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Victims of firearms crime : The case of Guardian Editor , Bayo Ohu and others

By Emma Nnadozie , Albert Akpor and Evelyn Usman

The recent brutal  murder of the Assistant News Editor of Guardian Newspapers, Mr. Bayo Ohu  by yet-to-be-identified  gun men at his residence in Egbeda, Lagos brings to the fore, once again, the agony of gun shot victims in Nigeria.

The 45-year-old amiable and hardworking political reporter was reportedly felled by six gun men who invaded his house last Sunday and released volleys of bullets into his body.   Reports said after the killers disappeared from the scene, his neighbours and other sympathizers who realised that in spite of the fatality of the wounds, his bullet-riddled body was still warm and he was breathing.

They swiftly took him to the nearby hospital but the hospital refused to treat him without Police report.    He bled to death before they got to the next hospital.

The case of Bayo is not different from many other recorded and unrecorded cases of both the rich and poor Nigerians and even foreigners who, unfortunately fell victims to gun shot either accidentally or in the hands of criminals and they ended up dying just because hospital authorities refused to treat them without police reports.

 Onovo:I pray for  a safer  country
 IGP Onovo

The case of popular and wealthy Chairman of National Union of Road Transport Workers Union (NURTW), Lagos chapter, Alhaji Saka Saula will readily come to mind also.

Alhaji Saula was shot by unidentified gun men outside his house in Iyana-Ipaja area of the state on January 6, 2008.     The gun men came as visitors around 9 pm.   Two of them were said to have requested to see Saula but they were told to wait downstairs.   Other members of the gang reportedly walked into the premises to join the two that were waiting, on sighting Saula approaching.

Before Saula could react, the gun men opened fire on him, riding his whole body with bullets before zooming off in their operational vehicle, leaving Saula in a pool of his blood.

After the assassins left, he was rushed to a nearby hospital but he was rejected on the ground that they were not with police report.    He was subsequently taken to Ikeja General Hospital in Ikeja but before they got to the hospital, he gave up the ghost.

A frontline fighter against the unfortunate death of Nigerians in such sad circumstances and Executive Director of Non~governmental organization, Crime Victims Foundation, Mrs. Gloria Egbuji who was visibly shocked on hearing that Bayo Ohu fell victim to the same cause she had been fighting for many years described the development as “very painful” stating that “The Police have been equivocal in victimizing any medical person for treating victims of gunshot wound.

The process requiring victims of gunshot wound to receive police report before treatment must have precipitated the untimely death of Mr. Ohu and so many others not so fortunate.

“The Nigeria Medical Association calls doctors on less important issues but has never challenged the Police from carrying out its sacred duty of saving lives which they solemnly swore to uphold.

One only need to experience the way such victims like Mr. Bayo Ohu and even those with seemingly minor bleeding are allowed to die in most uncivilized practice.  Such neglect of victims for any reason whatsoever under any guise should attract heavy sanctions to erring parties and adequate compensation for the victims.

It is painful enough that crime wave is gradually becoming overwhelming for our security psyche let alone when its casualty rate is compounded by uncivilized practice.

The late Bayo Ohu
The late Bayo Ohu

“The idea of assailants attacking and killing people in their homes is not strange but what may be worrisome is the impunity with which the assailants carried out their dastardly act.

This is an excellent opportunity to send a message to both the Nigeria Police and the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) and also a time for police to salvage its integrity on the issue of giving prompt medical attention to victims of gunshot wound”.

A historical perspective to the dangerously persistent scenario will suffice. With the end of the Nigerian Civil war, armed robbers emerged in the country.

In order to check the menace, the Government reacted by promulgating the Robbery and Firearms (Special Provision) Decree no. 47 of 1970.  Still, the incidents of robbery were on the increase, as some robbers who get wounded always manage to escape and get themselves treated, so as to return to terrorise the citizens.

As a result of this, the Government in order to enable the police to arrest and prosecute wounded armed robbers, amended the Robbery and Firearms (Special Provisions) Decree No. 21 of 1984 in 1986 by adding a new provision in Section 4 (2) which reads “It shall be the duty of any person, hospital or clinic that admits, treat or administers any drugs to any person suspected of having bullets to immediately report the matter to the police”.

