Nigeria police shoot dead pregnant lawyer at checkpoint

FILE – Police officers stop a vehicle at a checkpoint in Abuja, Nigeria, Oct. 21, 2021. A women and her unborn child were shot and killed Sunday after an officer opened fire at her family’s vehicle at a checkpoint in Ajah

Nigerian police say they are investigating an officer who shot and killed an unarmed pregnant lawyer after she left a Christmas church service.

A spokesman for the Lagos city police vowed the investigation would be swift but critics say Nigerian authorities aren’t doing enough to stop police brutality that sparked protests in 2020.

Police in Lagos condemned the Sunday shooting and say they are holding the officer and his teammates in detention pending the outcome of the investigation. Spokesman Benjamin Hundeyin said the case is being handled by the criminal investigation department for in-depth analysis.

He said police will re-appraise their rules of engagement to avoid future incidents. The victim, Omobolanle Raheem, was on her way home from a Christmas Day service when the officer shot at her family’s vehicle at a checkpoint in Ajah, killing her and her unborn child.

The circumstances remain unclear, but according to local media, the officers were conducting a stop-and-search operation. The incident has triggered widespread criticism of police and Nigerian authorities by citizens and rights groups, including Amnesty International.

On Monday, Lagos state police authorities met with the leaders of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA). Hussein Afolabi, a human rights lawyer, said there are too many open questions.

“The only reason why you have to use your firearm is if somebody is armed,” he said. “There’s no reason, there’s no justification for that kind of shooting, I don’t know whether they’re going to do any drug test for that guy. Was he drunk? What was the guy’s mental state? Nobody knows.”

Afolabi has been trying to help four families that were victims of police brutality in Oyo state, including the family of Jimoh Ishiak, who was allegedly shot and killed near his house by officers during the widespread protests against police brutality in October 2020.

For two weeks that month, activists marched in the streets, calling on authorities to disband the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, or SARS and dismiss its members from the police force. Nigerian authorities said they were disbanding the unit but Afolabi says two years later, the officers are still employed.

“Were they retrenched? They said they disbanded,” Afolabi said. “Where are those people? They’re somewhere. They’re no longer SARS. I have friends who are SARS. They’re still in the Nigerian police force.”

End SARS protest leader Rinu Oduala said the government lacks the political will to address police brutality issues.

“[The] Nigerian government is a major perpetrator of police brutality against its own citizens and you can see that today,” Oduala said. “This has shown that the Lagos state government and the Nigerian government have learnt nothing and they’re not willing to address the grievances of police brutality protesters.”

Amnesty International said the police investigation must be impartial and made public. Many will be waiting to see how — or if — justice is served.

Source: The Observer

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