Nigeria: That Life Be So Cheap

27 January 2020

Life is very cheap in the country. My point of reference is not the case of Ropvil Daciya, an undergraduate of the University of Maiduguri, and hostage of the terrorist Boko Haram whose execution was carried out by a twelve-year old boy.

Young Daciya was executed on his way to school, the same trajectory the boy who executed him might have taken were we a different country.

I do not build my case about life being cheap on the insane execution of eleven Nigerians on Christmas Day 2018 allegedly to avenge the killing of Islamic State terrorist leaders, Abu bakr al-Baghdadi and Abul-Hasan Al-Muhajir, in Iraq and Syria by the United States and Syria.

Even insanity should have some logic or why would anybody kill Nigerians for the actions of foreign countries over which they have no control?

My reference to our value for life is not based on the January 20 execution of Reverend Lawan Andimi, Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, in Michika Local Government Area of Adamawa State by terrorists. All these can be blamed on insurgency.

Yes, it can be argued that the Boko Haram insurgency which has claimed over 27,000 lives in the last ten years should have been brought to an end by any serious or competent government.

We can lament that the Buhari administration has since December 2015 when it announced the "defeat" and then the "technical defeat" of Boko Haram, has had to invent one story or another as to why the terrorists remain undefeated.

A Kanuri proverb says if you dig a hole to fill another, there will be one more hole to fill; so the Buhari administration having told its 2015 untruth about Boko Haram's alleged defeat, finds it has to weave more yarns to cover its previous falsehood. This, however, is not the focus of my submission.

Life is very cheap; annually we lose many lives to Lassa Fever. In 2018, it overran eighteen states, in the first six weeks of 2019, about 27 percent of the infected succumbed to death. In the last three weeks, the fever has killed 24 persons and spread like wild fire through a number of states with Edo, Ondo and Ebonyi being the worst affected.

The fever can kill within two weeks due to multi-organ failure. If the victim escapes death, deafness can occur. What is annoying is that there is a simple treatment, the use of an antiviral drug, Ribavirin, but it gets too late to some victims.

Most depressing is that Lassa fever is preventable; it is the presence of multimammate rats in the home; once the food or household items are contaminated by rodent excreta, the fever makes its way into the human body.

So it is the inability of the Nigerian state to carry out campaigns to drastically reduce or wipe out rats; the non-provision of homes suitable for human habitation; failure to mass educate the people on hygiene; lack of a safe refuse disposal system and non-regular cleaning of sewage that makes Lassa fever a rampaging killer in the country.

Lassa fever was first diagnosed in 1969 in Lassa Town, Borno State, before becoming common across West Africa. However, my focus is not Lassa fever.

Life has become very cheap because the government places little value on it especially by its inability to stop the reckless murder of the citizenry by the Nigeria Police Force. Last Tuesday, January 21, Alex Ogbu, a journalist who worked with National Encomium was Editor of the African Herald Express and lately of the Reagent African Times was at the Berger Roundabout, one of the busiest bus stops in Abuja.

Some members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, IMN, were carrying out a protest demanding that the Buhari administration obeys four-year old court orders granting their leader, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky and his wife, Zeenat, bail.

Then the police started shooting live bullets at the busy bus stop. Ogbu was felled. The police did not bother to take him to the hospital. He was left at the crime scene.

For decades, the Nigeria Police Force assumes it has the right to kill without being made to account. That is why the repressed citizenry call policemen; "Kill-And-Go." Ogbu's wife, Francesca who has a two-year daughter for him, went to the Utako Police Station to demand justice for her husband.

I imagine the shock and trauma she would be undergoing, but the police was not bothered about that, if it were, it would have provided her some counselling.

Tragically, she may never get justice because that is not in the character or DNA of the Nigerian state. In this particular case, first, the security services assume that members of the IMN who are a Shiite minority, are game. Since December 12, 2015 when soldiers shot 348 of them dead, over 50 more have been killed by security forces mainly in Abuja.

Even if the police mistook Ogbu for a Shiite, who says the Shiites have no blood running in their veins; who says they do not have families and loved ones; which law says they are not Nigerians with the right to publicly demonstrate their feelings, or have right to life?

Ogbu's murder is coming seven months after another journalist, Mr. Precious Owolabi of Channels TV was shot dead at another IMN protest in Abuja. I wonder why in disputes with the citizenry, the Nigerian state is quick to reach for the gun.

Even if it is allergic to dialogue with aggrieved citizens, why does it not explore alternative means of crowd control like tear gas or water canon rather than the use of live bullets?

If the Buhari government wills, or more importantly, if Nigerians collectively will it, we can drastically reduce or put a stop to these senseless killings by bringing the murders to book and making their bosses who hand them the guns, pay.

For instance in this case, the culprits can easily be identified and tried for murder. As the lawyer, Olasupo Ojo submitted on Ogbu's killing: "A gun must be loaded, aimed, the trigger must be pulled before bullet will fire out of the nozzle. Considering the gun fire protocol, this is a clear murder.

The bullet has identity that can be matched with police records to know who handled the gun from which it was fired."

If we use the Alex Ogbu murder as a test case by firing the Inspector General of Police (IGP) long with his Abuja Commissioner of Police, and bringing the killer cops to book, the shock therapy will restore some sanity in the police force.

The constitution provides for a police force, not a killer force, or security agents who take lives at will without being brought to justice.

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