For Omobolanle Raheem, A True Police Reform
2023: No Expectations from this Administration, Except…..
We thank God for letting us see this new year, 2023. Happy New Year everyone! As far as my expectations for 2023 go, I have none from this present administration. They have done their best, which is absolutely below par (with only a few exceptions). And, with only about 20 weeks or so to go, we cannot expect any miracle from them! What they did not achieve in over seven and a half years, obviously they cannot achieve in five months. Perhaps, all we can really demand from them, is to ensure that we have hitch-free, violence-free credible elections, and a smooth handover to the next administration on May 29, 2023, come what may. In our own constituency, if the vacant positions in the various courts, particularly the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal can be filled immediately, that will also be good.
I would like to express my deepest condolences to the family of our learned colleague, Mrs Omobolanle Raheem, on her death and that of her unborn twins at the hands of trigger-happy Assistant Superintendent of Police, Drambi Vandi. Goodnight. “May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.” Amen. May their souls rest peacefully in the bosom of the Lord. Amen. May God comfort Omobolanle Raheem’s family, especially her Mother, Husband and Daughter. Amen.
I burst into tears last Wednesday while I was watching Arise TV’s Morning Show, and I saw a videoclip of late Mrs Raheem’s Mother recounting how much she had suffered to ensure that her daughter became a Lawyer – she said she had even hawked oranges at a point, to be able to provide. She stated that now that it was time for her to enjoy the ‘fruits of her labour’ (‘jéun òmò’ as we say in Yoruba), her expectations had been cut short (by the senseless murder of her daughter and twin grandchildren by an irresponsible, reckless Assistant Superintendent of Police).
While Mrs Raheem was murdered on Christmas Day, a young man, Gafaru Buraimoh was also killed on 7/12/22 by Officers from the same Ajewi Police Station as the ASP. May Allah grant him Aljannah Firdaus.
Section 33(1) of the 1999 Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended in 2018)(the Constitution) guarantees our right to life, except in execution of a death sentence handed down by a court (of competent jurisdiction), for a criminal offence for which a Defendant has been found guilty of.
Section 221 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State 2015 (CLLS) provides that anyone who unlawfully kills another is guilty of murder or manslaughter, depending on the circumstances of the case. Section 222 of the CLLS provides for the felony called murder, which is simply killing with the intention (mens rea) to kill or do grievous bodily harm to the victim or another person. I do not have the accurate details of the circumstances of the deaths of Mr Buraimoh and Mrs Raheem (and her children), and in the case of Mrs Raheem, whether ASP Vandi will eventually be charged for Murder – see the case of Ndike v State (1994) LPELR-1971(SC) Page 16-17 per Ogwuegbu JSC on the definition of murder; or for Involuntary Manslaughter under Section 224 of the CLLS, that is unlawful killing which doesn’t constitute murder – causing the death of another (1) by an unlawful and dangerous act; or (2) with gross negligence or reckless disregard for human life. See the case of Egbirika v State 2014 4 N.W.L.R. Part 1398 Page 558 at 580 per Kekere-Ekun JSC where the Supreme Court held that “Manslaughter is an unintentional killing of a human being. Such killing is not premeditated, but accidental in the sense that it was not intentional”. Also see the case of State v Njoku 2010 1 N.W.L.R. Part 1175 Page 243 at 266 per Saulawa JCA (as he then was), where the Court of Appeal held inter alia that “Invariably, the term ‘manslaughter’ denotes unlawful killing of a human being without malice aforethought”.
Sections 223 & 229 of CLLS prescribe the death sentence and life imprisonment respectively, for anyone who is found guilty of committing the offence of murder or manslaughter. See the cases of Erekanure v State (1993) LPELR-1155(SC) per Olatawura JSC; Omini v State 1999 12 N.W.L.R. Part 630 Page 168 at 182 per Karibi-Whyte JSC. The culprits in Mr Buraimoh and Mrs Raheem and her unborn children’s cases, and indeed, all the cases where Policemen have killed innocent citizens unlawfully, deserve the maximum punishment, be it the death sentence or life imprisonment. Let it be an example to law enforcement agents, that “if you kill person unlawfully, something go happen” – since they have become infamous for threatening Nigerians by saying: “if I kill you, nothing go happen”.
Several matters arise from these two recent unfortunate incidents, aside from the above-mentioned criminal aspect.
Firstly, the culture of lack of accountability and impunity in our society – that depending on who you are, or the connections you may have, or the bribes you may be willing to give, an individual in Nigeria can get away with the most heinous of crimes. See the case of DCP Danjuma Ibrahim & Ors aka “Apo 6” case, in which many believed that justice was not served. Danjuma Ibrahim (then Deputy Commissioner of Police) who was alleged to have ordered the shooting of the Apo 6, was discharged and acquitted by the court for lack of evidence (along with two others), while those who were alleged to have carried out the instructions of their Superior Police Officer to open fire, were the ones convicted.
