TOPIC: “Extra Judicial killings in Nigeria; any justification”?

Presented by: Isaac Omuta Ogbah, Esq.


There is an upsurge in the rate of extra judicial killings in Nigeria. Thus there is a need to look into this. The authorities have either turned deaf ears to these happenings and by necessary implications promoted the breakdown of law and order in Nigeria.

Definition of Extra-judicial killing

Extra-judicial killings is said to be a killing done by government officials without judicial or legal process.

This happens when someone in an official position deliberately kills a person without any legal process.

Its a violation to right to life, designating killing of an individual by State agent without a judicial process.

This is because the law sees every human life to be a precious thing that needs to be cherished, even though the law gives exceptions to right to life, there’s still no justification for extra judicial killings.

There are several instances where extra judicial killings has taken place in Nigeria. For example police brutality on peaceful protesters.

The noxious trend recurred at Ota-Efun, Osogbo, the Osun State capital, early in December when a police sergeant, Moses Samuel, killed a rig operator, Kabiru Babai, during an altercation. The same officer, who is reportedly undergoing orderly room trial, also injured a truck driver, Harisu Musa. The real tragedy of that story is that Babai was protesting the shooting of Musa when he was killed by the officer.

Early in November 2021 a police officer that has yet to be named, killed a tricycle operator in Meiran, Lagos State, triggering the mayhem that eventually claimed three lives. That incident was sparked by a demand for a measly N100 bribe. In September, another officer reportedly shot dead a 29-year-old father of one identified only as Gift, who was marking his birthday in Obinomba, in the Ukwani Local Government Area of Delta State.

While engaged in extortion, power-drunk police officers kill innocent civilians with reckless abandon during disagreements over paltry sums. Rogue officers of the Nigeria Customs Service, especially under its current Comptroller-General, Hameed Ali, also kill recklessly. In July 2021, Customs officers invaded Igangan, Igboora, Ayete, and Tapa communities in the Ibarapa LGA of Oyo State. When the dust settled, three people lay dead. The NCS spokesman, Theophilus Duniya, alleged that the deceased were smugglers. This tenuous claim was dismissed by a federal lawmaker representing Ibarapa Central/North Federal Constituency, Oyo State, Muraina Ajibola, who argued that the communities were over 200 kilometres away from the nearest border post. In May, Customs officers had killed five people at Iseyin, in the same state. No law authorises the summary killing of smuggling suspects.

Killings that should qualify as crimes against humanity have also been perpetrated by the military. The massacre of members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria by the Nigerian Army in December 2015, where no fewer than 347 persons were killed, is unforgettable. Not only were the Shiites killed, but they were also buried in mass graves. The recommendations of the Justice Mohammed Garba-led panel that those responsible for the killings should be prosecuted have been ignored. Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, other NGOs and nations have continued to call for justice to no avail.

In the South-East, the military has been reportedly killing citizens on the pretext of waging war against the Indigenous People of Biafra separatists. Many residents have reportedly been murdered by bloodthirsty soldiers without any consequence. AI reported in August that 115 people were killed in four months by security forces across Imo, Anambra, and Abia states. Another gory report in The PUNCH detailed how corpses of victims of extrajudicial killings were piled on each other at the morgue of the Federal Medical Centre, Owerri, Imo State.

From January 2021, gunmen suspected to be ESN militants launched a series of attacks on government infrastructure, including prisons and public buildings, killing several police officers. Amnesty International, in their report, condemned these attacks and called on authorities to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Amnesty International in its report in 2021 stated that Nigerian security forces launched security operations in June, 2021, primarily targeting ESN militants or those perceived as such to decimate the group.

Amnesty International documented at least 115 persons killed by security forces between March and June 2021. Many relatives of the victims told Amnesty International that they were not part of the militants that were attacking security agents.

Many of the victims were deposited at government hospitals in Imo and Abia state. According to several hospital sources all the victims deposited by the police had bullet injuries.

For instance, in two of the cases documented by Amnesty international, the victims were targeted with no apparent justification:

Uguchi Unachukwu, a German-based businessman was killed by soldiers on 31 May 2021, at a checkpoint near Owerri airport on his way out of the country. The police are yet to investigate the crime.

Mathew Opara, a 45-year-old businessman, was shot by soldiers on 25 May 2021 in Orji, near Owerri. Witnesses told Amnesty International that he was returning from work when he ran into a team of soldiers in armoured vehicle and Hilux vans shooting at residents. He was shot in the chest and could not receive immediate medical help because of the violence. His family said the military acknowledged the killing but did not launch an investigation or offer any apology.

Certainly extra judicial killings are unlawful and should be condemned in all ramifications

Under the law there are exceptions to when an individual life can be taken and it won’t amount to unlawful killing.

