Last night, my phone line was inundated with calls by concerned citizens following the statement made by Asimin Butswat, a Deputy Superintendent of Police and Spokesman of the command where he branded Innocent Kokorifa an Armed Robber.
The statement reads: “Anti-kidnapping squad on August raided an armed robber’s hideout and gunned down a suspected armed robber in a gun duel.
“The squad conducted the operation at an uncompleted building along Airforce Road, Okaka, Yenagoa to arrest three man notorious armed robbery squad bases on tip off.
“On sighting the Police and in a frantic bid to escape, the robbers fired at the Police, the Police returned fire.
“One of the suspects sustained a bullet injury, while the others escaped, abandoning one locally made Single Barrel pistol, one live cartridge, one expended cartridge and wraps of substances suspected to be Indian hemp.
“The wounded suspect was arrested and taken to the Federal Medical Centre, for treatment, but died few hours later.
“The deceased suspect was later identified as one Innocent Kokorifa ‘M’. Efforts have been intensified to arrest the fleeing suspects.” He said.
Normally, I would not have bordered myself with the statement made by Asinim Butswat because it has been the police modus operandi overtime and it seems like a strategy taught them in police college, but in order to set the records straight and put the general public on the know, Innocent Kokorifa does not have any criminal record whatsoever, up to the time of his death in the hands of police officers attached to Anti-Vice in the state.
We are urging the Police to provide the late Innocent Kokorifa’s criminal records which have previously been investigated by them. The said Innocent Kokorifa is a 17 year old ‘M’ returning from his aunt’s house, Miss Gbasiemokumor Lucky (his Mother’s sister) who lives very close to them before he was shot by men of the Anti-Vice team at 11:00am.
It is our view that the statement issued by Butswat has the propensity of causing tension in the state amongst youths who have swallowed too much of Police brutality and practices in Bayelsa State. This is in light with the level of indignant reception that met the news of Innocent’s death by policeman when it was aired on a live radio broadcast at exactly 12:20pm 23/8/2016.
It is not out of place to state that this extra-judicial killing of unarmed civilians is not novel in Bayelsa, if anything, it is becoming fashionable. It will be recalled that not too long ago, one Mr Bekekeme Oyinemi, Chairman of Kunbowei clan was also unjustifiably shot by men of the Nigerian Police Force in a manner that depicts high level of unprofessionalism and inefficiency by the security operatives. Mr Bekekeme was unarmed at the time he was shot and has since been confined to bed, not sure of ever walking again.
Also, recently, police shot and killed their own colleague in Bayelsa state. ASP Mathew Akpos, was allegedly killed by operatives of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Bayelsa State Command in June, 2016.
This recent killing of unarmed Innocent Kokorifa has again shown that except something is done urgently, this trend will continue. So, there is need to carry out proper investigation into this particular matter by the police as they did, when their contemporary was killed by fellow police officers and the perpetrators have since been detained in Abuja.
We should all rise and condemn in totality any form of human rights violations and police brutality. As we condemned the attack of soldiers in Nembe, we are also condemning with utmost disgust and in strong terms, the killing of Master Innocent Kokorifa (17 year years old) who recently sat for his Senior West African Examination Council (WAEC) examination.
Police cannot continue to kill our youths in this manner and later, label them criminals. Innocent Kokorifa is just one of several cases that went unnoticed. We are calling for justice to be done. Those responsible for the death of this young man should at once be apprehended while investigation is on-going. The many unprovoked killings by the police must stop.
Justice For Innocent Kokorifa!