On December 27, 1983, men of the Nigeria Police Force in Ughelli, then in old Bendel State, shot six Nigerian youths dead in cold blood. The murdered Nigerian youths from different tertiary institutions, namely Kester Aghogho Sobotie, Joseph Uloho, Victor Oyailo, Anthony Teddy Omakor, Bernard Obi and Princely Otegho Otaye, were members of the National Association of Seadogs (Pyrates Confraternity).
The Nigeria Police had admitted then that they were unlawfully killed and indeed promised to fish out the killers to face justice. The course of justice is yet to be fulfilled. Their killers have not been found leaving the families of the deceased groaning in pain to date. That dastard event, like many others continuing,was and still remains a stain in the history of Nigeria Police Force.
Today, on the occasion of the 37th anniversary of this horrendous crime, we restate our support for the ideals that informed the recent #EndSARS protest across Nigeria. The protests coordinated by Nigerian youths from different social and ethnic backgrounds highlighted concerns of uncontrolled police brutality, extra judicial killing and flagrant violations of human rights of Nigerians by members of the defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigeria Police Force. The protests and the support it received from Nigerians across social status has reinforced our belief that Nigerians are in tandem on calls for an improved and effective Nigeria Police and a fully functional, justice system through far reaching reforms. #EndSARS also offered a refreshing hope that Nigerians would no longer be silent in the face of the impunity of the Nigeria Police Force and other security agencies.
We welcome the decision of the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) to encourage all state governments to constitute the Judicial Panel of Enquiry on Police Brutality. We commend all Nigerians that have submitted petitions to the various panels as they seek redress and closure on heinous crimes committed against Nigerians by the Nigeria Police. It is important that as sittings go underway in various states, citizens are allowed unconditional liberty to table their grievances in the most conducive atmosphere of tolerance in the course to get justice. The government must resist the temptation to muzzle victims of police brutality or attempt to suppress evidence in their endeavour to get justice.
More significantly, we need to emphasize that the setting up of the Judicial Panel of Enquiry and its commencement of sitting is not an end in itself but a means to an end. The end result is justice for victims and this should not be compromised. The reports of the panel(s) must not be allowed to gather dust like others before it. Government must act decisively on the anticipated reports and punish all those indicted.
The Umalokun massacre and other incidents of extra judicial killings remain a sad chapter in the history of our country, the Police and our justice system. The Judicial Panel of Enquiry offers a golden opportunity for the government to redeem its image of negligently or wilfully shielding from justice,suspected criminal elements in the Nigeria Police. The government should further demonstrate its sincerity by implementing recommendation(s) to be submitted to it from the various Judicial Panel of Enquiry. The Government and the leadership of the Nigeria Police should be bold enough to summon the required political will to accelerate the needed Police reforms in our country.