FSARS Assassination Of LASTMA Officer; Psychiatric Test Necessary On All Gun-Carrying Security Personnel – Luqman Soliu, President Of Rights and Freedom Advocates (RIFA)
On November 28, 2018 around 6pm, the driver of a Toyota Highlander SUV, with registration number Lagos LSR 277 BJ, later identified as Police Inspector Olukunle Olonade, attached to FederalSpecial Anti-Robbery Squad (FSARS) of Nigeria Police Force, Ikeja while driving along Iyana-Ipaja Road, was said to have contravened traffic laws and cautioned by an officer of Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA); Adeyemo Rotimi, aged 46 years at Iyana-Ipaja Roundabout to obey traffic laws which led to the two men vehemently disagreed with each other.
However, during the altercation, the said Inspector Olukunle Olonade who was said to be in mufti allegedly shot the LASTMA officer to death. The police spokesperson, CSP Chike Oti, said residents who witnessed the incident, thought Olonade was an armed robber and mobbed him.
He noted that although the inspector was rescued by a police team who arrived at the scene, the policeman died on the way to a hospital. However, the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Edgal Imohimi, was said to have ordered the posthumous trial and dismissal of the operative of the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad, Inspector Olukunle Olonade. Rights and Freedom Advocates (RIFA) commiserate with the family and colleagues of the deceased but call for concerted efforts at averting same in the future.
It would be recalled that in August 2018 the then Acting President; Prof. Yemi Osinbajo SAN, ordered the Inspector-General of Police (IGP); Ibrahim Idris, to overhaul the management and activities of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigeria Police Force. The development followed numerous complaints from Nigerians especially on social media, accusing SARS officers of several misconducts ranging from harassment, extortion, assault to extra-judicial killings.
The directive included that the IGP should ensure that any unit that would emerge from the process, should be intelligence-driven and restricted to the prevention and detection of armed robbery and kidnapping, and apprehension of offenders linked to the stated offences, and nothing more. The then Acting President also directed the IGP to ensure that all operatives in the emerging Unit conduct their operations in strict adherence to the rule of law and with due regard to International Human Rights Law and the constitutionally guaranteed rights of suspects and that the operatives should also bear proper identification anytime they are on duty.
However, in contravention of the Federal government directive by someone that was supposed to be law enforcement agent, the deceased FSARS officer misused gun given to him andshot an innocent man on duty. The action of the police according to the emanating reports from the scene resembled that of a sick person.
It showed that the deceased officer might have been a psychiatric patient. But should he be blamed solely? What medical test was conducted on police officers by the police authority before officers were employed? There had been reports that right from Police college, the senior officers extort recruits and assure them that they would recoup their investment if passed out successfully as the public would pay for it. Was this not a corroboration of claim in some quarters that majority of police officers took the appointment either to extort the public or oppress the masses with the uniform and or gun? This orientation must change. The nation police authority should start periodic and regular training for their officers by employing credible religious and human right associations on voluntary basis to instil professionalism and human feelings in officers.
This further buttressed the calls from vigilant Nigerians that the spate of Police reckless use of gun nowadays should be diligently controlled. There had been reports, across the nation, involving police officers shooting dead whoever failed to part with money on the road or at their stations while others are recklessly murdered on challenging police lawlessness in handling simple civil matters and misunderstanding. This is a serious blow on the nation security if those the police officers are engaged to protect are the victims of police brutality.
Throughout the world, police is an institution of national pride but can we say of such in a nation where the police often oppress the innocent armless citizens? In Australia for example where law operates normally,general duty federal and state police officers only carry pistols, OC (pepper) spray, batons, and handcuffs. Such officers in most states and territories also have access to Tasers following various trials and reviews.
In special units, high-powered rifles, armoured vehicles, and drone technology may be used but under strict conditions. The basic individual police weapon in almost all the civilized countries is the handgun for safety. The United Kingdom, China, and New Zealand stand out as exceptions, as their police officers do not routinely carry firearms. Even in those countries, however, police officers have access to firearms to be used only when necessary.
In addition to handguns, police officers often carry nonlethal devices such as batons, pepper spray or tear gas, and Tasers. Almost all of the police departments in those countries appear to have access to rifles and/or shotguns, even if these are generally not carried by officers in their day-to-day functions. Many, including the Russian, Dutch, Canadian, and Estonian police, also have access to automatic weapons such as submachine guns but for strict operations. South African police forces have a number of armoured vehicles like Nigeria, as do Australian state and territorial police forces, and some local Canadian police forces. However, Surveillance drones are used for law enforcement purposes in Portugal and the Netherlands.
There are notable differences in countries’ rules on the use of police weapons, and especially on the use of firearms. One clear commonality is that police officers are almost always required to give warning before using a firearm, except if there is no time or if giving such a warning would cause more serious and dangerous consequences. Guidelines issued in Brazil in 2010 appear to go further that police officers should use at least two non- firearm lethal weapons before using a firearm.
In all, the basic principle is that the use of force must be necessary and proportional to the threat being countered. In this regard, the Council of Europe has established a non-binding Code on Police Ethics, which recommends that police should only be authorized to use force when strictly necessary, and that such force be proportionate to the objectives being pursued. Could the FSARS officer’s attack on LASTMA officer be said to be proportionate?
In most police shootings in advance countries, officers don’t shoot out of anger or frustration or hatred because they are well certified of mental sickness before being recruited. They shoot only because they are afraid of their lives being threatened. However, even where no serious threat can be established, there is no need to use weapons against the people. But in a situation where someone has access to gun and just take it and shoot at others, something wrong must have happened to that person and such a person does not deserve to hold gun.
On this, Rights and Freedom Advocates (RIFA) urge the police authority which is currently recruiting additional constables to ensure all police officers (current and prospective) are certified mentally fit by competent psychiatrists to guarantee safety of Nigerians in the hands of police officers.
Rights and Freedom Advocates (RIFA)
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