The government or its agents committed numerous arbitrary or unlawful killings.
During the year the Joint Task Force (JTF), a unit formed in 2003 to restore stability in the Niger Delta and composed of elements of the military, police, and security services, conducted raids on militant groups and criminal suspects in the Niger Delta and Borno State, resulting in numerous deaths and injuries to both alleged criminals and civilians. According to credible eyewitness accounts, the JTF committed illegal killings during attempts to apprehend members of the extremist group Boko Haram (“Western education is anathema,” in Hausa) in Borno State and surrounding areas. For example, on July 9 the JTF reportedly committed illegal killings in response to a Boko Haram bombing in Maiduguri, Borno State. Local residents, media, and the international nongovernmental organization (NGO) Amnesty International (AI) reported that the JTF killed at least 23 and up to 40 persons, destroyed property, illegally detained residents, and raped women in the vicinity of the bomb blast.
Credible reports also indicated that other uniformed military personnel and paramilitary mobile police carried out summary executions, assaults, and other abuses across the Niger Delta and Borno State (see section 1.g.). The national police, the army, and other security forces committed extrajudicial killings and used lethal and excessive force to apprehend criminals and suspects, as well as to disperse protesters. Authorities generally did not hold police accountable for the use of excessive or deadly force or for the deaths of persons in custody. Police generally operated with impunity in the illegal apprehension, detention, and sometimes execution of criminal suspects. The reports of state or federal panels of inquiry investigating suspicious deaths remained unpublished.
For example, on September 12, members of the police unit Operation Famou Tangbei (OFT) raided the home of Freddie Philip Ockiya in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State. Members of the OFT arrested Ockiya and took him to the local police station. His family searched for him until September 21, when his body was discovered at the morgue. The family filed a suit against members of the police and government in a federal high court. The inspector general of police disbanded the OFT in late September, but authorities did not arrest any members of the OFT in connection with Ockiya’s death by year’s end.
On October 15, the Special Task Force (STF) allegedly killed Ward Head Alhaji Ahmadu Ali Kazaure in Jos. The STF attacked the area after unknown assailants killed one soldier.
The 2010 annual report of the Police Service Commission identified 253 pending disciplinary cases for misconduct by police officers. The report also said that the commission had received 91 appeals and petitions during the year.
In April 2010 the Maiduguri High Court found that in 2009 police detained and subsequently killed Baba Fagu, the father-in-law of then Boko Haram leader Muhammad Yusuf, following violent clashes between police and militant members of Boko Haram in four northern states in 2009. The court ordered the federal and state governments to pay 100 million naira ($617,000) as compensation to Fagu’s family. The Borno State government challenged the Maiduguri High Court’s decision and appealed the judgment. At year’s end the case remained in the Court of Appeals in Jos, Plateau State.
In 2009 soldiers arrested Muhammad Yusuf. Credible media reports claimed that police executed Yusuf, whose bruised body subsequently was seen at state police headquarters with multiple bullet wounds. While police initially admitted killing Yusuf in custody, they subsequently claimed he died while trying to escape. Buji Fai, a former state government official suspected of funding Boko Haram, also reportedly died in custody along with Fagu. Later that year, then president Yar’Adua pledged to conduct a full investigation of the Boko Haram uprising, including the circumstances surrounding Yusuf’s death, but authorities had not publicly released the results of the investigation by year’s end. On July 19, five police officers were arraigned in the federal high court in Abuja for the murder of Yusuf. The court granted bail to four of the officers, while one remained in custody. The case continued at year’s end.
In 2009 AI published Killing at Will: Extrajudicial Executions and Other Unlawful Killings by the Police in Nigeria, which documented 39 cases of security force killings and enforced disappearances based on interviews and research conducted between July 2007 and July 2009. According to the report, national police were responsible for hundreds of extrajudicial executions, other unlawful killings, and enforced disappearances each year. In a country where “bribes guarantee safety,” those who could not afford to pay risked being shot or tortured to death. Authorities did not investigate the majority of cases or punish perpetrators. When investigations occurred, they did not comply with international standards, and officers suspected of extrajudicial executions generally were sent away on training or transferred to other states instead of being prosecuted. Police often claimed that the victim was an armed robber killed in an exchange of gunfire or a suspect killed while trying to escape police custody. AI charged that Police Force Order 237, which permits officers to shoot suspects and detainees who attempt to escape or avoid arrest, “lets the police get away with murder.”
