Nigeria: “Threat to My Life”

An Open Petition to the Lagos State Commissioner of Police

Following his April 7 arrest and later release in connection with protests against early April’s police killings in Ajegunle, Lagos, Dagga Tolar, the Secretary of the Lagos State Chapter of the Labour and Civil Society Coalition (LASCO) and a member of the DSM NEC, sent the following open letter to the Lagos State Commissioner of Police that was also copied to the media.

For background information see:
08/04/2010: Nigeria: Ajegunle Police Killings – socialists and others escape arrest and criminal charges
07/04/2010: Nigeria: Ajegunle Police Killings Update – Police Arrest Dagga Tolar and two others today
07/04/2010: Nigeria: Mindless police killings in Ajegunle

April 16, 2010

The Commissioner of Police

Lagos State Police Command

Ikeja

Dear Sir,

Threat to My Life: An Open Petition to the Lagos State Commissioner of Police

A major fall-out of the on-going campaign against police brutality in Ajegunle is a threat to my life by some police officers particularly the Area Commander of Apapa Police Command, Kenneth Ebirimson (ACP).

A number of police officers in Ajegunle are not happy with me for helping lead the protest that practically decimated their daily goldmine of illegal raiding for the sole purpose of extortion of hapless and poor residents. Upon my arrest at the Ajeromi Local Government secretariat on the April 5, along side two other community activists, I was taken to Ajeromi Police station, wherein some policemen openly expressed their displeasure at my person and further insinuated that they would deal with me accordingly. The Local Government Chairman, Kamal Bayewu, had invited me to a meeting in his office ostensibly to deliberate on the resolution to the crisis in the community. Unknown to me this was a booby trap to a police ambush for me

We were subsequently transferred to Area B Police Command at Apapa and brought before the Area Commander, who brazenly boasted in a fit of fury that, if he had seen me during their manhunt of activists after the protest on that Saturday, he would have shot me dead personally. That the Lagos State Police Command deemed it necessary to release me on bail would no doubt come as a shock to Ebirimson and his likes. This explains why I cannot but take this threat against my life seriously.

I therefore call on the Lagos State Commissioner of Police to call the Area Commander to order. In fact, one of the demands of Labour and Civil Society Coalition after the April 3 protest is the removal and prosecution of Ebirimson for ordering police to shoot at protesters.

It will be recalled that the April 3 mass protest of youths in Ajegunle was following the gruesome murder of Charles Okafor by some police officers during one of their daily illegal raids in the community. The demands of the protest include the arrest and prosecution of police officers who killed Charles, compensation to his family and an end to police brutality in Ajegunle.

Over the years the residents of the community have severally petitioned the police authorities in the community and at Lagos State command for an immediate end to illegal police raids and extortions to no avail.

The police in Ajegunle are notorious for raiding junctions, streets, compounds, shops, bus stops, businesses and markets for indiscriminate arrest and illegal detention of youths in order to forcefully extort money from them. Hundreds of youths are daily arrested and detained across the police stations in the community. Any of the captives, whose parents or friends are able to pay some outrageous amount of money, in most cases as high as N5,000, would be released, while those that could not bail themselves usually find their way to prison on framed up criminal charges.

I appreciate the fact that an average police officer fleeces innocent people as a result of desperation to augment his/her abysmal income. Therefore, as a socialist and the Secretary of the Lagos State Chapter of Labour and Civil Society Coalition (LASCO) which has led several mass struggles for a living wage for all categories of workers among other demands, I am in the forefront of the campaign for improved pay and better working conditions for the rank and file police officers and other members of armed forces particularly the junior ones who have no access to looting public funds. I also support the call for the rank and file police and armed forces to get unionised so as to have a platform upon which to channel their grievances and struggle for better pay and living conditions instead of the their current practice of feeding off the already oppressed working class people in society. Linked to the above is also the need to call for adequate funding of the police and the democratic management of all such funds, so as to allow for the procurement of the necessary equipment so that the police would no longer have the excuse to resort to live bullets in order to maintain peace especially when dealing with peaceful protests by ordinary Nigerians.

As you are well aware the recent tragic events in Ajegunle were followed closely by Labour, its allies and the media in Nigeria and also internationally in many countries. You can be assured that if any similar events occur in Ajegunle, or if anything untoward happens to activists in Ajegunle, that such developments will attract widespread attention and anger in Nigeria and internationally. Events in Nigeria are currently being closely followed internationally, for example in Britain the BBC is currently showing a 3 programme TV series entitled “Welcome to Lagos”. Any more unprovoked police killings or unwarranted arrests will draw protests from around the world.

Sir, I look forward to your giving this petition the attention it deserves. Thank you.

Yours sincerely

Dagga Tolar

Secretary, Labour and Civil Society Coalition (LASCO)

Lagos State Chapter