Death in Detention: Time to Call Police Officers to Order

It’s high time we enacted a law that prohibits death of anyone in police detention and punishes suspected officers. Through inhumane treatment and near-death torture, we’ve repeatedly seen suspects die, while the police weave such incidents around some unfounded excuses. When he was arrested for alleged robbery late last year, Lukman Ogundele, an auto-parts dealer wouldn’t have expected that it would be his end. He died in a Lagos police cell before his first arraignment, but the policemen tried fruitlessly to conceal it.

It was the same reason some 500 women protested half-naked in September last year after an elderly man died in police detention. The officers can’t claim ignorance of these cases, and unless we tame this proactively, the spate of death in detention will continue. Most of our officers are those who don’t mind health condition or tolerance of suspects before they manhandle them. If there is no way to compel justice here, with minimal space for excuses, we will continue watching people killed by overzealous policemen.

Under fundamental human rights in the Nigerian constitution, if not to prevent violence, escape, riot or insurrection, detained persons have the right to remain alive. We find policemen often lying about one or more of these to evade justice. However, we need to reconsider this. Most deaths come from maltreatment and the perpetrators should be made to pay for their crimes.

Nigerians need an act that not only protects us from violence from criminals, but also defends us against the aggression many people suffer within police coffers. Police can do more than battering suspects because of their authority. For us, it is the only option to prevent eventual crisis this callousness can bring.


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