Anti-riot police officers in Nigeria have shot dead three indigenes of Ogoni in the oil-rich Niger Delta region after angry youths protested the officers’ use of excessive force in arresting residents of Zor-Sogho, a village in Khana Local Government area. The suspects had opposed the planned take-over of their ancestral land for the construction of a military base.
Lagos-based daily, National Mirror, reported that a detachment of the police had arrived the village on June 12 to arrest those believed to be stalling the military base project, insisting that the Rivers State government did not consult them before attempting to forcefully take over their land.
While trying to enforce the arrest, the officers reportedly adopted strong arm tactics, shooting three villages dead, including one Job Nkpai, whose complaint of harrasment attracted the police in the first place.
Quoting villagers, the report traced the crisis to two weeks ago when surveyors started working on farmlands without the consent of the owners. The villagers tried to stop them. On investigation, they realized that some chiefs and village elders had received monies from government and given the surveyors the go-ahead to commence work.
According to an official of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, all those involved in discretely ceding the land to government, including the late Mr. Nkpai, were rebuked at a recent community meeting. “That did not go down well with him and he decided to report the matter to the police, claiming threat to his life by youths in Zor-Sogho,” the official said.
MOSOP, which condemned the police’s handling of the matter, claimed the officers used excessive force in the attempt to arrest the victims. The organisation’s spokesperson Bari-ara Kpalap, said the police killed Messrs Goteh Keenam and Dambani while trying to arrest them in a clearly unprofessional manner . That, he said, consequently provoked spontaneous reaction by the youth of the village, which culminated in the killing of Mr. Nkpai.
“The killings were unnecessary and unjustified; the police could have been cautious while effecting arrests,” MOSOP said. “We heard from villagers that the suspects did not resist arrest and there was no immediate threat to safety of the mobile policemen’’.
The group maintained that the conduct of the police officers contravened domestic and international laws governing law enforcement.
The Rivers State Government, according to the report, has launched an investigation into the incident.