ARTICLE: Before stray bullets kill another citizen

Four-year-old Kuwam Balogun lost his mother three years ago, and then lost his father, Ramoni, to a trigger-happy police officer few months ago. Till date he is bewildered that his father no longer picks him up after school.

The question that is yet to cease from his mouth is, where is daddy?

Over time, we have been presented with situations like this. But the major question on the lips of every Nigerian is why do the police hardly admit to crimes they commit. Or does our law forbid security agents from admitting their faults?

To snuff out live from innocent citizens through the guns of irate police officers; which the police authorities have always described as accidental discharge, in the vain act of trying to shield or protect their own, has become a norm.

When Suzana Alamagani, 18, of Zakwa Area, Kafanchan, KadunaState, was recently killed by a stray bullet when the police attempted to disperse protesters at Kafanchan High Court, the Police Public Relations Officer in Kaduna, Aminu Lawal, who confirmed the incident, told newsmen that the girl’s death was “a case of accidental discharge.” And the matter was closed for the police authorities but for the grieving family, their pain knows no bounds.

But who takes the blame for the death of an innocent citizen as a result of stray bullet injuries?

Most often, some of the dead victims are celebrated by the media depending on who is involved, while others are not even mentioned at all. This also depends on where the incident took place.

Most people killed or wounded by stray-bullets were unaware of events leading to the gunfire that caused their injuries.

That is why their stories always elicit public outcry bearing in mind the reputation of the Nigerian Police Force, that always claim thus: ‘Police is your friend.’

The issue is that most of the policemen who patrol our streets are always reeking of alcohol, even as early as 7a.m. And the way they brandish their weapons even while soliciting for bribes from motorists doesn’t show anything serious about the institution they belong to.

The way some of them talk, you know they don’t have any business being in the force. Most of them I dare say, are supposed to be in psychiatric wards as patients. I don’t know what the authorities are doing about this. But something needs to be done and the authorities must act fast. How can somebody who does not know that the killing of another person is a grievous crime be allowed to carry firearms?

From Kaduna to Warri and from Lagos to Uyo, victims of police stray bullets are often treated with ignominy thereby leaving some of them maimed for life as a result of delays in getting medical help. That is for those who survive.

Having anything to do with the police scares the hell out of every Nigerian. Because most times a victim becomes the culprit.

Why are trigger-happy police officers not treated as murderers? For instance, few months after the death of nine-year-old Timilehin, who was killed by a police stray bullet in Ketu area of LagosState, the policeman responsible for his death is yet to be prosecuted. He is yet to appear in court to answer any charge of murder or manslaughter as the case may be.

It would be recalled that the late Timilehin was hit by a flying bullet, while the policemen were trying to arrest a commercial bus driver who had earlier refused to stop when flagged down.

Whoever is killing or whoever is killed, it is pertinent to state that the culture of impunity and corruption which pervades all aspects of the police institution has time and time again made so many families to feel as lesser Nigerians, because when you set a murderer or a man who committed manslaughter free, you are only telling the bereaved to go to hell for all you care.

The Inspector General of Police should please send his men back to school to acquire the needed character on how best to respect the sanctity of the human life. Nigerians are anxiously waiting for the promised reform in the police force.

And before another little child begins to ask for his daddy again, the police authorities should as a matter of urgency do something about incessant deaths through stray bullets.