The rot in the Police force has festered for so long. It is systemic. And it will take a strong political will to purify it.

Last night, I traveled back to 2020. I met the tempestuous moments of the #EndSARS protests. They hit me like rocket-propelled grenade. I felt a sudden anger. I wept.

I remembered the melee with the police; the teargas and hot water tanks to dispel us. I remembered the tick of the tension. The fastest two-legged U-turn I did in Wuse, Abuja, while being chased by a police van. I remembered the teargas canister tumbling on my left ankle while I sprinted for safety. I remembered the harassment, the 45-minute quizzing with SARS at a feeder road in Edo because they found a laptop with me. I wept.

I remembered the gory videos. I remembered Chijioke Iloanya, Daniel Chibuike, Oke, Jimoh Isiaq, Tina Ezekwe, Johnson Nnaemeka. I remembered Okeke Ejike Shedrach and many other young exuberant Nigerians whose lives were clipped by the notorious unit of the Nigerian police. I wept.

These memories came back again—acrid as they were. The year 2020 started beautifully, but ended badly. Dirge was our memory verse. Requiems became hangout spots. Tears filled drums like water, but not pure enough for drinking.

Twenty-four months after the barbaric shootings of unarmed #EndSARS protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate, Police brutality is still a cancer in Nigeria. The criminal activities of extortion, brutality, harassment, and mindless killings by the police are still happening. The system has done nothing to stop these.

In September 2021, over ten cases of extrajudicial killings were reported.
In Obinoma Ukwata community, Delta State, 28-year-old Gift Ojarikre was killed at his birthday party. In Yenegoa, 27-year-old Goodluck Oviekeme was tortured and beaten. He was later pronounced dead at the Federal Medical Center. In the same month, 37-year-old Chigozie Nwaiwu was killed by officers of the anti-kidnapping unit of Edo State Police Command while on his way to his sister’s wedding.

A serving corps member, 28-year-old Isaac Akpan was tortured to death inside a police cell. He was previously arrested in Akwa Ibom on August 29, 2021. In Ijeshatedo area of Lagos, an 18-year-old admission seeker, Monsurat Ojuade was killed by a trigger-happy policeman.

All these wanton killings happened in September 2021. Some cases were not fortunate to reach the media. From September 2021 to date, there are a plethora of such heart-shattering stories all over Nigeria.

Extortion has also increased tempo. In Abuja, a young man named Ifeanyi was arrested and extorted N10,000. He had left the house late at night to attend to a friend in Kubwa who put a distress call to him that he had an accident. He explained to them, and even tried to call the accident victim as evidence. Due to a flickered network, he couldn’t reach him. They labeled him a criminal and threatened to shoot him. They stripped him and his cab driver naked and emptied the driver’s pockets.

Yemi, a Thirty-Two-year-old private school teacher in Lagos was a victim too. He was labeled a criminal because he drove a Corolla Sports car. The police were not convinced he owned the car, despite evidencing documents. His cell phone was confiscated. He was driven to a corner and was asked to bail himself. They extorted N34, 000 from him. These are a few extortion stories.

Over 40 #EndSARS protestors are still blubbering in prisons across Nigeria. They were detained without trial. They were illegally tagged criminals of petty crimes to justify their unlawful detention.

Amnesty International reported that in Agodi Correctional Centre, Ibadan, Oyewole Olumide, Rasheed Tiamiyu, Moruf Adekunle, Taoreed Abiodun, Ikenna Amechi, Afeez Ariyo, Ikechukwu Eze, and Adesina Ademuyiwa were amongst those detained illegally. They are still in detention as I write. They still go through torture inside detention.

There are many others in various prisons in Nigeria who are illegally held in detention without trial.

Peaceful protest is a right in every democratic clime. It is a nonviolent way of expressing disapproval and registering displeasure with a government, policy or organisation. It is disappointing that after two years, there is no justice for the victims. Instead, more crimes are being perpetuated. Protesters are still detailed and the criminals in police uniforms are walking freely.

The rot in the Police force has festered for so long. It is systemic. And it will take a strong political will to purify it.

The notorious Special Anti-Robbery Squad left a dirty indelible stain on the Nigerian fabrics.
But the heroes of this great movement will never be forgotten. We will continue to remember them and the ultimate price they paid. Twitter: @BrightOkuta

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