Court orders arrest of police chiefs

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The Coroner Court hearing the case involving the murder of a member of THISDAY Editorial Board, Mr. Abayomi Ogundeji, yesterday ordered the immediate arrest of the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) of Dopemu Police Station and the Officer Commanding (OC) Onilekere Police Post for failing to appear before it.

Magistrate Mukaila Fadeyi also used the opportunity to renew his earlier summons on the armourers of Shasha and Onilekere Police Stations to appear before him on the next adjourned date to give evidence on the movement of arms in their stations.

Fadeyi ordered the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Marvel Akpoyibo, to immediately enforce the arrest of the officers.

At the resumed hearing of the case yesterday, Fadeyi, who had expected smooth proceedings, was surprised when counsel to the police, Mrs Susan Esenwa, told the court that the DPO and OC had refused to honour the invitation extended to them by the court for them to appear and say all they know about the death of Ogundeji.

Esenwa said efforts were being made to report the affected officers to the state Police Commissioner.

It was at this juncture that the magistrate said: “This is the problem with the police who do not even read the constitution and Police Act to know what is required of them. It is part of the peculiar mess we are talking about. The police are still not amenable to a society governed by rule of law. If I give orders, they are meant to be obeyed.”

Fadeyi, who said he was tired of frequent adjournments of the case, also frowned on the commitment of the counsel in the case, adding that the only way they could make progress, was when they sacrifice their time.

He said: “I suspended my leave for this inquest. Let's do things that are concrete. Virtually everybody in Lagos is interested in this case and waiting to see where it will lead to. The only way we can make progress is when we sacrifice our time. We are not making progress at all. I have had it up to here.

“This is a matter where counsel need to make personal investigation and invite all those that need to be invited for this matter to be concluded. I am not seeing that here. Nobody is enjoying what is happening. Nobody knows whose turn it will be tomorrow.”

He lamented what he described as the refusal of the police officers to obey the court orders for them to appear and testify, saying they don't have a choice but must be amenable to the rule of law.

The magistrate had on three occasions ordered the DPO, OC and armourers of Shasha and Onilekere police stations to appear before him, but the officers had flouted his order.

The late Ogundeji was killed in controversial circumstances on August 17, 2008 at the Dopemu area of Lagos, and a coroner's inquest to unravel the circumstances leading to his death began on Friday, January 23, 2009 at the instance of the Lagos chapter of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ).

The union through its counsel, Mr. Femi Falana, forwarded a petition dated August 22, 2008 to the Lagos State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Olasupo Shasore (SAN) claiming that Ogundeji was killed in a violent and suspicious manner. The NUJ's lawyer also urged Shasore to invoke his power under section 45(i) of the Lagos State Coroner's Law 2007 and directed that an inquest into Ogundeji's murder be held without further delay.

The Lagos AG later approved the inquest and directed the chief coroner for the state to inaugurate the coroner's inquest.

Further hearing in the case has been adjourned to October 5, 2009.