In Search of Justice for Kolade Johnson

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Chiemelie Ezeobi writes that the duo of Inspector Ogunyemi Olalekan and Sergeant Godwin Orji of the Anti Cultism Squad, recently murdered sleep when they shot Kolade Johnson in cold blood in Lagos. The bereaved family has since begun a quest in search of justice for their deceased son 

The last day of March, 2019 is a day the Johnson family in Lagos would never forget. It was the day their son, Kolade Johnson, was gunned down in cold blood by police officers who are supposed to safeguard lives and properties of the people. The deceased, a sports aficionado had gone to a football viewing centre to watch a match at the Mangoro area of Lagos.

Nothing could have prepared him for what fate had in stock for him that fateful day as he literally had no business with the police. In fact, the policemen, who were from the anti-cultism police squad had gone on a raid in the area when they fired into the air, and hit the 36-year-old who was just leaving the viewing center in the company of a friend. Although he was rushed to the hospital, he had already lost too much blood and he died .

With his death, his dreams of focusing on his music career came to a screeching halt. The South African returnee also just had a son, who would grow up without a father’s love and discipline to steer him through the course of life. As expected, his unprovoked death incited widespread anger against the police, particularly the anti-cultism squad that took his life in cold blood.

Given the outrage his death generated, the police had no choice but to reveal the identities of the duo involved. They were identified as Inspector Ogunyemi Olalekan and Sergeant Godwin Orji of the Anti Cultism Squad.

The spokesman of the command, Bala Elkana, a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), had said:  “The men suspected to have carried out the shooting of Kolade Johnson have been apprehended and are being subjected to police internal disciplinary procedures.”

A Stitch in Time

However, with Kolade’s death, subsequent comments revealed that it was not the first time the inspector would be fingered for such illegal raids. A stitch in time would have truly saved nine if the police command had taken cognisance of an earlier complaint made against Olalekan.

One Oluwasegun Haziz with the handle @hazizsegun had a week before this particular incident posted series of tweets about his friend’s encounter with Olalekan.

In his tweets he had described the suspect as the ‘head of the  Anti-Cultism Department at Charlie Boy, Gbagada Police Station,’ where he is allegedly known as ‘Omo Eko’. He had alleged that the inspector had harassed his friend and they were forced to part with N5,000 before he was released. He had called the attention of the Police Public Complaint and Rapid Response Unit (PCRRU) but nothing was done.

Condolence Visit

After the death went viral, the  Lagos Commissioner of Police, Muazu Zubairu, paid a condolence visit to the family. He was accompanied by the Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of the Department of Finance and Administration, DCP Ayuba Elkanah; Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of Operations, DCP Mohammed Ali; Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of Criminal Investigation Department, DCP Yetunde Longe and other senior officers.

The CP was received by the head of the deceased’s family, Alhaji Remi Lukman, in their residence at No. 1, Beco Street, Onipetesi, Mangoro, bus-stop. In his remarks, the CP condemned the action of the members of the Anti-Cultism team and reiterated his commitment in ensuring that justice is done in the matter. The CP had also prayed for the repose of the soul of Kolade Johnson and also prayed that the Almighty God will grant the family, friends and well-wishers the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss.

A Father’s Pain

What can you ever say to assuage the pain of a father whose son died in such circumstances? How do you condole a man who had such big dreams for his son that never materialised because death came knocking? But no matter how hard those words were to say, it certainly had to be uttered.

In his reaction, the head of Johnson’s family had expressed gratitude to the CP for honouring the family with his presence and his resolve in ensuring that justice prevails in the case. He commended him for the bold steps taken in exposing those behind the shootings.

He said: “I thought it is going to be a one man’s fight but seeing the police high command joining our family in this fight has shown that justice will not only be done to Kolade but to the entire Nigerian youths. I am glad that we have a new police force, which believes in justice.”

Debunking Claims of Stray Bullet

He however noted that Kolade was not killed by stray bullets as widely reported, rather, he was deliberately shot and killed by the trigger-happy policeman. He said the stray bullets couldn’t have penetrated Kolade’s body twice. He claimed the family has video evidence to prove the deceased and his friends were aimed at by the policemen as against media reports that they mistakenly fired.

He said: “We have been hearing that it was a stray bullet but I must tell you that a stray but cannot penetrate twice. If he had not directed the gun at them two bullets will not touch him. He was the hope of the family and a gentle boy who was very intelligent. All we are asking for is justice and what these people have done to us should be done to them.”

Legal Counsel Reacts

The family lawyer, Wale Ademoyejo, while championing the demand for justice over the gruesome murder, said the incident must teach policemen how to use their guns.

 He said: “What we are seeking is justice. Justice not only for the father, not only for the person that was killed but also for the whole community and Nigeria as a whole. Who knows, the Commissioner of Police in Lagos could be the Inspector General tomorrow. They should start from now to reoriente the police on how to use guns.

“If you look at the Nigerian armed forces, they don’t use gun anyhow and they could use the gun. They are trained to kill but they do not use it except it is absolutely necessary with order from above.”

Trial

Keeping to his word to see the culprits punished, the Lagos CP had directed that the duo face the Orderly Room Trial by the command. It commenced on Monday, April 1 and ended on Thursday, April 4, 2019.

Accord to Elkana, they were tried on  three count charges: Discreditable Conduct, Unlawful and Unnecessary Exercise of Authority and Damage to Clothing or Other Articles contrary to Paragraph E (iii), Q (ii) and D (i) First Schedule, Police Act and Regulations, Cap 370 LFN 1990.

The trial started with the reading of charges and taking of plea. Five witnesses testified. At the conclusion of the trial, the first defaulter, Inspector Ogunyemi Olalekan was found guilty of discreditable conduct by acting in a manner prejudicial to discipline and unbecoming of members of the force by shooting and killing Kolade Johnson; Unlawful and Unnecessary exercise of authority by using unnecessary violence, by using AK 47 rifle on the deceased in total neglect to the provisions of Force Order 237 on the use of Firearms.

The Adjudicating Officer, CSP Indyar Apev awarded the punishment of dismissal from service and prosecution to the First defaulter. There was no evidence linking the second defaulter, Sergeant Godwin Orji to the shooting, he was therefore found not guilty and discharged and acquitted.

 The first defaulter, Inspector Ogunyemi Olalekan was then handed over to the state Criminal Investigation Department (SCID), Panti, Yaba, for prosecution in conventional court.

Arraignment

After the trial, the dismissed inspector was subsequently  arraigned in court and remanded in prison custody. According to the PRO, he was arraigned on Friday, April 5 at Ebute Meta Magistrate Court.

Pledge to Stop Extrajudicial Killings

Although many have gone to see the bereaved parents, one visit however stood out. The incoming Lagos Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu visited and promised to work with all security agencies to ensure that such extra judicial killings becomes a thing of the past.

He said: “It is every parents’ worst nightmare to lose a child. As a father and uncle, I could feel the pains and anguish of Kolade Johnson’s parents and loved ones when I paid them a visit earlier today.

“The unfortunate incident that took Kolade’s life is a wake up call to all that there is need for the police hierarchy to take a second look at the operations of their rank and file. A situation where security operatives willfully cut short the lives of our youths is unacceptable.

“We should all speak against it. We must all rise against it. The police should realise that they are there to protect the citizens. We will work in harmony with the security operatives to ensure that this kind of incident becomes a thing of the past.”