Enugu shooting: Matters arising

June 28, 2021
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Enugu shooting: Matters arising

Posted by News Express | 28 June 2021 | 257 times

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•Anti-Riot police squad in Owerri, Imo State

 

By EMEKA OMEIHE

There is something peculiar about last week’s killing of five people in Enugu and injuring several others by a police inspector attached to a company in that state’s capital.

Given the weird nature of the incident, suspicions are rife that the offending policeman may have been under some toxic influence as he opened the trigger, mowing down people on sight including those he had lived with for quite some time. But that is not all there is to the matter as the conduct of the suspect would reveal.

Reports had it that the policeman who guards a Lotto company located in the Golf Estate area of Enugu, suddenly around 9.30 am on the fateful Sunday morning began shooting indiscriminately at his neighbors without any provocation. The shooting which was principally aimed at those who lived within the vicinity of his work place, fell five people with several others critically wounded before he was taken into custody.

The state police command has promised thorough investigations to unravel the circumstances of the incident. It has also asked residents of the area and relations of those killed and wounded to remain calm while urging those with relevant information to aid investigations to avail them.

But eyewitness accounts including that of the widow of one of the victims have injected some complication to the possible motive of the killer police inspector. According to them, as soon as the police inspector opened his door, he started shooting indiscriminately. He broke the windows of his neighbors and shot some ladies still sleeping in their rooms. He also shot the steward of the house who was apparently doing his domestic chores and other people at sight.

The steward who suspected the man was bent on killing him ran and hid in the toilet. Apparently presuming that the steward was dead and that he could now cover up his crime, residents said the offending policeman quickly called some of his colleagues. On arrival, he told them that the shootings were carried out by unknown gunmen and pretended to be searching for the unknown gunmen together with the police operatives that had arrived the scene. But a lie was put to his narrative when the steward, on seeing the arrival of other officers, came out from hiding only to reveal that the inspector did the shooting.

It was at this point that he was arrested even as he was heard telling those that arrested him, “I will confess”. In matters of this nature, the immediate task before the police is to unravel the motive of the killings. There is the temptation to narrow it down to alcohol, drug influences or depression. But these may not be all there is to the matter in view of the fact that the shooting took place early in the morning when people were just getting up from their beds.

Even then, accounts of residents said the inspector has never been seen smoking or drinking since they have been living in the area with him. They believe he neither smokes nor drinks alcohol. They sometimes play with him and if he is known for any of such vices, they would have noticed it long before now. That is however, not to completely rule out these leads. He could be on some drugs that are beyond the prying eyes of residents. It is possible.

But one lead that should come very handy is why the offending policeman sought to blame the incident on phony unknown gunmen. This is a very crucial question given the perilous times that part of the country is currently passing though. Why did the idea of a cover up by blaming the so-called unknown gunmen come of immediate appeal to him? Is it possible he had an agenda or he was swimming with the tide of the times to cover up his dirty tracks? And at what point did placing the blame for his action on unknown gunmen occur to him- before the killings or after them?

These are the issues the investigation should largely focus on. Before now, suspicions have been raised about the spate of insecurity that suddenly engulfed the south East zone. Though the government had blamed the Indigenous People of Biafra IPOB and its security arm the Eastern Security Network ESN for the attacks on security agencies and governmental facilities, the clinical efficiency with which some of those criminal acts were perpetrated seem beyond what could possibly be ascribed to rag-tag elements.

With the serial denial by the IPOB that it has no hands in the criminalities attributed to it, suspicions have been high as to whether the hands of fifth columnists were in those attacks and killings just to escalate the insecurity in the zone. It is further being suggested that the aim of such insider dealing is to provide reasons for the federal government to deploy the military in the zone. The current incident reinforces such suspicions.

It is therefore vital that all leads and clues are fully and thoroughly investigated to get at the root of the bizarre outing of that killer policeman that early Sunday morning. It is not enough that the police have promised thorough investigations. The outcome of such inquisition must be made public including recommendations on compensation to families of victims.

We recall that in November last year, another police inspector attached to the Abonnema Wharf in Port Harcourt, Rivers State similarly shot dead a civilian security guard who worked with him in the same company- Bulk Strategic Reserve Ltd. Promises of investigations were also made. But the outcome was not availed the public. This case should not be a victim of cover-up given the times we are into.

And in Lagos a couple of years back, a police sergeant, Stephen James shot dead two brothers and one other person for failing to buy him beer in a hotel where he was attached to provide security. The sergeant, apparently unhappy that the men cautioned him when he approached them in the bar for a drink, waylaid them as they made to leave, raining a volley of bullets that fell them instantly. He later shot and killed himself.

These incidents fit into the embarrassing culture of extreme lawlessness occasioning mortal harm on citizens by those paid with taxpayers’ money to protect lives and property. They expose the inadequacies of character checks on potential recruits into the police force and allied security agencies. Incidentally some of these excesses were among the factors that spurred the last EndSARS protests against police operatives. And much of those excesses and human rights abuses speak a lot of the police institution, the character and temperament of those paid to maintain law and order in our society. They mirror vividly the defects in the mental and psychological balance of those paid to protect the rest of us. Before now, much had been said on the imperative of serious medical fitness assessment for all enlistments into our security forces.

Recurring accidental discharge at check points and unprovoked killing of innocent citizens demand urgent re-assessment of officers and men of the country’s security architecture. The grim reality of the inadequacies of mental checks during police recruitments was brought to the fore during the regime of Mike Okiro as the Inspector-General of Police.

He had shocked the country when he disclosed that 24 top police officers had doubtful mental stability for the job they were doing. This included two deputy commissioners of police and one assistant commissioner who were referred to the Police Medical Board to determine their mental suitability. That was how bad the situation was then. The Enugu shootings and the killing of a Germany-bound man at the entrance of Imo Airport, Owerri in the presence of his son and child by men by the air force personnel do not imbue confidence of any positive change in the whimsical handling of the gun by our security agents.

These frequent and unprovoked killings are sad reminders of the little value attached to human life on these shores. It is nigh impossible to expect positive human rights posting when detention camps are tagged ‘human abattoir’ and the police leadership sees nothing wrong with it. Such designations cheapen and desecrate human life. They also influence negatively, the attitude of policemen to suspects brought in there.  And we ask, what has become of the police reforms promised in the wake of the last nationwide protests? (Adapted from The Nation)

 

Source: News Express


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