THE MPAPE-ABUJA MASSACRE REVISITED
Something evil, sinister and morally reprehensible happened in the ever-bustling Mpape town, a suburb of the Federal Capital Territory in January. This incident was the senseless massacre of eight persons by armed mobile police operatives which unleashed a reign of terror on a crowd that was protesting the dastardly and cruel killing of a middle aged pregnant woman and a staff of Bank PHB Mrs. Doris Okere.
This innocent pregnant lady was killed alongside her unborn child by a yet- to- be publicly named trigger happy police operative who out of unnecessary and deadly overzealousness, discharged the noxious contents of his AK47 riffle on a commercial taxi that was reversing near the Zenith Bank in Mpape.
The police authority claimed that it was wrong for vehicles to reverse near banking premises because of the possibility of the men of the underworld attacking the banks. But there is yet no explanation for the cruel murder of an innocent passenger who sat behind the driver of the Abuja coloured taxi that was violently and unprovokingly accosted by this trigger happy police operative who opened fire because he thought the driver would not respect his orders by refusing to stop forthwith the reversal of his taxi near the bank.
Angered by this dare-devil act of the trigger-happy mobile police operative, the crowd spontaneously attacked the Bank because the offending police man took refuge inside the banking hall and his fellow police officers shielded him and did nothing absolutely to pacify the angry crowd who were fed up with series of abuses of their fundamental human rights by police operatives who are paid and maintained with tax payers’ money to keep law and order and not to kill innocent citizens through extra-judicial means.
For most observers of the event in Mpape, what took place that day can rightly be called “the Mpape massacre by Nigeria police”. One other unfortunate out- come of that needless violence unleashed on the innocent people by the police in Mpape is that the woman killed in this whole madness with her unborn baby also left a barely one year old baby Chidiebere and her [Doris’s] husband. The implication is that a little Nigerian boy has been made motherless and a young Nigerian man made widower because of the wicked and reckless misuse of firearms by a certain police operative who has not yet been publicly identified and prosecuted for this crime against humanity.
Another of the widening implications of the massacre in Mpape by the police is that nearly a dozen families have lost their breadwinners and members who ought to contribute meaningfully in the running of these families in this times and age when economic hardship has afflicted nearly eighty five percent of Nigeria’s one hundred and fifteen million population with extreme poverty. Amid crushing poverty, unemployment, collapsing infrastructure due to corruption by public office holders, Nigerians are facing additional burden of police brutality, extra-legal executions and premeditated mass murder by suspected foreign mercenaries allegedly hired to unleash terror on some communities by suspected Fulani herdsmen in places like Benue, Plateau and Cross River states.
Our concern in this piece is not about the various pockets of civil wars going on in most parts of Nigeria even when politicians are going about their campaigns, but we are concerned about the fact that massive evil took place in Mpape and for nearly one month neither the Inspector General of police Abubakar Ringim nor the Attorney General of the Federation, Bello Adoke, thought it wise to ensure that the perpetrators of these dastardly acts are prosecuted in the competent court of law and punished to serve as effective deterrent to other would – be trigger happy police operatives. As far back as 1948, the United Nations enacted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which has a binding force of international law on all member nations of the United Nations including Nigeria, which became politically Independent in 1960 and immediately signed on to the United Nations charter less than one year thereafter.
In the preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the entire humanity proclaimed thus; “Recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world”.
The code of conduct for law Enforcement officials, Article 2, United Nations General Assembly, in 1979 proclaimed thus; “In the performance of their duty, law enforcement officials shall respect and protect human dignity and maintain and uphold the human rights of all persons”. In 1971, the commonwealth, a body that Nigeria is a very important member proclaimed that; “we believe in the liberty of the individual, in equal rights for all citizens regardless of race colour, creed or political belief….” with all these declarations, international treaties and binding international, regional, Sub-regional and municipal laws which prohibit extra-legal executions by law enforcement officials or indeed by any individual, why is the hierarchy of the Nigeria police unable and unwilling to put their house in order, train and retrain the operatives and to introduce zero tolerance to extra-legal killings?
The other day, newspapers widely reported of a demonstration by some aggrieved civilians in Kano angered by the torturing to death of a suspected motor bike thief by the police and the Inspector General of police Abubakar Ringim went on the publicly funded television to give a different version of the incident and painted the picture that the deceased was killed by a crowd who caught him stealing motor bike. Is Nigeria truly a democracy and what kind of democracy will thrive in an atmosphere of impunity? Why should the nation’s police chief be the one to defend erring police operatives even before the incidents are properly investigated and taken to court for prosecution? Can somebody please tell the Inspector General of police that the anger of Nigerians against the police is approaching its peak and if concrete steps are not adopted to redress the various cases of human rights violations, then the bottled- up anger against the police by the civil populace may spill over and could result in popular uprising similar to what just happened in Egypt. Is the Nigeria’s Inspector General of police not aware that the Egyptian police were the first targets of the popular uprising by the good and courageous people of Egypt, which later toppled the four decades old dictatorial regime of Hosni Mubarak?
Police massacre of the civil populace must stop in Nigeria if we must avoid a popular uprising and revolution against the grossly incompetent and inept Nigeria police force. Let me draw the attention of the nation’s police boss and his commissioners to the fact as enumerated in the “manual on Human Rights Training for police in commonwealth West African Countries” which simply goes to justify all the postulations and positions espoused above in this piece.
The drafters of the manual aforementioned rightly pointed out that the preamble to the universal Declaration of Human Rights recognizes the link between lack of respect for human rights, and the likelihood of disruption to the peace.
Accordingly, the manual stated thus; “…the day-to-day conduct of police in protecting and ensuring the human rights of all persons contributes to safe, stable and peaceful communities”. “Training in human rights is part of developing a mind-set that for an effective, unthreatening, co-operative working environment, police officers need a community that is on-side once again, respect for human rights is not just right, but leads to easier policing, easier working relations”, the manual stressed. Chapter four of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which specifies the Fundamental rights provisions should be transliterated or translated to Nigeria’s major languages and distributed to all Nigerians and importantly to the police operatives for the benefit of those operatives who are not sufficiently educated in English language. Nigeria police force must be reformed comprehensively and only educated; competent and professionally minded Nigerians must be recruited to form the new Nigeria police. The immediate, comprehensive and effective reform of the police is imperative if what happened in Egypt recently is to be avoided in Nigeria.
Onwubiko heads Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria.