killing them so that they can learn from their mistakes, because the true intention of punishment is correction. If you kill them, they wouldn’t learn any lesson themselves. It’ll only be a lesson for those who are alive.”
– Toroti Akin-Taylor, 500 Level