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Human Rights, Nigeria

Police killings in Ajegunle

On April 1st last week Charles Okorafor was shot in the head by police in Ajegunle following a raid on a viewing center which was showing a football match. The next day furious residents gathered at the Ajeromi Police station to protest against the killing. Four more people were killed including Tunde Olute also allegedly shot in the head by the police when they opened fire on the protesters. The police claim they were being stoned and acted in self-defense and no one was killed.

On the following Monday, the secretary for The Labour and Civil Society Coalition [LASCO] called for an independent panel drawn from trade unionists, lawyers and human rights advocates to investigate the alleged extra-judicial killings in Ajegunle. He also called for a coroner’s inquest into the killings, the unconditional release of all residents arrested in the aftermath of the protest and the arrest and prosecution of the police officers involved in the killings.

Solomon Olotu, a resident of Ajegunle, said that his younger brother, Tunde, was killed by a police bullet during the protests.

“On April 3, at about 1.30 pm at Babani Street, near Ajeromi Police Station, my brother was receiving a call when a bullet hit him on the head and he fell.” Mr. Olotu said that his body was hurriedly hidden to avoid the police from seizing it.

“We rushed and buried him at the Amukoko Health Centre because the police wanted to collect the body from us,” said Mr. Olotu, who was also present at the press conference.

These killings are the latest in a long line of extra-judicial killings by the Nigerian police and it is hard to write anything new. In fact none of us know the real numbers of Nigerians killed by the police in this way. One difference is that more and more of these killings are being exposed either being caught on video or by witnesses coming forward as they have done in Ajegunle. The massacre of unarmed civilians in Maiduguri, the killing of of at least 75 young men in Enugu, the killing of surrendering unarmed militants in the Niger Delta and the “Rambo’ type raid on private nightclubs where instead of harassing the punters, the security forces in their usual way of attacking the vulnerable, stripped and photographed the women dancers and sent them to the press. Each time the police are challenged they blatantly denied any killings took place even when the bodies are their as evidence. The same thing happened in Ajegunle – the police simply denied anyone was killed… But this time one hopes with the backing of LASCO they will be forced to face and investigation and some measure of justice can be found. Nigerians cannot expect anything from the Federal government and little from the States. It is up to civil society organisations, trade unions and human rights advocates to work towards change in the country.

Ajegunle is Lagos’s largest working class neighbourhood and home to millions of people with no water and no sanitation. Since there is no electricity and people cannot always afford to buy a generator the “viewing centers” become community hubs where people can watch films and other forms of entertainment with their families and friends. The question is, do the poor have a right to entertainment or is that something just for the rich who can afford to visit the fancy air conditioned and licensed cinemas in exclusive enclaves? The gap between rich and poor in Nigeria is not just a huge gaping hole but one where the disdain and dismissal of the poor is disturbing. The Nigerian Police, as the video below shows, treat the poor like criminals to be harassed and bribed at will. Since the end of military rule in Nigeria, the police have become the face of the army. They are run as a military institution, armed as a military institution and have the mindset of the military rather than a civilian police force whose primary role is to protect not brutalise the public.

One possible way to begin to address the issues of police brutality and lack of accountability, would be to place the police under the jurisdiction of the State or Local Government rather than under a military style Federal chain of command. This would not necessarily prevent killings and corruption but if the State Governor was determined to make the police accountable and make serious changes to how her or his state is policed then it would be a step in the right direction and much more likely than under the present system.

The following poem was written by Uche Ucheuwadinachi a writer and poet who lives in Ajegunle and who contributed the details of the above report. Uche blogs at Flames Thoughts


(Dedicated to Kadiri Aderibigbe, who was shot in the eye in the course of a mass protest against the killing of an innocent boy during a police raid)


I have seen
The four walls
Coated with gory hand-prints
Of criminals and suspects
In-scripting awkwardness
Pleading for a public presentation

I stared at slogans
“we die…innocent”
“i was here”
“and so what”
“are you the president?”
“dem go fire me”
“na today”
“…save us”

My heart tears my eyes
And the graffiti spawns

My head smothers
As ravaging foul odour
Of urine and shit
Shutters me to worship
At the walls of unending scars
With my own “craze-words”.


Hell is cell!
The black bowl
Smiths into a black hole
Bloats for the unborn convict
Guilty — of life, wanting to survive
…raiding flames at night
…beaming red in flight
…yellow coal for ice
Collies for the burning
Of our already hurt hearts.

Poll for faults
Lease of crimes
To catch and lock our lives
Into the bloating black hole
Of a cell.

And so
The walls persist
A writing cry of the weak
Dying…to die today
And died…. Tomorrow

Uche Uwadinachi(c) 2009

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  1. solomonsydelle

    I was very disturbed by this murder of innocent protesters when I heard of it last week. Thanks for bringing it up. Will likely do a post about it as well. Their deaths must not be in vain, nor go unaccounted for.

  2. Sokari

    Thanks SS – yes we need to keep up the pressure and expose these human rights violations when they occur. For too long Nigerians have been silent and complacent about such violence. I look forward to your insightful post in the next few days and will pass by.

  3. Nii

    I saw a BBC documentary entitled – “Welcome to Lagos” last night. Some of the people featured were from Ajegunle – Apparently, thats where dreams come true for some of the 600, 000 who move to Lagos every year in search of thier dreams.
    I hope the authorities and powers that be leave no stone unturned in looking into this.

  4. Sokari

    Yes the blog post was based on the commentary on the documentary “Welcome to Lagos” 🙂

  5. Its regrettable to know that the innocents were murdered brutally because they are trying to upload the can't suppress peoples anger & frustration towards a particular government just by killing few innocent will never gonna help the cause instead it will deteriorate the situation in to much ugly situation.the best solution will be to understand the cause of situation & try to act accordingly.

  6. Nii

    Ah thanks Solari :), we've only seen the 1st part of the documentary in my part of the world, Looking forward to part 2 and 3 🙂