Nigerian police: the lingering results of a colonial bloodbath

Godwin Aniagbo

Complaints concerning the brutal police in Nigeria right now echo the response to gunshot deaths by colonial police of putting coal miners in 1949 and, because the BBC’s Nduka Orjinmo studies, some consider there’s a direct hyperlink.

When the ikoro sounded on the afternoon of November 18, 1949, schoolboy Godwin Aniagbo knew one thing was improper.

In conventional Igbo society, the ikoro, an enormous hollowed-out picket drum largely carved from exhausting and dense iroko, sat completely within the city sq. and solely sounded in occasions of extreme disaster or to summon the folks at an vital assembly.

Hours earlier, on his approach dwelling from college with pals, Mr. Aniagbo had met members of the colonial police who appeared to count on hassle.

There had been days of stress following protests at an area coal mine.

“I noticed the Europeans, [about six of them] sitting on the tracks … with their weapons in the course of the tracks.

“They referred to as us to return to them, however we acquired scared and ran away,” he instructed the BBC, recalling his early teenage years.

Shortly after arriving at his dwelling in Iva Valley, Enugu city, he heard gunshots after which the ikoro sounded.

Colonial police, made up of Nigerians and Europeans, shot down strikers demanding higher working situations on the Iva Valley coal mine in southeastern Nigeria, killing at the very least 21 miners and injuring many others.

Native movie star

“Individuals had been working round … so much [of those coming back from the mines] had been injured, ”mentioned Mr. Aniagbo, now 80.

Curious as to what had actually occurred, he set off for the mines, however at one level the group was too dense to make their approach by means of and the disillusioned Mr. Aniabgo returned dwelling.

One of many few surviving folks of the time to inform the story of the bloodbath, Mr. Aniagbo is considerably of an area movie star.

Newspaper headline of the Iva Valley massacreNewspaper headline of the Iva Valley massacre
Newspaper headline of the Iva Valley bloodbath

The incident led to additional strikes, largely in southern Nigeria and a few declare it helped provoke help for the burgeoning anti-colonial motion that led to independence 11 years later.

Throughout an official investigation, police defended the capturing saying they feared they might be overwhelmed.

However amongst these blamed by the investigation had been the colonialists in command of the police for inflaming the state of affairs. The useless are actually celebrated within the area as heroes.

What would possibly now be an occasion to recollect and commemorate however nonetheless resonates in Nigeria right now.

Regardless of seven a long time and 60 years of independence, which have handed because the bloodbath, some argue that the police retain components of the colonial previous.

Final 12 months’s wave of protests in opposition to police brutality in Nigeria beneath the #EndSars banner culminated within the Lekki tollbooth capturing in Lagos on October 20, which led to comparisons to what occurred in 1949.

On each events, peaceable protesters have been met with brutal power, though authorities proceed to disclaim that protesters had been killed in Lekki. Amnesty Worldwide says greater than 10 folks have died.

The protests had been led by younger individuals who efficiently referred to as for the dismantling of the Particular Anti-Theft Squad (Sars), which they accused of abusing their powers by means of arbitrary arrests, harassment and typically homicide.

The anti-Sars motion was in some ways the manifestation of a long time of distrust between the folks and the police.

A 2004 report within the Police Journal, a world tutorial publication, mentioned the general public picture of the Nigerian police on the time had not improved from what it was throughout and after the colonial interval. , describing it as nonetheless working “with the identical arbitrariness and the identical ruthlessness, brutality, vandalism, incivility, low accountability to the general public and corruption”.

“ The police are addressing the ruling class ”

And never a lot has modified since, in keeping with a survey carried out in some African international locations by Afrobarometer in 2016 and 2018. This confirmed that the police had been distrusted by a majority of residents in Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya, all of them former colonies. British.

Map: NigeriaMap: Nigeria
Map: Nigeria

Some folks, like Noprin’s Okechukwu Nwanguma, an NGO engaged in police reform in Nigeria, consider that the mistrust between the inhabitants and the police in most African international locations is as a result of approach the forces had been created.

“The Nigerian police, for instance, was put in place by the British to reply to the whims of the ruling class and this explains why, though Nigerians have been within the driver’s seat since 1964, the police in Nigeria haven’t improved.” , did he declare.

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One-time safety skilled Kemi Okenyodo agrees with him, saying “the Nigerian political elite love what they inherited from the colonial masters and have due to this fact maintained the established order.”

“There is no such thing as a distinction between the politicians who use the police now and the way in which they had been utilized in colonial occasions once they protected the pursuits of the British monarch and all the things associated to the Royal Niger Firm,” she declared.

After a long time of requires complete police reforms in Nigeria, a legislation was handed in 2020 and plenty of are hoping it should present a brand new springboard for the police power.

Whereas there have been different minor reforms, this new legislation primarily repeals a pre-independence legislation handed in 1948 that the police acted upon.

EndSars protesters in LagosEndSars protesters in Lagos
#EndSars protests have been described as a defining second in Nigeria’s historical past

Lawmakers say the brand new legislation supplies for an “efficient and environment friendly police power primarily based on the rules of accountability and transparency, the safety of human rights and elementary freedoms and partnership with different safety establishments.”

However the 2020 legislation has its skeptics, together with Mr. Nwanguma.

He mentioned successive governments have established committees to evaluate police reforms however their suggestions have by no means been applied.

“Between former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan, we had three completely different committees – beneath this Buhari administration, we additionally had just a few, however there was no political will to implement far-reaching reforms. “, did he declare.

He added that the political will is missing to implement the reforms as a result of politicians want the police as it’s to allow them to use officers for their very own functions, “one in every of which is to rig the elections. “.

Britain's Prince Phillip on a visit to the Iva Valley minesBritain's Prince Phillip on a visit to the Iva Valley mines
Queen Elizabeth’s husband Prince Philip (C) visited the Iva Valley mine in 1956

The police spokesperson didn’t reply to requests for remark, however a former spokesperson who now helps lead the police public relations faculty agreed there was a problem with the colonial legacy .

“Do not forget that the preliminary police created by the colonial masters was to not implement rights, their intention was to not do us good, however to harm us,” Emmanuel Ojukwu instructed the BBC.

However he’s satisfied that authorized reforms will rework the power.

“This [new] the legislation says for the primary time that the elemental goal of the police is to guard human rights ”.

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