Still on SARS
With the latest round of protest to #EndSARS, Nigerians need to know the origin of the rogue unit that has served to terrorise a large section of the populace, especially young people.
The complete version of this is on The Cable.
The Nigerian Police has a history of extrajudicial murders. One of the most notorious was on 6 September 1992 when an army colonel, Israel Ridnam, was at a traffic jam caused by a police checkpoint in Lagos. Col. Rindam got out of his car to ascertain what the problem was, and was promptly shot to death by the policemen who had set up the checkpoint. He was in mufti, but his beret was on the dashboard of his car, so upon realising that they had killed a soldier, the murderous policemen took to their heels.
Col. Rindam’s murder was one in a series of murders by police officers. On 15 May 1991, Dr Nwogu Okere, a general manager at Klinstine Limited, a building contractor, was killed by policemen who trailed him to a petrol station in Gbagada, Lagos. On 27 May 1991, Andy Esiri, Kayode Oladimeji, and US-based athlete, Ndubuisi “Dele” Ojo were killed when policemen opened fire at them at a checkpoint while they were travelling in Esiri’s car. Ganiyu Yekini, a danfo driver, was shot dead by a policeman at a checkpoint over a ₦10 bribe in February 1992. A 52-year old widow, Fidelia Oguonu, was murdered by a police constable at a checkpoint at Oba Junction, Anambra State on 20 September 1992. The difference between Esiri, Oguonu, Ojo, Oladimeji and many others on the one hand, and Rindam on the other, was that Rindam had men with guns who could respond on his behalf, and respond they did.
The fallout of the military retaliation to Col. Rindam’s murder was the redeployment of Superintendent Simeon Midenda from Benin to Lagos, and the reconstitution of the “best” of the three anti-robbery units in Lagos at the time into the Special Anti-Robbery Squad. But the key thing is that Midenda’s action did not punish the specific policemen who had murdered Random, Esiri, Oguonu, Ojo, Oladimeji, and indeed others before them, or since.
Last year, 1007 civilians were killed by the police in Nigeria. 142 of them died from wounds inflicted by “accidental discharge”. 29 were students, 47 were passersby.
SARS is just a part of the problem. Nigeria’s police, and indeed the entire security architecture, needs to be taken apart, and redesigned.