Buhari vows to prosecute police officers who killed Kolade Johnson

Kolade Johnson

President Muhammadu Buhari has promised to ensure that the police officers responsible for the killing of Kolade Johnson, a 36-year-old father of one, in Lagos State will be appropriately punished for their action.

Johnson was killed by an officer of the Gbagada division of the Lagos State Police Command's Special Anti Cultism Squad (SACS) while the team was attempting to arrest another man because of his dreadlocks in the Mangoro area of Lagos State on Sunday, March 31, 2019.

In a statement signed by Buhari's spokesperson, Femi Adesina, on Wednesday April 3, the president expressed regrets over the unfortunate action of the officers which led to the avoidable death.

He commiserated with the family of the deceased and promised that the suspects will be punished according to the full weight of the law.

"Government will not tolerate in any way the brutalization of Nigerians or the violation of their rights.

"Any officer of the law enforcement agencies or any other government functionary caught in this act will certainly be visited with the full weight of the law," the president said.

Even though the presidency's statement said the fatal shooting was committed by officers of the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (FSARS), it was actually by SACS, an anti-cultism unit of the Lagos Command.

A statement released by the Force on Tuesday, April 2 identified Inspector Ogunyemi Olalekan and Sergeant Godwin Orji as the officers arrested in connection to the shooting.

Inspector Ogunyemi Olalekan and Sergeant Godwin Orji have been implicated in the fatal shooting of Kolade Johnson [Nigeria Police Force]

Both men have been subjected to internal disciplinary procedures and may be prosecuted in conventional court if implicated by the investigation into their conduct.

President Buhari reassured Nigerians that his administration will continue to ensure that all officers in the Police and other law enforcement agencies conduct their operations in strict adherence to the rule of law and with due regard to International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law.

How Johnson was killed

Johnson's friend, Dennis Ikpoba, told Premium Times that people had gathered around the officers while they attempted to arrest one Ismail Folorunsho who appeared to have been unfairly targeted by the law enforcement officers who arrived the scene in an unpainted Danfo bus.

According to another witness who spoke to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), Johnson was one of the people who gathered to assure the officers of Folorunsho's innocence when they shot to disperse the crowd.

"In an attempt to disperse the crowd, a first shot was fired to the ground. Seeing this, I and the others quickly turned back to avoid trouble, but because Kunle was probably the last person in the crowd, he was shot point blank from behind.

"He didn't even know he was shot till we had trekked some few metres before we all saw he was bleeding, he died on his way to the hospital at Ikeja," the witness said.

He was later pronounced dead at the hospital shortly afterwards as the officers fled the scene for fear of being lynched by a mob which soon gathered and blocked the roads around the area.

Nigerians demand comprehensive Police reform

SACS has grown notorious for indiscriminate raids and arrests in Nigeria's economic capital as officers target mostly young people they suspect of wrongdoing without any concrete evidence, including their manner of dressing and hairstyle.

Many victims that had been extorted by the unit have narrated their harrowing encounters with the unit with two people identifying both Olalekan and Orji as people that had assaulted and/or extorted them in the past.

Johnson's unfortunate killing on Sunday has led to a resurgence of the outrage against FSARS, a unit who, although not responsible for the recent killing, has become the face of police brutality and impunity in the country due to past conducts.

Many Nigerians have taken to social media to air their displeasure with Johnson's killing and called for the scrapping of FSARS, as well as the implementation of meaningful police reform to curb brutality unleashed on helpless citizens.

In his reaction to the tragedy, Senate President Bukola Saraki revealed on Monday that a report on the Police Reform Bill will be laid before the upper legislative chamber on Tuesday, April 9.