Justice for Mrs. Raheem and other victims
Beyond the wide condemnation that have appropriately followed the gruesome murder of Mrs. Omobolanle Raheem, a Lagos-based lawyer and her twin babies by a trigger-happy Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP), Drambi Vandi last Christmas day, the tragedy has again raised the urgent need to pay more than lip service to police reform in the country. Mrs. Raheem’s killing is one too many and should not be allowed to fizzle out as one more unresolved murder in Nigeria. The lawyer, who was seven-month pregnant with twins, was on her way to buy pizza with her husband and members of her family when she was shot dead at close range by ASP Vandi of Ajiwe Police Station, Ajah, Lagos. The ASP obviously was on a stop and search duty at the time. Mrs. Raheem died instantly on the front seat of their car driven by her husband at the time.
Beyond lamentation, nothing should be left undone in ensuring that the killer is made to face justice. In the same vein, although the damage is irreparable and life lost is irreplaceable, the police should be made to pay monetary compensation to the family of the slain Mrs. Raheem for mowing down their loved one at the prime age of 41 and for killing the twin babies in her womb. No sentiments should be allowed to stand in the way of getting justice for Mrs. Raheem and her twin babies.
Sadly, cold-blooded murder of innocent Nigerians by trigger-happy policemen has become a recurring decimal in Nigeria. It is probably the failure to bring these trigger-happy murderers to justice in this country that seems to have emboldened them to perpetuate their heinous crime unabated. Whenever a trigger-happy police officer murders a citizen it is condemned by all and sundry, but, after a short while the murder fizzles out into oblivion and life continues without justice for the State, the murdered citizen and members of his or her family.
The country has tolerated too many murderers and hired assassins who successfully commit murders and get away with them owing to either sheer incompetence or unwillingness of the police and security personnel to track down the killers and bring them to justice. For example, till date the police is yet to unmask the killers of Mr. Abayomi Ogundeji, a journalist aged 38. On December 22 2006, another journalist Mr. Godwin Agbroko was assassinated in cold blood on his way back home after work. Till date Agbroko’s killers are yet to be arrested and brought to justice. Aside from Ogundeji and Agbroko, the mystery surrounding the killing and assassination of many Nigerian citizens such as Funsho Williams, Bola Ige, Ayodeji Daramola, Aminasoari K. Dikibo, Harry Marshall, Ogbonnaya Uche and others who had respectively been assassinated at different times over the years remains unresolved.
On December 6, 2022, Gafaru Buraimoh, a resident of Happy Land Estate in Ajah, Lagos, was similarly shot dead by a policeman and till date his killers have not been apprehended let alone prosecuted. The Report of #EndSARS nationwide protest is damning about police brutality, including killing, on October 20, 2020 of some defenceless protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate Lagos. But till date the government has not deemed it imperative to reform the force and bring it up to date with modern policing globally.
The seemingly unending list of unsolved murders and assassinations, whether by the police or non-state actors in Nigeria is simply nauseating and portrays the country as placing no value on human life. It is unacceptable that the country appears helpless in providing authentic clue to the circumstances surrounding their murder and bringing them to justice. In fact, some trigger-happy policemen boast that they can kill anybody anytime and get away with it. And Nigerians seem to be living at the mercy of trigger-happy policemen and other killers in Nigeria. This is why the murder of Mrs. Raheem and her twin babies must be redressed with justice.
The authorities should ensure that there would be no obstruction of justice in the course of bringing the killer(s) to book. Happily, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has raised a Panel of its members to ensure that Mrs. Raheem and Buraimoh get justice. It is the failure to obtain justice in several murder and hired assassination cases in this country that begets more murders and assassinations in Nigeria.
Mrs. Raheem’s gruesome murder is another wake-up call to the urgent need for police reforms and revamping of the country’s criminal justice system. Government should stop procrastinating on these issues and launch itself out to implement the various recommendations tabled before successive governments at different times. Nigerians have waited too long for concrete actions on police reforms to no avail. Instead, government has been treating the issues with mere rhetoric that cannot solve the problem.
The Nigeria Police should be reinvented. To begin with, policemen should see civilians as people to be protected not as their enemies to be annihilated. Some of the policemen patrolling the highways are frustrated by negative working conditions and sometimes lack of salaries. It is thus easy for them to vent their frustration on innocent civilians at the slightest of frictions. Government should enhance their salaries and welfare packages.
There also must be an end to crime investigation. The Police should stop scuttling justice under the excuse that it is investigating crime. Crime investigation should not last forever. Compulsory annual training on capacity-building, ethical policing and crime fighting should be organized for policemen. Police prosecutors should be trained lawyers who are conversant with the rudiments of crime prosecution. Recruitment and appointment procedures of the police force should be reformed to ensure that dead woods in the force are routinely weeded off. The mechanisms for internal discipline and sanctions within the police force must be reactivated. Corrupt police officers extorting money from innocent citizens or bringing trumped-up charges on innocent citizens just to extort money from them should be fired from the force.
However, these desirable changes will be easier to accomplish under a decentralized state police, not under a behemoth force that has become too unwieldy to accommodate modern policing system.