This section became the pivot which the police used in issuing a directive banning emergency medical attention for gunshot victims without prior police permission.  While the directive was issued in good faith, it resulted in the loss of the lives of many innocent victims who were attacked by armed robbers and have sustained injuries requiring prompt medical attention.

A great deal of debate has taken place as to whether or not the police were really justified in issuing the directives.  Those who argued against the directive predicated their arguments on the ground that health workers were by the directives, compelled to watch helplessly as patients with gunshot wounds bled to death, while awaiting police clearance for them to receive medical attention.

The Police on their part, defended the directive on the ground that it was intended to enable doctors distinguish wounded armed robbery suspects escaping from scenes of violent crimes from their innocent victims or motorists and commuters hit by the accidental discharge of police rifles.

It is true that wounded armed robbers who have managed to escape always find their way to get medical attention.  Of course, there are some medical personnel who will treat armed robbers and hand them over to the police, but equally there are some who treat them and do not bother reporting or handing them over to the Police.

While the directive was still in force, a lot of innocent victims have died because of waiting to get police clearance.  In fact, a former leading member of the Government of Nigeria Rear Admiral .O. Omotehinwa who retired after attaining the rank of Rear Admiral in the Nigerian Navy, was attacked by armed robbers in his home at Maryland area of Lagos.

He was rushed to a hospital owned by a member of his church who knew him very well, but because there was no police report, the retired Rear Admiral bled to death.

Many more unfortunate incidents happened including the most recent one of Bayo Ohu of Guardian Newspaper on Sunday the 20th of September, 2009.
It was therefore a welcome relief package when late in 1997, the Head of the Public Relations Department of the Nigeria Police Force, then Mr. Young Arebamen reaffirmed the statement that the Police earlier directive barring emergency medical attention for gunshot victims without prior police permission has been withdrawn.

sympertisers crying at the graveside Photo: Bunmi Azeez and Dare Fasube
sympertisers crying at the graveside Photo: Bunmi Azeez and Dare Fasube

There is no doubt that even before the withdrawal of the directives the law which the police took shelter under did not at any time debar medical attention being given to gunshot wound victims, but because of the non-conformity with the letters of the law, the police were forced to issue the aforesaid directive.

There have been incidents in the past, when the police, acting on tip off, have raided certain medical centres, only to arrest armed robbery suspects who were being treated.  However, armed robbers also do treat their men underground and innocent people not necessarily armed robbers do get gunshot wound from criminals.

This development by the  police is welcomed by all and sundry as it shows the humane nature of the Police in its relationship with the people.  We expect both the police and the medical personnel to cooperate effectively in the performance of their professional duties to protect and save lives without jeopardising their integrity or exposing the public to needless hazards.

However despite the withdrawal of the directives, some hospitals are still refusing to treat victims of gunshot.  Another case was that of the Omorukhe brother’s of Raphael and Felix.  The two brothers were attacked by four (4) armed robbers; Felix was shot and he died immediately.  Raphael who heard the gunshot wanted to go and rescue his brother, and he was shot too.  He was rushed to a private hospital a few metres from the scene, where he was rejected.

He was similarly rejected at the Gbagada General Hospital Ifako where the doctors insisted that a police report must be presented before they could attend to him.  At this stage, Raphael has lost so much blood that he was becoming unconscious.  He was then rushed to Ikeja General Hospital, Ikeja.  He died before he reached the hospital.

While the private hospital may be jittery about not being aware of the withdrawal of the earlier police directives, one expects that the public hospital as the General Hospital should be aware of the withdrawal of the directives.

There are many hospitals who are not yet aware of the withdrawal of the police directives.  The Police Public Relations Department still have to go out and educate the various medical centres in their jurisdiction that they should treat victims of gunshot without first of all demanding for police clearance and that they should ensure that immediately the treatment starts, the Police authority in the locality are informed so that the Police can carry out their investigation and arrest any suspect so that the purpose of the Robbery and Firearms Act can be achieved, for the protection of the citizens.

Bayo Ohu’s murder:why it may be difficult to crack the case

As Police detectives  battle to unravel the cause of the gruesome murder of a Lagos journalist with The Guardian Newspapers, Bayo Ohu, many theories have emerged relating to the motive behind the dastardly act.

Bayo, an Assistant News Editor was reporting Politics for the Newspaper before his brutal murder.   The circumstances surrounding his death that Sunday at his residence in Egbeda, a suburb of Lagos State still remains a mystery .

