Nigeria/South Africa: Our Police; Their Police – By Emmanuel Onwubiko

South Africa Police in Action

Most people would rank the operatives of the Nigerian police force as some of the most brutal and notorious human rights violators in the World given the fact that several internationally acclaimed reports of assessment conducted by Independent body of panelists have turned up with extensively damaging scorecard of the involvement of the operatives of the Nigerian police force in several cases of forced disappearances of suspects in custody and extra-legal executions of suspects.

Besides, one of the reasons offered by suspected armed insurgents fighting under the platform of the Islamic extremists in the Northern segment of the Nigerian society is the 2009 alleged extra-legal execution of Mohammed Yusuf, the founder of the armed Islamic sect by the police.

Only recently, when the chairman of the National Human Rights Commission Dr.Chidi Odinkalu raised alarm of the unprecedented scale of police extra-judicial execution of suspects in police custody, the Inspector General of police Mr. Abubakar Dikko Mohammed attempted to arrest and detain him if not that organized civil society groups protested vehemently.

Even the United Kingdom –based Amnesty international and the United States-based Human Rights Watch warned the police top hierarchy to stop harassing the chairman of the Nigerian Human Rights Commission who had raised valid concern regarding the high rate of extra-legal killings of suspects and other innocent citizens by overzealous trigger-happy but extremely untrained armed police operatives of the Nigerian police force.

Few years back, the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) issued a report on corrupt practices among officials of government agencies and ranked the operatives of the Nigerian police force as some of the most corrupt in Nigeria.

But few weeks ago, operatives of the South African Police demonstrated to the World that some of their operatives are yet to extricate themselves from the notorious vestiges of apartheid policing tendencies characterized by brutal extra-legal killings of black South Africans.

The South African police in the full glare of global media gruesomely shot and killed about 34 South African miners who were protesting poor conditions of service. Some suspected armed protesting miners were blamed for the earlier gruesome killing of their fellow miners and two police operatives.

As if that  bestiality was not enough the so-called New South African police proceeded to arrest and charge several protesting miners for the said extra-legal execution of nearly 34 miners by the police.

An analyst told the Cable News Network [CNN] that in South Africa, the practice is that suspects being pursued by police are charged for murder if in the cause of trying to arrest them there occurs collateral damage or fatalities as a result of the police action.

If this is the true picture of the law in place in South Africa, then the South African police are not only brutal, notorious and dangerous but very primitive and therefore this legal framework should be amended to meet global best practices.

For purposes of clarification, I hereby re-present the news report of the killing of the 34 or so protesting miners by the South African police as captured by the Associated Press on August 17th, 2012.

The bloody police real life dramatic killing of 34 miners was reported thus; “Frantic wives searched for missing loved ones, President Jacob Zuma rushed home from a regional summit and some miners vowed a fight to the death Friday as police finally announced the toll from the previous day’s shooting by officers of striking platinum miners: 34 dead and 78 wounded”.

“Police Chief Mangwashi Victoria Phiyega said that Thursday was a dark day for South Africa and no time for pointing fingers, as people compared the shootings to apartheid-era state violence and political parties and labor unions demanded an investigation. Phiyega took over in June after two police commissioners were indicted for corruption and other charges. She already had her work cut out trying to reform a corrupt and scandal-ridden force”.

The foreign press Agency also reported that; “Thursday’s shootings are seen as a microcosm of the myriad problems facing South Africa 18 years after white racist rule ended, including growing inequality between a white minority joined by a small black elite while most blacks endure high unemployment and inadequate housing, health care and education”.

The shootings “awaken us to the reality of the time bomb that has stopped ticking — it has exploded,” The Sowetan newspaper said in a front-page editorial Friday. “Africans are pitted against each other… They are fighting for a bigger slice of the mineral wealth of the country.”

The South African government must decisively bring to trial the police operatives who fired live bullets into the protesting miners and killed the over three dozen poorly paid South African black miners who were legitimately seeking enhanced pay wages which is legal and permissible by international humanitarian laws.

On the side of the Nigerian police Force, the South African police Massacre and the international condemnation that followed the bloodshed should become a reminder to them that unlawful, extra-legal killings of civilians by armed security operatives are reprehensible, atrocious and indeed amounts to a crime against humanity which must be punished if not locally but in the International Crimes Court (ICC).

This is because Article three of the Universal Declaration of HUMAN Rights provides that; “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of persons”. Article six of the International Covenant on civil and political rights stated thus; “Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life”.

It is not enough that the South African police authority has belatedly decided to drop the so-called murder charges against the detained protesting miners for the brutal mass murders that they [South African police] committed. But South African justice system must charge the police operatives who shot and killed unarmed civilians for murder in the competent court of law because to do otherwise is to stage a return to the notorious apartheid period.

* Emmanuel Onwubiko, Head, HUMAN Rights writers’ Association of Nigeria,



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