A panel established by Plateau State to investigate the killings of approximately 700 civilians by security forces in the Jos North local government area in 2008 attributed the violence to provocation by religious leaders as well as violence by political parties and local government officials. The panel’s full report, released in April 2010, linked persons wearing uniforms to impersonate police with many of the killings; the report did not find definitive evidence of police or military involvement in extrajudicial killings. By year’s end authorities had neither charged nor punished anyone for the killings. In February 2010 President Jonathan called for a second investigative committee following an outbreak of violence earlier in the year. In September 2010 this body, known as the “Lar Committee,” submitted its recommendations, which included establishment of a truth and reconciliation committee, ending the indigene-settler dichotomy, and redesigning the Plateau State capital. Following further violence in August, President Jonathan announced that the government would work to harmonize all previous reports on the Jos crisis with the intention of publishing a white paper on the crisis. In addition the Plateau State Assembly called for the establishment of a truth and reconciliation committee, as recommended in the Lar Committee report. However, the committee’s recommendations had yet to be implemented, and neither the federal nor the Plateau State government set up truth and reconciliation committees by year’s end.
Police use of excessive force, including live ammunition, to disperse demonstrators resulted in numerous killings during the year. For example, on February 11, Ekiti police reportedly shot and killed five persons protesting the announcement of the relocation of a federal university to Oye-Ekiti that the state governor previously had promised would be located in the Ado-Ekiti community. Authorities had neither charged nor punished anyone for the killings by year’s end.
Police used gunfire to control or disperse political rallies, resulting in numerous deaths and injuries. For example, on February 12, police attempting to control the flow of participants at a PDP rally in a Port Harcourt stadium fired into the air. The gunfire prompted a stampede resulting in the death of 20 persons. Authorities had neither charged nor punished anyone for the incident by year’s end.
In 2010 AI released the report Port Harcourt Demolitions: Excessive Use of Force Against Demonstrators, which documented an attack in 2009 in which police and the JTF fired into a crowd of citizens peacefully protesting the proposed demolition of their homes. The report stated that the JTF shot and seriously injured at least 12 persons, and witnesses claimed that they saw six bodies in a police vehicle. Authorities had neither charged nor punished anyone for the killings by year’s end.
Violence and lethal force at unauthorized police and military roadblocks and checkpoints continued, despite numerous announcements by the police inspector general that independent police roadblocks would be eliminated and offenders punished. According to AI’s 2009 report, police often stopped commercial drivers and asked them to pay bribes, the amount of which depended on the weight of the vehicle. Police shot drivers when they refused to pay, when a disagreement occurred over the price, or when it remained unclear whether they had paid. These police practices continued during the year.
On August 14, police in Anambra State reportedly shot five persons at a roadblock after they would not pay a bribe of 20 naira ($0.13). One of the passengers reportedly died at the scene, while the other four were rushed to a hospital, where they were pronounced dead. Eyewitnesses stated that the driver claimed to already have paid 20 naira but could not produce a receipt that the policeman demanded. When the driver attempted to leave, the police opened fire. A police representative confirmed that one person was killed and three were rushed to the hospital. There were no developments in the case by year’s end.
For example, on October 16, police reportedly shot and killed Victor Emmanuel in Bayesla State after he criticized the police for extorting money from passing motorists on the road from his church. On October 28, police officials announced that the accused officers received an “orderly room trial” that could lead to dismissal or prosecution; however, the case remained pending at year’s end.
Police sometimes shot bystanders by mistake. For example, on September 10, four federal police officers guarding a funeral procession in Akoko, Delta State, opened fire on mourners after drinking heavily, killing at least three persons. A police spokesman confirmed the incident but offered no explanation for the actions of the officers. The police force dismissed the four officers, and at year’s end the four officers remained in custody awaiting the filing of criminal charges.
Police and military personnel used excessive and sometimes deadly force to quell civil unrest and interethnic violence, and to deal with property vandalism. For example, on June 12, antiriot police reportedly shot protesters in Ogoni, Rivers State. After villagers gathered to protest excessive use of force by police during an earlier protest over the construction of a military base in a nearby village, police attempted to arrest the protesters. Police reportedly opened fire, killing three persons. The Rivers State government reportedly investigated, but there were no developments in the case by year’s end.
On October 20, police shot and killed a girl and injured her two sisters while they were working in the fields of their family’s farm in Ekiti State. Local residents angered by the shooting protested outside the police station. When they would not disperse, police opened fire, injuring at least six individuals. On October 24, Ekiti State Governor Kayode Fayemi criticized the killing and called for an immediate investigation. An investigation remained pending at year’s end.
Boko Haram increased its attacks on police and security forces, banks, bars and restaurants, religious sites, and government buildings in the north and the FCT. Shootings and bombings in Maiduguri, Borno State, occurred on a weekly--and sometimes daily--basis throughout the year, and violence spread to neighboring Yobe, Bauchi, and Adamawa states by year’s end. Targeted attacks on key institutions and buildings in the capital of Abuja contributed to an increase in the overall level of violence (see section 1.g.).