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Monday, 16 April 2012


I am very sure that if a combined research team from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and the National Mathematical center of Nigeria should conduct a scientific research among one million school leavers to gauge their performance in Mathematics, no one would be in doubt if virtually all but very insignificant percentage of those to be interviewed would have made a pass in Mathematics from the general certificate in education’s examination.
In the last four decades, the fear of mathematics among prospective school leavers in Nigeria has become the beginning of wisdom. I know too well that we were counseled while at the junior secondary school level that the best way to overcome the psychological phobia of mathematics is to develop deep interest in the subject of mathematics but this wise advise never worked magic for most of us any way.
The above short real life story brings me to the theme of my piece which emanated from the developing story that the Acting Inspector General of police Mr. Mohammed Abubakar is likely feeling the impact of what I may call “the mathematical virus of doubts” regarding the exact number of Nigerians that are killed yearly by trigger happy rogue police operatives while in police detention facilities all across Nigeria.
In his mathematical doubts, the Acting Inspector General is reported to have copiously written letters to the chairman governing council of the Nigerian National Human Rights Commission, Professor Chidi Odinkalu to challenge his assertion that police operatives routinely kill innocent detainees through extra-legal means.
The Acting Inspector General of Police in his mathematical dispute over the exact figure of Nigerians that suffer extra-legal killings in the hands of the police operatives stated that Professor Odinkalu exaggerated the figures when he reportedly quoted 5000 [five thousand] as the number of persons killed annually.
Professor Odinkalu, in his reply told the Acting Inspector General of police that he (Odinkalu) was misquoted because he never mentioned the figure of 5000[five thousand] but rather 2500[two thousand five hundred] persons.
The Acting Inspector General of police is still in mathematical doubt of the exact figure of Nigerians gunned down viciously by police operatives through unconstitutional method of summary execution. The police boss is not concerned about the bad public image that rogue police operatives have brought to the policing institution through their criminal tendencies to execute detainees, but he is more concerned about clearing his mathematical doubts surrounding the real figure of those killed.
This is the sorry state that Nigeria has found itself that the nation’s police chief rather than activate mechanism internally to fish out, prosecute and punish police operatives indicted in the dastardly killings of detainees is seeking to use his so – called “power” to harass and intimidate Professor Odinkalu into submitting that the Nigeria police Force do not kill up to 5000 [five thousand] persons illegally yearly.   
April 18th 2012 (Wednesday) is the date that the chairman of the Nigerian National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has chosen to appear in person at the Force Headquarters Abuja to be “interrogated” on his claim that police operatives routinely kill detainees in violation of section 36(5) of the constitution which states that suspects are presumed innocent until proven otherwise by the competent court of law.
Section 36(5) of the Constitution states thus, “Every person who is charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed to be innocent until he is proved guilty” even as section 33 (1) of the constitution provides that “Every person has a right to life, and no one shall be deprived intentionally of his life, save in execution of the sentence of a court in respect of a criminal offence of which he has been found guilty in Nigeria”.
The question that is imperative for which the nation’s police hierarchy must answer is why many detainees are killed by police operatives in police detention centers through extra-legal means in gross violations of provisions of the Nigerian Constitution.
 The police as an institution charged with the constitutional task of institutionalizing a regime of strict respect to the spirit and letter of the principle of rule of law is empowered to inquire into areas that may require clarification with the fundamental objective of achieving law and order in the society for the promotion of public good/interest. The police are however not permitted to seek to use coercive force to intimidate or harass public office holders who are simply discharging their duties in strict compliance with the due process of the law as is the case with the disclosure at a public forum by the chairman of the National Human Rights Commission that the police serially kill detainees through extra-legal means.
As things stand now, Professor Chidi Odinkalu has agreed to meet the Police in their own turf to provide some credible reports to support his claim that innocent detainees are wasted serially by police operatives. Bamidele Aturu, one of the nation’s bright human rights lawyers has written the Acting Inspector General of police to point the legal way to go about resolving the unnecessary mathematical doubts in the mind of the police chief regarding the extent of extra – legal killings of detainees by police in Nigeria.
Mr. Aturu, who is the legal representative of Chidi Odinkalu (a professor of law), told the nation’s police chief in plain language that his client had on March 5th 2012, at the annual conference of the National Association of Judiciary Correspondents (NAJUC) in Abuja, Nigeria delivered a talk on the theme “Plea Bargaining and the Administration of Justice in Nigeria”.
Specifically, Page 5 of the presentation contains the following statement “The response of law enforcement to the incapability of the legal system to ensure convictions is an epidemic of third-degree policing, torture and extra extra-judicial executions. By some estimates, the police executes well over 2,500 detainees summarily every year”.
By a letter to Dr. Odinkalu dated 16th March 2012, the Acting Inspector Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed D. Abubakar, complained that Dr. Odinaklu had said that the Police execute over 5,000 detainees summarily every year”, and complained that this “statement is viewed seriously by the Police High Command as vexatious especially against the backdrop of its grave and negative implications on our National and Corporate Image”.
While not disputing that police personnel are indeed involved in a disturbing pattern of extra-judicial executions, the Acting Inspector-General in his letter said that “the assertion is highly exaggerated and therefore untrue”. He equally failed to provide any figures to contradict those provided by Dr. Odinkalu. Rather, the Acting Inspector-General requested Dr. Odinkalu to “provide evidence or facts to support your assertion, as well as verifiable statistics from which you made your “estimates.”
However, Bamidele Aturu recalled vividly that in a widely reported speech on 13th February 2012, the Acting Inspector-General himself had publicly stated of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF): “Our anti-robbery squads have become killer teams.”
Conversely, in April 2004, then Inspector-General of Police, Tafa Balogun, informed Human Rights Watch researchers that the NPF killed 7,198 “armed robbers” from January 2000 to March 2004. This represents an average official killing rate of 141.1 or an average daily killing rate of about 4.6 persons per day. For the same period, however, Balogun’s successor, Sunday Ehindero, reported much different statistics in a July 2006 letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on Extra-judicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions.

In this letter, Ehindero, claimed that in the five years from 2000-2004, the Nigeria Police Force killed 2,402 and arrested another 20,314 “armed robbers”, representing an inexplicable difference of 4,796 killings between Balogun’s figures and Ehindero’s figures, according to Aturu.

Aturu recalled that in 2004 alone, the Legal Defence and Aid Project (LEDAP) documented 2,987 cases of extrajudicial executions by law enforcement agencies. This is roughly consistent with the most recent official police claims. In November 2007, Acting Inspector-General Mike Okiro reported that the police had killed 785 and arrested 1,628 “armed robbers” in his first one hundred days as IGP. This translates into a daily killing rate of 7.85 persons and a yearly rate of 2,865 police killings. Okiro’s figures also represent a kill-to-arrest ratio of 1:2.07. In comparison to the statistics announced by former Inspector-General Ehindero in 2000 (sic), Okiro’s data represent an increase of over 400 percent in the official statistics for police killings.

The law scholar concluded rightly that the inconsistencies in the official figures strongly suggest that deaths in police custody or encounters are not addressed with sufficient gravity and that records of such deaths are either nonexistent or very poorly kept.

These facts aforementioned were contained in a report titled: “Criminal Force: Torture, abuse and extra-judicial killings by the Nigeria police Force” issued in 2010 by the Network on police Reform in Nigeria (NOPRIN).

The nation’s police hierarchy should do internal clean up and punish all operatives indicted for these vicious crimes and should stop making Nigeria a laughing stock.                             

*   Emmanuel Onwubiko, Head, HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS’ ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA; writes         from


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