At last, information emerged early this week that the son of a widow, Mrs. Bose Bajulaye, Joseph, whom the State Anti-Robbery Squad of the Lagos State Police Command, had earlier denied was ever in their custody, had been killed by men of the squad as early as November 2013.
A report published in a national daily stated that Joseph was shot and killed by SARS men when he was trying to escape from custody. He was described as a fake soldier.
This new development comes as a tragic climax to the case which has brought reactions from various sections of the society on what the duty of the police should be in a society.
In a newspaper report on Monday, SARS had said Joseph was killed on November 25, 2013, a surprising revelation considering the fact that Saturday PUNCH, the mother of the suspect and human rights activists had demanded explanation from the police on the whereabouts of the suspect but had met denial at every point.
When the force spokesperson, Mr. Frank Mba, was contacted on Wednesday, he said the police were preparing a response that would show the suspect was actually a criminal.
“The Lagos State Police Command will provide a dossier and documentary evidence of the cases against the suspect. You should give them a little time to put everything together,” he said.
Police History Of Extra-Judicial Killings
The Nigeria Police Force has a history of extra-judicial killings, which is a sort of leftover of the military era in the country.
In 2008, Amnesty International released a report titled, “Nigeria Police Kill at Will” which documented cases of torture and shooting of suspects in custody.
The organisation said at the time, “The Nigeria police are responsible for hundreds of unlawful killings every year. Police don’t only kill people by shooting them; they also torture them to death, often while they are in detention.
“The majority of the cases go uninvestigated and the police officers responsible go unpunished. The families of the victims usually get no justice or redress. Most never even found out what happened to their loved ones.”
Many more allegations of extra-judicial killings have been levied against the Nigeria police since that report was published.
Extra-judicial killing is firmly rooted in the inefficiency of the police in the country, it was learnt.
Experts say the inability to conduct a proper investigation and gather concrete evidence to prove a crime often lead policemen to resort to torturing or killing suspects.
The Chairman, Nigerian Bar Association, Ikeja Branch, Mr. Onyekachi Ubani, gave a thought on this.
He said, “We must build an efficient system in which police would not have to resort to this. People should not be made to take laws into their hands. That cannot be allowed in a civilised country.
“If the police want to embark on any reform, the issue of transparency is very important. If they are friends of the people, then they should be friendly. If they arrest a suspect, they should try and conduct a thorough investigation and get all necessary evidence intact and use the evidence to adjudicate in the court so that they can secure a conviction. The investigative system of getting evidence should be reformed.
“The world has moved on. Police formations all over the world engage in scientific investigation. Before you are taken to court, irrefutable evidence is gathered. That is what we should aim at.”
He added that the police were fond of taking laws into their hands sometimes because they were worried that armed robbery suspects got released because of the laxity at the judicial or investigative level.
Ubani said, “But we cannot encourage that because if we do, it will boomerang and innocent people can be killed. Even people can gang up against an innocent person and call him an armed robber and he is killed.
“That is the danger of allowing such thing. We cannot be comfortable when lives are taken away without a proper judicial process. Let the court be the one to make the pronouncement. It does not lie in the hands of the police and any security agent. That is what our law says.”
A long road to an admission
“After a thorough check, there was no record that the son was ever brought there. I was told she fainted after receiving the news and the police took her to the hospital.” –Police spokesperson, Ngozi Braide
“The file is available in our office. I don’t know why SARS is denying that they took the suspect. We have the duplicate of the transfer file and the transfer signal from SARS. That is all I can say about the matter right now.” –Investigating police officer, Corporal Eme
“The IPO whose name you gave me, I later learnt, was not around, which was why she could not produce the transfer file, which you mentioned to me. But we are working on the case and the file would be produced as soon as the lady is available.” –Police spokesperson, Ngozi Braide
“He died during an exchange of gun fire with operatives of SARS on November 25,2013 when he led operatives to track down a leader of ATM robbers at Ilasamaja where an exhange of gunfire ensued.” –SARS
Activists call for probe
Human rights activists have demanded a probe into the killing of 34-year-old Joseph Bajulaye (also called Joseph Jack) in police custody, saying the SARS story did not add up.
Lagos lawyer and activist, Mr. Bamidele Aturu, said the officer in charge of SARS, Mr. Abbah Kyari, must explain to Nigerians why SARS initially said the suspect was never in its custody.
He said, “He should be made to explain the conflicting stories about the whereabouts of the man. If it is true that the young man was shot while trying to escape, why did the squad not say that immediately enquiries were made?
“Extra-judicial killing is clearly unlawful and unconstitutional. Under our constitution, every citizen has the right to life. And it is so also under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights . People who continue to engage in this despicable crime and escape without sanction must be held accountable. We don’t know whose turn it will be tomorrow. The children of police officers can become victims of this dastardly conduct,” Aturu said.
The Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association, Ikeja Branch, Mr. Onyekachi Ubani, challenged the police to produce the suspect’s body.
He said the command’s explanation on how Joseph died was an afterthought.
Ubani said, “If he died while trying to escape, where is his body? They said he had been killed since November and PUNCH has been publishing it up to four weeks now and they never owned up. Where is his body?
“Who witnessed the shootout in which he was killed? Did any paper publish it at the time? Who did they report to? There are more questions than answers here and the police have to answer these questions.
“The human rights community must rise up and demand justice in this case. There is a problem of extra-judicial killing daily in most of Nigeria’s police formations. These things are done while authorities that are supposed to correct this anomaly have done nothing. It is an anomaly. Lives are being wasted because nobody has ever being punished for this crime.
“I think the family should pursue this issue to seek justice. The NBA Ikeja is offering its services to the family. If we are approached to seek redress in this matter, we will gladly help.”
President of the Society for Love and Social Justice, Dr. Adeolu Olusodo, believed the SARS’s story that Joseph was trying to escape was an attempt to cover up an extra-judicial killing.
He said the police should compensate the family of the young man.
Olusodo said, “They must compensate the family because as far as the law is concerned, he was an innocent man. They have simply killed an innocent soul.
“They said he had been arraigned for some crimes in the past. But there is no substance in all that. They are just trying to cover up the murder of this innocent man, which is another case of extra-judicial killing that must be brought to the fore.
“Our demand is simple in this matter. The police have derailed from their constitutional duty. Anybody who is suspected of any crime should be charged to court and the law should take its course if the person is found guilty. But those involved in the extra-judicial killing of the man should be punished and dismissed.”
He said there was a need for the public to begin to demand for their rights and desist from paying huge sums of money as bribe to men of SARS anytime they have a case with the squad.
Olusodo also called for the reform of the police, saying if the police force was reformed, “this country will be a paradise because every crime in this country has the hand of the police in it, be it corruption or rigging.”
However, Mr. Darlington Ajitemisa, a pastor who has been assisting Joseph’s mother, said a demonstration against the young man’s murder by SARS operatives would be staged in days to come.
He said there was need for the police authorities to flush out the SARS men responsible for Joseph’s killing.
“If the public does not react to this, extra-judicial killing will be perpetuated by the police. Dead or alive, we want to see the body. They should produce the body. If they can’t produce the corpse, then we will be forced to think that they probably have used his body for something sinister,” the activist said.
I can’t believe my son is dead –Mother
Joseph’s mother, Mrs. Bose Bajulaye, has insisted that the police must produce her son alive, saying she can’t believe he is dead.
She spoke to our correspondent after reading the report about how her son was killed by SARS men only on Tuesday.
With trepidation about how the fragile woman would have received the news, our correspondent asked her to respond. But her reaction to the story was shocking.
She said, “The Lord has not spoken to me that my son is dead. I don’t believe and I cannot believe for a minute that my son is dead,” her voice shook.
Bajulaye added, “They must produce my son. The cock and bull story told by SARS about my son is sickening.
“I petitioned the IG yet nobody responded to my cries. If anything happens to Mr. Darlington Ajitemisa, SARS should be held responsible.
“My son is rascally and had been arrested for being so in the past but never for robbery or even stealing. All the information SARS gave in that newspaper report is a series of lies.
“He was never an armed robber. I don’t understand why they would lie that he was an armed robber and that they shot him while he was trying to escape. I am just confused about that. But I am very sure my son is somewhere alive. What I am not sure about is the state of his health.”
She said she would continue to cry out to whoever would listen to her plight to get her son released.
Her feelings then
When Saturday PUNCH had demanded a response from police authorities and replies were not forthcoming, Bajulaye had maintained at the time that she believed her son was still alive.
She had told our correspondent, “I am fasting right now but even if I am not, where is the food? My God has made covenant with me that I would not weep over my child again. I know he is still alive but I just don’t understand why the SARS men are keeping him and denying that he is with them.
“I am not a mad woman, I am not stupid and I am not saying something I don’t know. When I went to Ojodu Police Division and the IPO (Investigating Police Officer) told me that he had been transferred to SARS custody, to prove he was no longer with them, the IPO showed me the transfer file. Why is SARS now denying he is not with them?”
Her suffering in the hands of SARS
On January 2, 2014, Bajulaye went to the SARS headquarters in Ikeja, Lagos, in company with a 13-year-old boy who lives with her to demand the whereabouts of her son. Lawyers she had contracted to help her had abandoned her case. She had nowhere else to turn to than to return to the SARS office even though she had been warned never to come back to look for her son.
At the office, some officials dragged her on the floor out of the office. But while she stood outside, she collapsed. Some policemen around poured water on her and she was revived.
“When she was revived, she could not walk anymore. The police then used one of their vehicles to take her to LASUTH,” the young boy with the woman revealed.
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