Crime Guard gathered from unconfirmed sources that two theories may be responsible for his murder.  According to the sources, Bayo had worked all through the night inside his apartment on a yet-to-be-disclosed story bordering on political development in one of the Eastern States of Nigeria.

Crime Guard  scooped that the late journalist, described by his acquaintances and colleagues as ‘vibrant and popular amongst top politicians across the country including governors of states‘,  had confided in one of his close friends that he received a threat call from a powerful politician from one of the eastern states over the story he was working on.  Said the source at his residence, “  I am not a journalist, but you know we are very close and there is rarely any thing Bayo wants to do without first confiding in me including all his official travels.

So just last week, he told me that he was called in one of lines by an unknown person who warned him to drop a particular story he was working on and I told him to do just that if it was not safe to write such story”

But a top police source, who reacted to the recent revelation described it as “diversionary”.  “Well, what you have heard may contain some elements of truth but I want to tell you that some of those that perpetrated the dastardly act may be among those visiting to pay condolence.

So, it may not be out of place for them to say such words knowing full well that journalists are always nosing around.  I think they just want to divert the attention and focus of the police from where they are beaming their searchlights .  I would want the media to allow the police to do their job.”

Another theory bordered on an unknown story break in the Customs and Excise.   Unconfirmed Police sources intimated that both the Custom issue and that of the political story are theories that should be left to homicide detectives to work on and assured that all the known and unknown theories must be critically exhausted by the well- trained detectives at the end of which positive clues may emerge.

However, indications emerged that in spite of the cries over the death of the journalist and questions on who killed him, the Nigeria Police Force may end up not getting to the root of the case, just like all other high-profile cases that have to do with  assassination.

Revelations from a concerned highly~placed police source revealed that the case of Guardian reporter, Bayo Ohu may not be an exception going by what we have on the ground in the force presently.

According to the source, “It may be very difficult for police to crack this case and even all the outstanding cases of that nature because, the Police Forensic laboratory as is presently constituted is ill-equipped to handle such high profile cases.    Even at that , we have only one well trained Forensic expert who is almost retiring from the force.

It will interest Nigerians to know that since after the fire incident at the Forensic Laboratory in Alagbon, Lagos, all the sophisticated and modern equipment which were reduced to ashes by the fire incident have not been replaced.

Worse still, there are no genuine or urgent efforts being made to train new hands that will replace the only retiring Forensic expert we have or sending our able~bodied policemen for training so that they will take over when he retires.

“To compound matters, detectives from Abuja were drafted to take over investigations into the case thereby undermining local policemen who are on the ground and who would be able to successfully make use of the local informants in cracking the case.

The Abuja people cannot certainly know the local setting.  As it is, we don’t even know whether the detectives have been able to make contacts with members of his family especially his wife and other close acquaintances with a view to ascertaining what occupied his last days on earth.

“So far, there are claims that the unidentified gun men operated in a nearby estate where they snatched a Toyota Camry after stealing a laptop, three handsets and a huge sum of money from the owner of the car.  Perhaps, from here, the Police may be getting closer towards unravelling the mystery surrounding the murder of this young man”, the source stated.

Press Release By the Police on withdrawal of Law  against treatment of gun shot victims

The Inspector General of Public,
Force Public Relations Department,
Force Headquarters Annex,
Ijora Causeway,
Lagos.

4th July, 1996

The News Editor,
PRESS RELEASE

The Nigeria Police is disturbed by various statements credited to Medical Practitioners as regard treatment of victims of gun injuries or motor accidents.  Medical Practitioners have the cardinal responsibility of caring for the injured and the sick according to the ethics of their profession.  The Nigeria Police will in no way be an obstacle to this important duty.

Accordingly, the Inspector General of Police has directed all Police personnel throughout the country not to molest any Medical Practitioner treating victims of gunshot or motor accident.  Members of the public are also at liberty, as Good Samaritans, to assist victims of motor accidents as part of their civic responsibilities.

The need for security consciousness no doubt makes it imperative for Medical Practitioners to notify the police at their earliest possible convenience, the presence of such person(s) in their Clinics or Hospitals.

This is with a view to clarifying the status of the injured person(s).

(SIGNED)
(TUNJI ALAPINI)
ASSISTANT COMMISSIONER OF POLICE,
FORCE PUBLIC RELATIONS OFFICER.


Disclaimer

Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.