… Send Petition to Police

On Tuesday 28th May 2019, We the People led activities in Port Harcourt and Calabar to commemorate the 2019 National Day of Mourning. The day was set aside by responsible and concerned civil society organizations all over Nigeria to call attention to the rising occurrences of routine mass killings in the country.

In Port Harcourt, a mass rally was held from Isaac Boro Park where over 300 citizens wearing black joined processions and demanded that the government takes immediate actions to provide security for citizens. In Calabar, a Solemn Assembly was held at 60 MCC Road to commemorate the day.

We the People used the occasion to deliver a petition to the Police, demanding improved security in Rivers state. See petition below;

National Day of Mourning: Government Must Stop the Killing of Nigerians

The Joint Nigeria Civil Society Action Committee is deeply concerned by the steady descent of the Nigerian state into profound insecurity and routine mass killings of citizens from all parts of the country. In the past, we have witnessed regular killings in certain particular areas of the country, but never have the killings been so widespread and so regular as they now are. Virtually all states of our country have been beset by violent killings with impunity. Of particular note is the fast rising spate of killings in Rivers state. While the killings in other parts of the country take the character of insurgency, herdsmen and farmer crisis and community violence, the principal sources of killings in River state are gang related and spiraling beyond control.

Without doubt, we are witnessing an alarming increase in killings in Rivers state. In the month of April alone we documented 16 cases of extra judicial killings which claimed 46 lives. Some of the victims were barbarically beheaded. In the month of May, those figures have already been exceeded. These types of atrocious killings have become routine and familiar. An atmosphere of shock and fright engulfs the state, with residents anticipating the next gory tale of murder, occurring on a near daily basis. The murderous atrocities in the month of April and May 2019 have further raised questions about the capacity or willingness of law enforcement agencies to maintain law and order and prosecute offenders. Beyond periodic declarations of condemnation and rage, there is absolutely no indication that the Nigeria Police Force has any strategic response with corresponding wit and brawn to address these killings that seem to have become staple in Rivers state. As days pass, the killings become more daring, more regular and more horrific, raising troubling questions about the sanity and humanity of the perpetrators; but also reinforcing the need to account for the unnecessary death of Nigerians. As shocking as the killings are, we are even more shocked by that fact that there is no serious demand or efforts to achieve accountability for atrocious killings in Rivers state. It seems, sadly, that numbers and statistics have replaced the value of life and the need to account for every soul we lose in murderous circumstances.

With this modest effort, by a coalition of concerned and responsible Civil Society groups, we are reinforcing the demand for the government and its Police force to perform its constitutional duty of securing the lives of Nigerians, a job it has woefully failed at so far. We also demand that the government ensures accountability for the senseless  killings, and closure to scores of grieving families.

The primary responsibility of government and its agencies is the protection of lives and property. It is sad to note that in Rivers state, every agency of government with responsibility in this regard has clearly failed. It is important to note that the police in particular is at a total loss on what to do, completely overwhelmed by these occurrences. We are not alone in this thinking. Only yesterday, the President of Nigeria expressed the very same sentiments when he stated;

“Those who are committing atrocities against communities, against the state and the country came from somewhere in Nigeria. Their neighbours know them; and we have politicians and rulers; the police are in the front line. We have the police in every major town and city in this country and I said they were not given the uniform and rifles to impress anybody, but to secure the people. I think the community leadership and the police have failed this country.”

The Nigerian Police is structurally ill equipped and perhaps even unwilling to deal with the rising atrocities in the state. Not only is the country under policed, we note with alarm that, even the insufficient policemen in the country have been privatized to the extent that private individuals and government officials appropriate them for their individual security. A recent report indicates that a significant percentage of our Nigeria’s policemen are posted to VIPs at the expense of public policing.

Related to the appropriation of public law enforcement for the use of private individuals is the seeming unwillingness of the Police to prosecute offenders. It is common knowledge that under the disguise of ‘bail’ hardened criminals are routinely released when they come up with huge payment to the Police. There is a sad but common saying that every crime has a price tag. The reality of this practice is that a huge majority of people who perpetuate heinous crimes are repeat offenders who somehow managed to dodge prosecution for previous crimes. The fact that one can pay an amount to get away with crime also provides incentive for people to remain in crime.

Similarly, we are concerned that the rise in atrocious killings in the state is directly traceable to the actions and incentives which politicians in the state provide. It is not by accident that the rising wave of killings in the state is occurring immediately after the general elections. In simple terms, the use of thugs and gang members as support base for electoral contestations is a major driver of atrocious killings in Rivers state.

We are also deeply troubled by the fact that our system and our society has seemingly accepted the atrocious murder of citizens as ‘normal’. For this reason, there is no accountability, no documentation and no investigation into deaths. Under various guises, deaths are dismissed and deleted from history and institutional memory. This is not only morally wrong and barbaric, but it is also demeaning and a violation of fundamental and inalienable rights.

Sir, the people of Rivers state cannot be left to their fate. The government and the Police cannot just throw up its arms in defeat and complicity. We must end the killings. We are not that society where daily beheadings are normal. We have a duty and responsibility to reclaim our morality and humanity. Life should not go on as usual in this atmosphere of fear and death. Rivers state cannot move on as if all is well, we demand security and an end to these routine and horrendous killings.

As citizens, we remind our government at every level that Section 14(1)(b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria states that the Security and Welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government, and therefore demand:

  1. That the Police immediately develop a register of all citizens killed in atrocious circumstances and commence investigations into their death.
  2. We demand that Policemen attached to VIPs be withdrawn and channelled to providing security equally for all citizens. It is discrimination for a publicly maintained law enforcement officers to serve only the interest of some person at the detriment of the rest.
  3. The system for prosecuting offenders should immediately be reformed to the extent that person who are arrested for crimes are effectively processed in accordance with the law, and prosecuted if guilty. We cannot have a penal system that is up for sale to the highest bidder.
  4. The Nigeria Police Force should immediately commence the compilation of a register of convicted criminals in the country. This will make the job of investigation much easier when the need arises to do so.
  5. A process should be initiated to prosecute all politicians who were indicted in the use of thugs and gang members in the last elections.