President Muhammadu Buhari has assured Nigerians that the two SARS officers responsible for the death of Kolade Johnson in the Onipetesi area of Lagos on Sunday will be prosecuted.
The President, who justified the public outrage that trailed the extrajudicial killing, admitted that there was a need to properly reform the police Special Anti-Robbery Squad, the conduct of whose personnel has led to the #EndSARS campaign by Nigerians.
However, the Lagos State Police Command stated that the killer cops were attached to the Anti-Cultism Squad, a police formation that many people have also accused of harassment and extortion.
Reacting to Johnson’s killing on Wednesday, via his official Twitter handle, @MBuhari, the President said the incident was regrettable.
He wrote, “The recent unfortunate action of SARS operatives from the Lagos State Police Command, which led to the avoidable death of Mr Kolade Johnson, is deeply regretted. Once again, our condolences (go) to the family of the deceased. I’m aware (that) the police authorities have visited them (family).
“I acknowledge the genuine outrage from citizens and civil society groups regarding the activities of SARS. As you’re aware, the suspects in the Kolade Johnson killing are in custody. When the orderly-room trial is concluded, the indicted officers will be prosecuted in court.
“While important steps have been taken by the police leadership to restructure and reform SARS, in line with presidential directives, more needs to be done. I assure (Nigerians that) this will be done. We will continue to work to ensure that we have a police force that adheres to the rule of law.”
Also in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, on Wednesday, Buhari emphasised that the killers of Kolade, who was watching a live English Premiership football match when the SACS operatives shot in the air in an attempt to arrest a resident, leading to the victim’s death, would not go unpunished.
The statement read in part, “Government will not tolerate in any way the brutalisation of Nigerians or the violation of their rights. Any officer of the law enforcement agencies or any other government functionaries caught in this act will certainly be visited with the full weight of the law.”
Some Nigerians, who reacted to Buhari’s tweets on the murder, commended his intervention but doubted his commitment to sanitise the police and curb the excesses of police personnel.
A Twitter user, @IbeA13, said he hoped the President’s statement was not made to curry media sympathy.
One Rita with the Twitter handle, @Rita77728871, said she would take Buhari’s Next Level campaign mantra as a reality “if SARS is reformed and restructured.”
Via his handle, @Emmanuelpopson, another user, with under the name, Awakened Nigerian Youth, called for an overhaul of SARS and urged the President to extend the reform to other paramilitary agencies.
Other Twitter users asked the President to address the recent killings in Zamfara State and kidnapping on the Abuja-Kaduna Expressway.