Justice for Oluwabamise Ayanwole
Recurring reports of Nigerians going missing and later found humiliated or maimed, killed in cold blood and mutilated are harrowing. The free reign of bestiality and complicit governance structure resonate louder in the case of Oluwabamise Ayanwole, who was killed right in the custody of supposed state’s protection! It is ludicrous that a state like Lagos is failing in its remit and dissipating more energy on what smacks of cover-ups. But, Oluwabamise’s case should not be swept under the carpet.
Globally, state-owned corridors and assets, including mass transit buses, are a refuge for all. They are the surest route to safety and security given their proximity to the state’s highest standard of command and control mechanisms. Such is the assumption in Lagos metropolis until Oluwabamise Ayanwole, 22, boarded a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) bus, saw danger face-to-face, got raped, killed and mutilated. Her case could not be hidden because of her smart use of technology when she sensed danger and decided that she must record her own story. Her body was found three days later.
Amid the outrage that greeted Oluwabamise’s death, the state government has arraigned the prime suspect and driver of the bus, Nice Andrew Omininikoron, in court and he has pleaded not guilty to the charges. Omininikoron has given two different accounts of the same tragedy. First was as an unkempt fugitive that confessed to the crime upon arrest. Afterwards was a clean shaven man in branded driver’s uniform, denying earlier confessions in an exclusive interview to a TV station.
The sudden twist in the narrative and efforts to repackage the response has raised a number of questions for the state to answer. Was the driver acting as a hijacker in the first confessional statement; while the symbolism of the second is decoy? Was the second confessional statement used to distract or show backing and collusion with the state government or duty bearers? Again, how can a hijacked vehicle be parked in a BRT garage? In addition, how can a ‘branded driver’ not report a case of vehicle hijack to the nearest police station or report the same to the BRT management? Although it should have been the outcome of investigations, the state government was too quick to quip that the buses do not have trackers and cameras, therefore meddling with the investigation. Why are some modern buses in Lagos not tracked? Why was there no security response from when Oluwabamise sent SOS to family members until the family went to BRT bus park? These are absurdities and the questions begging for answers. Suffice to note that the case of Oluwabamise, according to media reports, has led to #MeToo claims; as two other alleged female survivors shared their experiences as BRT passengers with Nice Andrew Omininikoron. One alleged rape; while the other, was lucky to escape. These suggest a serial crime in the corridors of the state government.
Clearly, the gruesome episode is a graphic experience of failure in state administration and control. The victim’s death, like more that didn’t make it to limelight, exemplifies the paradox of the state’s constitutional responsibility of protecting lives and property. Oluwabamise’s kidnapping and death in the state-own commercial vehicle – the supposed safest by all standards – is unacceptable. It is a shame because the state government and its approved operators are expected to have the highest safety standards in terms of running a background check on officials before hiring them and also ensuring the installation of cameras, trackers and speed limit checks in the buses under their watch. It is ironic that the ‘safest’ has become the ‘riskiest’ and the state government has taken the indictment so casually. This means that the proletariat “cannot breathe” in the face of heightened insecurity even in a state mass transit bus! A proactive government should sense a problem here.
Ideally, Oluwabamise’s death is one too many that should have placed BRT and its management under close scrutiny with landmark intervention to revamp the transport system. If the Lagos masses are not safe in BRT, how does the state hope to attract scarce Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) and tourism to rev up potential? How do the BRT ventures hope to thrive without the right patronage on account of insecurity?
Apart from duty bearers’ accountability, the alleged behaviour of Omininikoron, the driver, raises a moral question on an emerging trend of the mentality of barbarism and mutilation of human parts as a route to become billionaires. Hence, there is the need to restructure the cognition and value system of people, who think that they can get money without working. It is unforgiving that the likes of Omininikoron have allegedly used their good offices as a licence for humiliation, oppression, exploitation, extortion and even to kill passengers, who boarded BRT buses in good faith. This is a wrong show of power, wrong application of position and a desperate hang on to the memory of the oppression of a defenceless lady held captive.
By and large, this case signals a bad omen and must be pursued to its logical conclusion. Oluwabamise’s case is a test case and should not for any reason be swept under the carpet to stop harassment, humiliation, killing and mutilation of many defenseless people in the country. The Lagos State Government has condoned too much laxity across the board to allow the society freely degenerate to impunity. The time has come to be alive to the sensitivity of this matter, not to deploy force or decoy, rather to summon truth and moral suasion to manage this crisis. Now that the case is in court, it is incumbent on the government to ensure that justice is served to restore hope and confidence in the commitment of the State to secure lives and property. If found guilty, Omininikoron should be punished accordingly, to serve as a deterrent to other errant men involved in barbaric acts. That way, the government will end the culture of brutality, impunity and lack of value for human life.
Beyond the suspect, those responsible for managing the BRT buses should be made to account for their stewardship. Essentially, there should be accountability and social justice. In the main, there should be consequences for negligence. The government must follow-up this case to the end and ensure that those culpable are punished for not delivering total quality service, negligence in ensuring high safety standards through the installation and tracking of devices and other safety gadgets in their areas of control.