Following the killing of Kolade Johnson, a 36-year-old father of one, this week, attention has been drawn to the indiscriminate manner with which police officers arrest young Nigerians sporting peculiar hairstyles, or tattoos and are tagged cultists.
Police say there's connection between cultism and dreadlocks, tattoos
The spokesperson of the Lagos State Police Command, Bala Elkana, says authorities have seen a connection between cultism and people that sport dreadlocks and draw tattoos on their bodies.
Johnson was killed by an officer of the Gbagada division of the Lagos State Police Command's Special Anti Cultism Squad (SACS) while the team was attempting to arrest another man because of his dreadlocks in the Mangoro area of Lagos State on Sunday, March 31, 2019.
SACS has grown notorious for indiscriminate raids and arrests in Nigeria's economic capital as officers target mostly young people they suspect of wrongdoing without any concrete evidence.
Despite admitting that it's not enough for officers to arrest people based simply on tattoos or their hairstyles, Elkana told BBC on Tuesday, April 2 that they'll suspect such people more than regular people.
"Because when you arrest cultists, most times when you look at their bodies, you'll see some signs on them," he explained.
He further went on to claim that dreadlocks and tattoos are "strange to our culture".
However, he noted that stronger evidence is needed to suspect and arrest people for cultism.
Nigerians demand comprehensive Police reform
A statement released by the Force on Tuesday, April 2 identified Inspector Ogunyemi Olalekan and Sergeant Godwin Orji as the officers arrested in connection to Johnson's shooting.
Both men have been subjected to internal disciplinary procedures and may be prosecuted in conventional court if implicated by the investigation into their conduct.
Many victims that had been extorted by the unit have narrated their harrowing encounters with the unit, with two people identifying both Olalekan and Orji as people that had assaulted and/or extorted them in the past.
Johnson's killing has led to widespread calls for the implementation of meaningful police reform to curb brutality unleashed on helpless citizens.
Senate President Bukola Saraki revealed on Monday that a report on the Police Reform Bill will be laid before the upper legislative chamber on Tuesday, April 9. The bill passed second reading in the Senate in July 2018.
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