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Ajah Christmas Day Tragedy

Bolanle Raheem
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Not infrequently, Nigerians get to read of the kind of tragic report last Christmas involving a police officer and an innocent Nigerian needlessly cut down in her prime in Ajah. Of course, the policeman had the gun. If the woman had any weapon at all, it would have been her handbag, useless in that kind of face-off against the officer with superior firepower.

The result was all too predictable: The woman fatally shot. As for the gunman, smoke curled from his weapon after expending two bullets. He is now on suspension ordered by the Inspector General of Police, IGP.

As is now very well known, the Raheems were on their way from Christmas service that afternoon. The father of the house, Gbenga, was driving. His wife, Bolalne, seven months heavy with twins, was in the passenger seat. There was the woman’s sister at the back. The car itself had a foreign registration number, which probably aroused the law officer’s interest in the vehicle. By the time the Raheems got to the checkpoint, ASP Drambi Vandi waved them to the side of the road. They moved on.

Apparently, the ASP took offence at the disobedience. One wonders what might have happened if a uniformed man, an Army, say, or Navy officer, was driving. But the consequences of a civilian flouting a police officer’s orders has always had disastrous consequences. One such incident happened in far-away US which later resulted in the Los Angeles race riots in 1991.

An African American, Rodney King, was over speeding and possibly driving under the influence when the LA Police waved him down. He resisted. The police clubbed his shoulders to weaken him. Someone took a video of white police officers beating a black driver. Suddenly, the City of Angels was convulsed with such violence and days of looting and killings putting a lie to the city’s moniker.

The Raheems were also driving when ASP Vandi flagged them down. They were not drunk with alcohol but with the infectious spirit of Yuletide. In fact, reports had it they had returned from service and gone to a pizza joint to be savoured at home. It never got to be. Bolanle got fed a bullet instead by ASP Vandi.

Commenting on the incident in an editorial five days later, Vanguard quoted Gbenga who related it to sympathisers in his residence.

“On December 25, my wife, nieces, nephews, and cousins who had come for the holiday all went to church,” Gbenga said. “My wife suggested that since it was Christmas Day, we take everyone out, so we went to Abraham Adesanya supermarket, then to Domino’s Pizza.

“After that, we drove to Ajah and made a U-turn to return to Abraham Adesanya. We saw police officers stopping some vehicles as we made the U-turn. As we approached them, they said we should stop, and we heard a loud noise on my wife’s side window in the process. I noticed blood gushing out of her chest all of a sudden.

“I immediately ran out; my sister-in-law, who was also with us, ran out and grabbed the cop; he cocked his gun at her as well. Talking to him was pointless, so I went to see what I could do; I saw my wife gasping for air, and by then, my sister-in-law had brought the cop into the car and pushed him into the front seat.

“We drove to a hospital, but they said they couldn’t handle it; we eventually took her to Grandville Hospital, where she was pronounced dead. The cops took her body and loaded it into the truck; they wanted me to follow them, but I told them I needed to go settle my children.”

Continuing, Vanguard observed that Police Spokesman SP Benjamin Hundeyin’s statement about interrogating the officers at the checkpoint wasn’t new. It is an old story, something that Nigerians are used to hearing all the time after such indiscriminate shootings.

“The police statement is not new,” Vanguard commented. “There is nothing reassuring to Nigerians about it. It is the usual ‘sound bites’ Nigerians have become accustomed to hearing from the Nigeria Police authorities almost from time immemorial. “I will kill you and nothing will happen” is the catchphrase for every killer cop in Nigeria. They brag about it, and nothing really happens each time they kill an innocent Nigerian. After all, a resident of Happy Land Estate in Ajah, Gafaru Buraimoh, was similarly shot dead by a policeman on December 6, 2022.

“Bolanle Raheem’s murder is not an isolated case. The cold-blooded murder of innocent Nigerians by trigger-happy policemen is like a recurring decimal. It is a continuation of the trajectory that has been imposed on Nigeria by deep-seated corruption of which politicians who are now expressing surprises and sending condolence messages to the family of the slain lawyer have been part and parcel. ”

Referencing the October 2020 ENDSARS protest, the newspaper went on: “Police brutality, especially against young people, was the subject of the 2020 EndSARS protest – the biggest uprising ever by young people against established authority in the history of Nigeria.

“Yet, the issues raised by the youths and other well-meaning Nigerians against police high-handedness were glossed over. In the end, only cosmetic changes were made, such as renaming of the notorious Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS, to Special Weapons and Tactics Team, SWAT. Mrs. Bolanle Raheem’s cold-blooded murder on Christmas Day again brings to the front burner the need for the much-talked about state police. If President Muhammadu Buhari could confess that Nigeria was too large for him to rule, surely, the country is too large to be effectively policed from Abuja.

“As Nigerians go to the polls next year on February 25, 2023, to elect the next president and other leaders of the country, the sore issue of police brutality and needless murder of innocent Nigerians with guns bought by taxpayers’ money must be top on the minds of the electorate. Without security of lives and property, which largely depends on effective and responsible policing, no meaningful socio-economic and political activity in any country can succeed.

“Nigerians must, therefore, seize the opportunities offered by the next election to elect only leaders whom they can trust to bring the required reforms in the Nigeria Police; leaders that have the capacity to stamp out corruption which is the root of the problem in the Nigeria Police.”