By Jonas Agwu, amnipr, mcipr,mprsa,arpa Assistant Corps Marshal
Last week I told you how crazy I am about football and how freaky I love Arsenal, the FA Cup winners. Arsenal is also the Community Shield winner after whipping Liverpool, the Premiership Champions in one match that truly got me screaming for more. But while I am still elated about the second triumph over Liverpool, having equally whipped Manchester City, Chelsea, and Man United in the 2019/2020 season, my son Jedidiah feels different. The young man just would never give my darling team any credit; neither would he cut my team some slack.
In the euphoria of our recent triumphs and the forgiving spirit of a Gunner, I will ignore the tantrums of my loving son Jedidiah. However, I chose to heap the blame on the doorsteps of my darling wife, Ifeoma for creating continuous warmongering at home between my son Jedidiah who is a Chelsea fan, Jesse, the brother who is a Manchester United supporter and my humble self at the receiving end. She ignorantly enlisted both at their tender ages and now I am constantly mocked by my two sons whenever Arsenal confronts Chelsea or Manchester United on the pitch. Both of them always make mockery of Arsenal winning mentality which is common with loud mouthed fans of both Chelsea and Manchester United.
While I am hopeful of a better performance this season unlike previous seasons, allow me to come back to our focus on ridding our roads of maniacs who call themselves drivers. In fact, I was elated last thursday when the trio of Chamberlain Usor ,Kayode Okikiolu and Ayo Makinde as well as Maope Ogun-Yusuf, on SUNRISE DAILY on Channels Television expressed similar concern on the subject of road traffic crashes and KILLER DRIVERS. Before I continue, let me first give kudos to my tutor who begged me to return to class to complete my course at least to qualify me for a certificate of participation since I have demonstrated lack of interest in the turenchi that is the parlance of legal studies. I doff my hat for his patience but just hope that my impatience will endure the torture of another legal tutoring. In my first class after my return, I again popped another poser on how to truly nail these groups of drivers without the unnecessary hiccups that slow down the judicial process or even still- birth the process.
Like, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, the Arsenal hit man, he fired his first salvo by cautioning me not to lose focus of the issues identified as the pitfalls or factors that militate against effective prosecution and securing conviction against drivers that cause death by dangerous driving or other unsafe driving practices (killer drivers).He, however, noted that it is quite the opposite that the already identified factors are pigeonholed into or within a legal context. In the case of DICKSON MOSES VS. THE STATE ( S.C.308/2002),he continued, the Appellant was convicted by the trial court, the Ogun State High Court Ijebu-Ode Division for the offence of causing death by dangerous driving, a.k.a manslaughter. The Court of Appeal, Ibadan Division upheld the judgment of the trial Court. When the Appellant approached the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court did not disturb the concurrent findings of both the trial court and the Court of Appeal.
It is instructive to note that the prosecution called six witnesses, including the Vehicle Inspection Officer (VIO) who tested and examined the vehicles involved in the crash/ accident as it were. In his testimony, the VIO told the court that in his opinion, the crash/ accident was not caused by any mechanical defect in any of the vehicles involved in the crash. The Investigation Police Officer (IPO) on his own part also testified and tendered the sketch map of the crash scene and the vehicles involved. The Appellant did not impeach the testimony of the VIO who testified as an expert witness. Rather, he attacked the sketch map as tendered by the IPO. As a matter of fact, he made a heavy weather of the “failure” of the IPO to indicate on the sketch map the distance between the point of impact and the final resting position of the vehicles. In all, the Supreme Court did not find merit in the appeal and so it did not allow it.
Now, the point in the above case as it touches on the issues that hamper the conviction of killer drivers in Nigeria were to a very large extent, to the exception of some, adequately guided against as outlined below. The first is on Poor crash investigation –Here, he noted that it was not possible for the “Accused”/ Appellant to evade justice because of the way the investigation of the crash was conducted- On this note, my tutor is of the firm view that every serious crash particularly the one resulting in death of anybody should be investigated thoroughly with prosecution in view. On the issue of poor prosecutorial skill, he stated that it is taken for granted that since the charge was filed at the high court, that the prosecution was conducted by a lawyer. My teacher is equally of the view that prosecution of any such serious charge should be undertaken by a lawyer no matter the court where it is filed. The benefit readily far outweighs any assumed cost because it will go a long way in minimising the number of killer drivers who escape justice due to poor or very limited prosecutorial skills of non lawyers and the ease with which defense lawyers capitalize on the loopholes to the advantage of such killer driver’s.
Again, the standard of proof is never lowered to accommodate the interest or disadvantage of a non lawyer prosecutor. On the want or dearth of expert evidence in the case cited, he maintained that the VIO gave evidence of the result of his investigation and his expert opinion and same was not impeached or discredited by the Accused/ Appellant. Above all, the prosecution was able to garner, preserve and utilize evidence in a manner that enabled conviction. However, mention must be made that not much could be gleaned by this observer as to what materials the VIO availed himself of while conducting his investigation. This is in view of the fact that the vehicle maintenance history and the driver’s driving history are matters that require strict documentation as provided for under the National Road Traffic Regulations (2012), but considering that the charge was filed in 2002, much has to be guessed about the likelihood of compliance and the availability and reliability of such essential data.
In addition to the foregoing, it is strongly canvassed that the issue of effective data generation, preservation and usage cannot be over emphasized. There is also need for the FRSC to fully exploit and implement the penalty point system with respect to suspension, withdrawal and revocation of licenses of reprobate and recalcitrant drivers even as the fines regime is applied side by side. Law enforcement globally inclusive of traffic laws achieves their deterrent purpose mainly because of the fear of detection, apprehension and punishment. It is hoped that when a killer driver is made to face the consequences of his action, other would be or potential killer drivers will “take dressing “, as it is said in the parlance of the law enforcement community. Aside the criminal aspect of nailing killer drivers, the civil suit option remains open for relatives of victims who should not only take out civil suits against such drivers but also against their employers and with the attendant image bashing, naming and shaming and monetary compensations. It is not rocket science, it is simply diligence and demonstration of capacity, which is how to nail a killer driver.