THE DEATH OF MRS RAHEEM
The culprit should be subjected to the full weight of the law
We endorse the suspension of an Assistant Superintendent of Police, Drambi Vandi, allegedly for the killing of a Lagos-based lawyer, Omobolanle Raheem. According to the Inspector General of Police, Usman Baba, the decision was taken “to create an enabling environment for necessary legal procedures to uphold justice in the case without interference.” While we commiserate with the family of the deceased, we hope that sufficient lessons will be learnt from this tragedy so that we do not continue to waste innocent lives.
In his statement, President Muhammadu Buhari described the unfortunate incident as a stark reminder of the recurring menace of the mishandling of weapons and a wake-up call to law enforcement agencies. He also called for operational reforms not only about weapons handling, but also on the need to understand their role as basically to protect the rights of citizens. It’s a timely admonition. What police authorities must deal with is the impression that those who carry arms on behalf of the state are licensed to act above the law. Across the country, many citizens are molested and brutalised by the police, soldiers and sundry security personnel who carry on their duties with impunity.
Several reasons have been adduced to explain the trigger-happy disposition of these men and women in uniform who have scant regards for the rights of the citizens. Such reasons include their conditions of service especially the meagre remunerations, the poor living condition in their barracks and low self-esteem. Yet, nothing could justify the whimsical resort to lawlessness by officers whose primary responsibility is to uphold the law. As we have argued repeatedly on this page, no matter the extent of provocation, a person in uniform must not resort to taking the law into their own hands as such violates the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and other similar conventions and treaties of which Nigeria is a signatory.
However, we recognise the fact that most personnel of the police are good professionals who are doing their jobs to the best of their abilities. But there are a few bad eggs among them who get away with serious infractions. Indeed, it is the nonchalant attitude towards investigating and punishing these deviants that has allowed a culture of impunity to persist. The Inspector General of Police therefore has the primary responsibility of re-educating his men especially around respect for people’s rights and the sanctity of human life. The same goes for the heads of the other military and security institutions that bear arms.
First, there is a basic issue of protection of lives by law enforcement agencies. Tragically, this vital requirement of every civilised democracy is lacking in our country today. Second, these violations hardly attract serious consequences for their perpetrators. To the extent that crime is inherent in every society, what deters perpetrators is the certainty of consequences and penalties. And since there appears to be no serious measures to bring these deviants to justice, it is little wonder that others are joining them.
This aspect is quite worrisome because the state, even with all its imperfections, remains the ultimate guarantor of our individual and collective freedom. If, by act of omission or commission, it fails to act in that regard, then anarchy is the clear and present danger. At a time like this therefore, we need to emphasise the point that one Nigerian life unjustly lost diminishes all of us and corrodes the fabric of our society.
While we hope that the killer of Mrs Raheem will be brought to justice, the Inspector General of Police, and heads of other critical institutions of state which bear arms should perform their duties with maximum restraints.