January 7, 2005

Finally, Justice served to the killers of Chief Fatai Afolabi


On the 2nd of August, 2004, news of the death of Chief Fatai Afolabi, filtered into the peaceful and quiet Oshodi community in Lagos State. Until his death, Chief Afolabi was the community head of the Oshodi community.

According to multiple sources, Chief Afolabi died from head injuries he sustained from a brutal assault which resulted in a fall into the gutter while walking in one of the streets in the community. A year before the incident which culminated in his death, Chief Afolabi miraculously survived an attempt made on his life when he was shot by unknown gunmen at his residence in Igbehinadun area of Oshodi community. A man loved and respected for his wisdom and tireless effort in attracting development to a community which was neglected before his appointment, months after his demise, the residents of Oshodi are still reeling in pain and shock considering the circumstances that led to the murder of Chief Afolabi.

Three days after the murder of Chief Afolabi, a grieving Oshodi community received the news of the arrest of one Segun Lawal with elation. Segun Lawal confessed that he was paid to render Chief Afolabi permanently incapacitated by his relatives.

He stated that his intention was not to kill Chief Afolabi, but he accidentally fell into the gutter and hit his head on the corvette during a struggle that ensued between them while carrying out his assignment. Segun’s confession eventually led to the arrest of Oluwole Afolabi, Tajudeen Afolabi, and their sister, Adebimpe Afolabi.

What made the murder of Chief Afolabi most heartrending was the fact that the plot which led to his death was hatched by his blood relatives. Interestingly, Oluwole and Tajudeen are both younger brothers of Chief Afolabi, while Adebimpe is his sister and youngest member of the family. Under interrogation by the police, the family members claimed that they only wanted to teach Chief Afolabi an unforgettable lesson for abandoning his family members despite being a wealthy and influential man in the society and that they never sent Segun Lawal to kill him.

several months after the murder of Chief Afolabi, the prosecution and sensational trial of Segun Lawal, Oluwole Afolabi, Tajudeen Afolabi, and Adebimpe Afolabi came to an end yesterday with the conviction of all four for manslaughter. While Oluwole, Tajudeen Afolabi and Adebimbe Afolabi were sentenced to ten years imprisonment, Segun Lawal received the heaviest punishment as he was sentenced to 25 years imprisonment.

Since the judgment was delivered yesterday, the court has been criticized for the sentence handed to the relatives of Chief Afolabi. Majority of the opinion that has been expressed condemned the judgment as a slap on the wrist.

According to Prince Agboifo Ojekwueme, a community advocate, “Judgments like these set dangerous precedents, apart from failing to meet the demand of justice.” Almost everyone interviewed by our correspondent thinks that the relatives of Chief Afolabi ought to have been tried for murder and hanged for masterminding the plot that led to the death of their brother, despite the circumstances surrounding his death.

Regardless of the criticism, one must not forget that in a country where a conviction for murder attracts the death penalty, Nigerian courts are often very wary to impose the sentence unless there are compelling reasons not to do otherwise.