SIRENS can be expensive as Mrs. Endurance Odubu, wife of the Deputy Governor of Edo State has discovered. A Federal High Court in Benin City ordered her to pay N12 million as damages to Captain Olorunduyilemi Stephen, an officer with the 4th Brigade of the Nigerian Army.
In a role reversal of the military molesting civilians, security operatives attached to Mrs. Odubu, dragged Captain Stephen out of his car, beat him, and detained him at Mrs. Odubu’s residence. The incident took place in January last year.
Stephen sought the following from the court – N502 million as damages, an unreserved apology from the defendant to be published in five national dailies and broadcast on three electronic media.
Justice Adamu Hobon, in his judgment, ordered Mrs. Odubu to tender an apology to the army officer in three electronic media and two national dailies.
He stated that sirens were for emergency. Approved users were fire fighters, ambulances and top government officials.
Mrs. Odubu did not qualify under any of the categories. Justice Hobon wondered why the defendant took the law into her hands. If Stephen had committed an offence, the judge noted, he should have been charged to a competent court.
The judge ruled that the beating of the army officer was unlawful. He awarded N2 million as special damages to cover medical expenses and his damaged car. For illegal detention and infringing on his fundamental human rights, the court awarded Stephen N10 million.
Questions that governments must ask themselves is the source of the resources that maintain the long convoy of vehicles that are at the disposal of government officials and members of their families who have no official duties in government.
The absence of prudence in the use of public assets is another indicator of poor governance.
More depressing is the powers these appendages of governance appropriate to themselves. How are they able to procure the retinue of security people that make up their convoys? A little modesty can help the public understand the harsh economic policies that governments propose and implement on people who are beginning to see that the primary responsibility of government is to please those in government.
Power drunkenness is a temptation people in government cannot resist. The lure of sirens has its place in pressing authority over ordinary people who must vacate the road post-haste to raise adequate comfort for government officials.
Years of the police limiting approved siren users to the president, vice president, governors and deputy governors has not impressed those who crave for their own day with the siren. In practice, the list of users includes local government chairmen, traditional leaders, religious leaders, any politician with adequate resources to fund a convoy, business people, and anyone else who can pay for the service.
Soldiers in Benin City should be commended for not seeking revenge for their officer. If they did, they could have pitted themselves against civilians in a major clash that could have resulted in high causalties, all because someone used a siren.
Government should do more than preaching the limited use of sirens. The examples should start from the President down to the governors. Daily, Nigerians are being brutalised by siren users who expect people to flee once the siren is blared. It is not always possible to get off their way on time. Only a few of these cases make it to the courts as only a few know their rights or have the means to enforce them.
The judgement on sirens is also a call for more reticence in government and for the high and mighty to live simply, so that others may simply live.