Re: Okereke’s murder; Mr. Speaker, we need justice not sympathy.

“My value for human life and my respect for all people, irrespective of social-economic status, is what endeared me to these vendors and these are the reasons why I stop my convoy quite often to connect with them.” – Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila.

The above quote from Honourable Speaker, House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, reacting to the death of Mr. Ifeanyi Okereke, a father of two and a newspaper vendor, who was shot by one of his security details at the federal secretariat Abuja, opens the doorway to our discourse on today’s edition of our weekly feature column – The Concourse.

It is exactly 12 days since this tragedy occurred, and the only thing we keep hearing is that he (Mr. Speaker) is ‘distraught’ and ‘pained’ by the incident.

The culture of death has been entrenched and the value of life trivialized in Nigeria over the last two decades in such manner that human life can comfortably equate with that of a dog on the street. The sanctity and preservation of life was once a cherished aspect of our culture as Africans, but not anymore.

We once placed premium on life as an inalienable fundmantal rights of every citizen, irrespective of gender, age, religious, ethnic, or social status. But that was in the past. The opposite sadly obtains currently.

Life is cheapened like carcass in gutters. Groceries price higher than human life in present day Nigeria. Something worse than revolutionary perversion of values is chronically with us. Progressively, we have lost all sense of sacred; and profanity rules our milieu.

Personally, I pitied the corporate entity called Nigeria on December 18, 2018, when a former Chief of Air Staff in the status of Alex Bade was assassinated in cold blood at President Buhari’s backyard in Abuja, and the next day Mr. President was cheerfully presenting appropriation bill to the national assembly without calling for even one minute of silence in honour of the slain hero. The country moved on as if nothing happened.

Prior to that, on Friday October 2, 2015, a bomb blast hit Kuje market about 20 meters from where I was having discussion with a friend. An estimated twenty one persons died instantly. The sandy dusts lifted by the blast fell on the roof under which we sat.

The next morning, I was headed to Gwagwalada neighborhood and the Okada man conveying me was asking why were the roads blocked and vehicles barred from plying? I asked if he did not hear of the blast last night, and he said he is not aware of such incident. And he was not alone in it, many did not hear about it too. I shook my heard in utter disappointment.

So as a country, we have arrived to the deadpoint, where a disaster of homicidal level like fatal bomb blasts hardly make the news. But it climaxed at the October 20, Lekki toll gate massacre, where peaceful protesters holding and honouring our national flag were shot by soldiers (who are still denying it). And our flag flew at full mast dispassionately.

This must have explained why the senseless murder of Mr. Okereke, by a reckless police officer attached to the Speaker could be swept under the carpet, the way it is being treated. Instead of subjecting the officer involved to full weight of the law, he is being shielded and the family being cajoled with Hon. Gbajabiamila releasing ‘sympathy’ statements that he is ‘distraught’ about the tragedy.

We need not his sympathy. What we need is justice. Our laws are not emotional like our politicians. That was why the maiden (the symbol of legal justice) is blindfolded. So let the law take its cause.

In a statement, he said the officer has been ‘suspended’ pending when the investigation into the incident is concluded. This is not only prejudicial, but also preposterous. Is ‘suspension,’ part of what the civil codes of our criminal justice demand under such incident? The murderous officer should be remanded, to ensure he does not meddle with evidences that were against him while the investigation is on.

If the Speaker truly loves the poor and values life as his statement in the opening quote of this piece says; then he should be at the fore-front championing the prosecution of the culpable officer.

This brings us to the blanket word “stray bullet” under which police hides each time they kill Nigerians extrajudicially.

What is stray bullet?, you may ask.

“A stray bullet is a bullet that, after being fired from a gun, hits an unintended target. Such a shooting accident may occur due to missing a target when hunting or sport-shooting, as a result of accidental/negligent discharges, or during crossfire or celebratory gunfire.” (Webster’s English Dictionary).

Now, keep this definition in mind while we discuss what transpired at the venue of the murder.

The official report released by the Speaker indicated that the incident occurred when he stopped his convoy to exchange pleasantries with the vendors as was his usual practice after work.

In his word: “Many of them have known me since I first moved to Abuja and it was a friendly exchange.”

“Unfortunately, after the convoy set out in continuation of our movement, unidentified men obstructed the convoy which got the attention of security men in the convoy who shot into the air to disperse them.”

“Some hours later, after getting to our destination, it was brought to my attention that someone was hit by a stray bullet, contrary to an earlier report by men in the convoy that they applied their security discretion to shoot in the air.”

So (unarmed) ‘unidentified’ men obstructed the convoy of the House of Reps Speaker, and the first line of action from our Police men in his convoy (seeing innocent vendors around) was to shoot live bullets? That must be a wrongful “application of security discretion” as claimed.

And since this was not a sport-shooting, crossfire or celebratory shotings, as seen in the definition above, is it not a misnomer to tag it ‘stray bullet’?

Nigeria Police and its unholy romance with politicians will continue to rub us of our sanity and lives until a genuine reform, more honest than the #EndSARS proposition is effected. This was the one reason I continue to see #EndSARS protest as a match far below what revolution should be. Police brutality continues irrespective of SARS disbandment, because until the system that produce and empower police is sanitized, the products will continue to degenerate.

Ancient Latin adage had it that: “Tolle causam, tolle effectum” – “Until the cause is removed, the effect will remain.”

To appease the family, honour the dead, and serve a caveat deterrent to other trigger-happy officers, the Speaker should ensure the killer of Mr. Okereke is prosecuted properly.

Even when the news came that Okereke’s family (so cheaply) threatened the speaker to give them N500m as compensation or face lawsuit, the wife distanced herself from it saying; “All I want now is that the person that killed my husband should face justice…”

Simple!

Let the authorities concerned do the needful.

May daylight spare us.

✍️ Eze Jude O.

Kind regards!

Yours faithfully,
Eze Jude Ogechukwu (B.MLS)
Medical Laboratory Scientist.
Mobile: +2348062494912.
[email protected]

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