If there was accountability, erring Police Officers would not have become infamous for such an offensive saying, that they will go scot free even if they commit murder! This is so unfair to the victims and their families, especially in a country whose Constitution claims to be based on the tenets of equity, equality and fairness (see the Preamble of the Constitution). If it is true that ASP Vandi had once before unlawfully killed a Customs Officer in Niger State in 1995 and indeed, “nothing happened”; and not only did he escape culpability, he continued in the Police Force to date, being promoted in rank etc, this only confirms my assertion that Nigeria has a culture of impunity and lack of accountability (which didn’t start today).
Secondly, it shows that we have a government that couldn’t care less about governance or the people. When the people are disgruntled about one issue or the other, Government pretends that it will react in the way that it should; but, once the complaints reduce, it doesn’t follow through. What was the 2020 #EndSARS Protest about? Principally about putting an end to Police brutality against Nigerians, particularly the Youths, and introducing reforms to the Nigeria Police Force, like better salaries and conditions of service for the Police; better mode of selection of Recruits and training; psychological screening before recruitment and periodically thereafter. I’m almost tired of reiterating the fact that the security and welfare of the people is the primary purpose of Government, while that of the Police is to maintain law and order within the country (see Sections 14(2)(b) and 215(3) & (4) of the Constitution respectively). Also see Section 4 of the Nigeria Police Act 2020 and Fawehinmi v IGP 2002 7 N.W.L.R. Part 767 Page 602 per Uwaifo JSC on the duties of the Police.
It is true that there are stories of Police brutality against citizens all over the world, and that it doesn’t only happen in Nigeria; but, the issue is whether steps are taken to curb this evil. Take for example USA, after the extra-judicial Police killing of George Floyd, the practice of Police Officers wearing body cameras was reinforced, to serve as a deterrent to unlawful killing and the use of unnecessary or excessive force against people, because the encounters are being recorded and are used to secure convictions against accused Officers. A 2020 Report by the National Police Foundation, revealed that Officers who wore the cameras appeared to have fewer complaints filed against them.
Despite the fact this administration promised Police Reforms, to date, nothing significant has been done or achieved in this regard. A change of nomenclature from SARS to SWAT, is certainly not the sum total of the institutional reforms that Nigerians were/are expecting. Should Police Officers detailed to man checkpoints, not possibly be given special training? I watched in amazement, a Police Public Relations Officer on Channels TV’s Politics Today last Thursday, shamelessly lying through his teeth when he said: “We don’t do anything with impunity. If you commit an offence as a Policeman, you pay dearly for it. Nobody will tolerate that….”. Tah! If that is true, neither Mr Buraimoh nor Mrs Raheem and her children, would have been murdered in cold blood by the Police for no reason.
Thirdly, the deaths of Mr Buraimoh and Mrs Raheem shows how lacking our medical facilities are. If there was a decent, modern, well-equipped General Hospital in the area, that would have been the first port of call that the victims would have been rushed to. Maybe the lives of Mr Buraimoh, Mrs Raheem and her babies could have been saved, if Mrs Raheem had been rushed to a capable hospital in the nick of time. Unfortunately, it seems that the victims were rushed to other medical facilities first, and by the time they were eventually taken to Grandville Medical Centre which is actually a Level 1 Emergency Trauma Centre in the VGC/Ajah axis, Mrs Raheem had already passed on. I read somewhere in a news report, that one of the hospitals first visited said they couldn’t handle the case!
In the course of my investigation, I found out that Grandville is equipped with machines and personnel that are required in such traumatic circumstances. This is good information for the public to be aware of, especially if there’s an emergency.
The truth is that extra-judicial killings, extortion etc by the Police have continued with gusto and aplomb, unabated. At most, the #EndSARS Protest only had a fleeting effect when emotions were high. In September, I wrote about one Mr Bernard Ogbu who was arrested by the Police in 2019, and has not been seen since then. He was allegedly taken to SARS Office, Abbatoir, Guzape, Abuja aka Abbatoir. When I made some enquiries about him, I was told that he had probably been killed extra-judicially there. A senior Police Officer also told me that, in certain circumstances, extra-judicial killing may be necessary. In fact, Section 33(2)(a)-(c) sets out instances in which extra-judicial killing may be permitted by law; however, these exceptions are inapplicable to the cases of Mrs Raheem and Mr Buraimoh.
From the incoming administration, one thing Nigerians expect as a matter of urgency, is much needed, genuine Police Reforms, and an end to their incessant killing incessant killing and brutalising of innocent citizens. There must be an effective way, to check the excesses of law enforcement agents. This habit of not bringing Police Officers to book for the crimes they have committed, must stop. Since the initial noise that was made in DCP Kyari aka Super Cop’s case at the time of his arrest, Nigerians have heard nothing. To the best of our knowledge, Mr Kyari has neither been extradited to USA to face his Hushpuppi money laundering charges, nor has his trial for drug peddling here in Nigeria made any remarkable progress. Soon, the case will simply fade into oblivion, and life will go on as usual – a total lack of accountability to worrisome