According to Section 33 of the 1999 constitution of Nigeria , these are the exceptions to right to life; self defence, execution of a court sentence, to effect a lawful arrest, to suppress a riot, mutiny and insurrection.

However, it should be noted that under the law there is no justification for extra-judicial killing.

Unfortunately, it seems the political and security leadership in Nigeria think nothing of the high rate of killings by state actors.

It is on record that 99% of these unlawful killings go largely unpunished, thanks in part to Nigeria’s Force Order 237, which allows officers to use lethal force in ways that contravenes international law, and because of government corruption and a prevailing culture of impunity.”

Ordinarily Force Order 237 ought only to be applied when the life of a Police officer is in danger

Section 3 states as follows: A Police officer may use firearms under the following circumstances:
A. When attacked and his life is in danger and there is no other way of saving his life;

B. Where defending a person who is attacked and he believes on reasonable grounds, that he cannot otherwise protect that person attacked from death

C. Where necessary to disperse rioters to prevent them from committing serious offense


It partly explains the #EndSARS protest of 2020.

In Nigeria, security agents compete with blood tasty non-state actors like Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorist, bandits, and Fulani Herdsmen in massacring Nigerians.

Lawmakers have a crucial role to play. Where there are killings, the House of Representatives members and senators from the affected constituencies should take the heads of the concerned security units to task.


By regularly interrogating service chiefs and the police hierarchy, and ensuring proper accountability, sanity might return to the system. UNFORTUNATELY IN TODAYS NIGERIA THE LAW MAKERS WOULD INVITE THE SERVICE CHIEFS AND THEY WOULD REFUSE TO HONOR SUCH INVITATIONS AND NOTHING IS DONE AS A DETERRENT ON SUCH OBVIOUS MALADMINISTRATION.

The state governors have been negligent and uncaring. They rarely follow up when security agents kill people extra judicially in their domain.

This must change. In their utterances and interactions, governors must demonstrate that they value the lives of citizens.

A governor could demand the removal of a commissioner of police under whose watch there are extrajudicial killings.

For instance, the governor of Ogun State, Dapo Abiodun, should lead protests against the high rate of killings by Customs officers in Ogun.

Nigerians must also stand for their rights. Peaceful protest is a constitutional right of every Nigerian and must be responsibly deployed to decry the highhandedness of security agencies. Civil societies and rights groups should mobilize the citizenry to demand punishment for killer security personnel.

Aside from the dismissal and prosecution of the culprits, their supervising and commanding officers must not be spared.

The United States of America 🇺🇸, United Kingdom and European countries’ citizens stage civil protests, sit-ins, petitions, and lawsuits to press for justice.

Liberty must be defended to be enjoyed.

The participation of the military in civil security in Nigeria is doing more harm than good. Therefore, the President, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), should restrict the military to its primary constitutional role of fighting external aggression and reform the Customs.

Extrajudicial killings persist because there is little deterrence or consequence.

For a start, Nigerians must demand the implementation of the recommendations of the judicial panels of inquiries set up in the wake of the #EndSARS protest.

The security agents recommended for trial must be prosecuted.

Affected communities, individuals and families of victims should also seek justice through litigation.

An international Human Right non-governmental organization, has disclosed that not fewer than 122 cases of extra judicial killings were recorded in Nigeria between January and October 4, 2020.

We have international laws which kick against extra-judicial killings includes;

A. Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)

B. African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR)

C. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)

D. Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firms by Law Enforcement Officials (BPUFF).

E. United Nations Code of Conducts for Law Enforcement Officials (CLEO)

F. Principles on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-Legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions, UN Model Protocol for a Legal Investigation of Extra -Legal, Arbitrary and summary execution.

In Nigeria we also have laws that kick against extra-judicial killings and they are;

1. The 1999 Constitution

2. Criminal Code and Criminal Procedure Act (both applicable in th Southern States in Nigeria),

3. Penal code and Criminal Procedure Code (both applicable in the Northern States in Nigeria),

4. Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 (ACJA) and

5. Administration of Criminal Justice Law (ACJL),

6. Nigeria Police Act and

7. Police Force and

8. Police Order 237.

Curbing extra judicial killing would be made easier if the revised force order 237 is effectively implemented.

The 2009 Amnesty report “killing at will: Extra-Judicial executions and other unlawful killings by the Nigerian Police” has given different areas that needs to be looked into when curbing extra-judicial.

A. The weak oversight mechanisms of the Nigeria Police force and

B. chronic lack of resources are some of the areas the 2009 Amnesty report.

General Legal Framework for Human Rights Protection The Chapter IV of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which Is a supreme law, sets out the fundamental human rights of the citizens of the Nigeria. The provisions of the Constitution are clearly against torture and killing and promote the right to life.

The Federal Government also established the National Human Rights Commission which is charged to deal with matters relating to the protection of human rights as guaranteed by the Constitution, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and other International Treaties on human rights to which Nigeria is a signatory.

Although Nigeria has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in 1993, the Convention against Torture (CAT) in 2001 and the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT) in 2009 they have not been integrated into the local laws.

Nigeria is also, yet to recognize the competence of the Committee against Torture to receive communications from individuals under article 22 of CAT.

Nigeria has established a National Committee on Torture as its National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) for the prevention of torture at the domestic level in accordance with the obligations of OPCAT.

The committee is charged with the duty to receive and consider complaints on torture; conduct visits to places of detention and examine allegations of torture, prevent torture by reviewing the treatment of persons.

Section 5 (a) National Human Rights Commissions Act put in place, a national anti-torture policy.

Nigeria is also a State Party to the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR).

Though there are presently no legal provisions criminalizing torture or providing compensation to victims of torture in accordance with the UN Convention against Torture and extra judicial killings, it is believed that Chapter IV of the 1999 Constitution is encompassing, a notion that has been disproved by the prevalence of torture.

In March 2011, PRAWA carried out a research and monitoring exercise on cases of torture, cruel and inhuman and degrading punishment committed by law enforcement agents in Enugu state, Eastern part of Nigeria. This was done with a team of lawyers, psychologists and medical practitioners trained under the Torture Documentation and Redress Scheme (TDRS) Project.

The findings are as follows:

1. Statistics of the research indicated that out of the 176 victims interviewed, victims of torture ranged between the ages of 13 to 54 years, with young people between the ages of 26- 30 as the most frequent victims of torture in the state.

2. Out of 176 victims interviewed only 1 female was identified and interviewed. This was because the other female victims were not willing to reveal their ordeal in police custody.

3. Method of torture on the victims include prolonged detention in police custody, gunshot wounds 24.71%, severe beatings with police baton and other dangerous objects 36.21%, burning with hot objects 8.05%, squeezing of testicles and inserting objects into the penis, insertion of nails on feet 1.72%, electric shock, suspension on the tree in different positions 13.22%, cutting with cutlass 12.64% and other forms of torture. •

4. The Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS) have police officers who are specially designated to torture crime suspects. Such police officers have an unofficial designation like “OC Torture” (Officer In Charge of Torture), and they have special skills in infringing various methods of torture on their victims.

The reason they were tortured was to obtain information or confessional statement from them before their trial.

Extrajudicial executions, other unlawful killings and enforced disappearances in Nigeria are not random.

In a country where bribes guarantee safety, those who cannot afford to pay are at risk of being shot or tortured to death by the police. The family of the victims often cannot afford to seek justice or redress, because they cannot pay for a lawyer or the court charges. In many cases, they cannot even afford to retrieve the body. In many cases, detainees wait for weeks or months in police custody to be charged and brought before a court.

Amnesty International recorded 29 cases of victims of enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions who had never appeared before a judge.

Key issues of concern

a) Systematic torture in police and other centre of detention.

(b) Lack of adequate documentation and tracking of all tortured suspects upon reception in prison (from the police).

c) Lack of institutionalization mechanism for compulsory autopsy of all deaths in custody.

d) Lack of comprehensive database of all places of detention, their locations, addresses and the total number of persons in detention.

(e) Lack of adequate institutional process of internal and external monitoring and oversight of all detention facilities in Nigeria

(f) Torture and inhumane treatment of Mentally disabled person within the criminal justice delivery system including the detention and lack of psychiatric/medical treatment and review of the mentally disabled prisoners (including the ‘civil lunatics’ who have committed no crime and are only detained because of their mental state rather than being taken to mental health institutions).

g) Lack of provision of adequate rehabilitation services, care and treatment for torture victims by the State.

(h) Lack of reporting and documentation of all cases of Torture and Extra Judicial Killings.

There is no mechanism in place in the constitution or any other law to check and monitor the law enforcement agencies.

The absence of CCTV in the ‘questioning room’ has afforded the law enforcement agencies the luxury to get away with extra judicial killings and torture.

i) External Oversight of the Nigeria Police Force The NPF’s myriad failings—to prevent crime, to solve crime, to punish police.

To join our Telegram platform, please click here 

COPYRIGHT 2022 CITY LAWYER. Please send emails to citylawyermag@gmail.com. Join us on Facebook at https://web.facebook.com/City-Lawyer-Magazine-434937936684320 and on TWITTER at https://twitter.com/CityLawyerMag. To ADVERTISE in CITY LAWYER, please email citylawyermag@gmail.com or call 08138380083. All materials available on this Website are protected by copyright, trade mark and other proprietary and intellectual property laws. You may not use any of our intellectual property rights without our express written consent or attribution to www.citylawyermag.com. However, you are permitted to print or save to your individual PC, tablet or storage extracts from this Website for your own personal non-commercial use.