Murder of singer Mohbad, and other matters

…Examining the functionality, capability, and integrity of the Nigeria Police

By Okechukwu Nwanguma

The trending story of the murder of Afrobeat singer Mohbad and the controversy it has stirred compel a re-examination of the functionality, effectiveness, efficiency, professionalism and integrity of the Nigeria Police.

The Mohbad case and others before it warrant a critical interrogation of some questions: is the Nigeria Police, as an institution, functional and ruled by professionalism and discipline?

Does it have a track record for being prompt, thorough, impartial, honest, transparent, fair and diligent, in handling crimes and other incidents?

Considering the actions, inactions and the body language of the Police hierarchy regarding certain past and recent cases, additional questions would be: does service discipline still exist within the NPF?

Are police methods possessd of a professional focus, forensic capabilities and the determination and commitment to unraveling truth and evidence which could aid effective prosecution of crime and the achievement of conviction?

In the course of handling cases, are the Nigeria Police known to stick to due process and uphold the rule of law? Are NPF investigating officers focused on and capable of delivering justice without bias? Or are they available for hire, inclined to pervert justice and sell justice to the highest bidder?

Let us explore answers to these questions by examining some cases, beginning with the Mohbad’s case.

The Mohbad case
Documents have emerged to show that the late singer reported a case of alleged threat to (his) life, malicious damage, assault, and oppression, among others, against a music promoter, Samson Balogun (aka Sam Larry) and others, in a petition to the FCID Annex, Alagbon, Lagos State.

In the petition dated June 27, 2023, Mohbad alleged that Sam Larry and 15 others – all armed, stormed the venue of a video shoot where the deceased and another artiste, Omoniyi Temidayo (aka Zlatan Ibile), were working; and threatened to wreak havoc.

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He added that they eventually destroyed equipment worth over N5 million at the scene, and assaulted him (Mohbad) before he narrowly escaped after sustaining injuries.

Police have faced severe criticisms and public censure for their perceived failure or neglect to promptly intervene to investigate and take necessary action on the complaint of threat to life by Mohbad until he died in uncertain circumstances, with fingers pointing, among others, to the same people against whom he had petitioned the police alleging threat to his life.

But the police Public Relations Officer, FCID Annex, Lagos, Oluniyi Ogundeyi explained that the police could not act on the petition due to MohBad’s refusal to come up and adopt, defend, and provide evidence to support the allegations made by him.

“It is true that MohBad reported the case on June 27, 2023. The IPO confirmed this to me today, and showed me the case file.

The IPO revealed that Sam Larry and other suspects mentioned in the petition were invited for questioning and they honoured the invite and also gave their statements. But the deceased refused to show up to adopt and defend his petition, and a lawyer to Sam Larry and the other suspects filed a counter-petition accusing Mohbad of defaming them’.

Now, could it be true that the police did not act on Mohbad’s petition simply because the complainant did not show up to adopt and defend his petition? Would the police have acted differently if he had turned up?

I admit that it could be problematic for effective police investigation if a petitioner does not turn up to adopt, and provide more evidence to support his petition – if the police truly mean to investigate.

But, as a matter of fact, it is also the unwritten norm that the petitioner/complainant will have to also provide some ‘mobilization’ to enable the police carry out investigation.

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This is often excused on the grounds of official neglect, deprivation and unavailability of the funds and other resources that the police need to do basic investigation.

But are there cases where the police have exhibited negligence and still could not do anything even after the complainant had turned up, made statements, provided ‘mobilization’ to support investigation, and continued to reach out inquiring about the progress of the investigation. Are police usually keen to provide answers to inquiries about the progress of investigation even after the petitioner has fulfilled all requirements and demands by the police?

The case of Harrison Gwamnishu and the Delta State Police Command

More than 3 months after the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) forwarded to the Commissioner of Police (CP) Delta State Police Command a petition from a coalition of Civil Society organisations concerning allegations of ‘Obtaining by False Pretenses’ against a Delta State-based, self-acclaimed human rights activist, Harrison Gwamnishu, the Command has taken no action known to the petitioners.

Harrison Gwamnishu is facing serial accusations of defrauding several victims of millions of naira in his fake claim to activism.

The IGP’s directive to the CP Delta dated 15 May, 2023, entitled ‘Alleged Fraud and Obtaining Money by False Pretenses against Harrison Gwamnishu by a Group of CSOs’ signed by CSP Idris Abdullahi Abubakar PSO to IGP directed the CP Delta to ‘handle’.

Three months after the IGP referred the petition to the CP Delta with a directive to ‘handle’, neither the petitioners nor the victim has heard anything about the progress of investigation. Their repeated inquiries from Delta State Police authorities about the reason for the inaction have received no clear answers.

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It is instructive to note that the victim’s representative, upon invitation, has appeared twice before the investigating team headed by the OC Legal, Delta Command, adopted the petition and made statements on behalf of the petitioner. A statement form was also sent to the petitioner (who lives outside Nigeria) with which he personally made his own statements and returned to the investigating team.

It was expected that the investigating team would invite the accused person/suspect (Harrison Gwamnishu) for interrogation. But this has not happened till date, and answers are not being provided to questions by the representatives of the victim.

When someone called the PPRO Delta Command, DSP Bright Edafe, and inquired about the reason for the delay or inaction in handling the petition, he responded that it’s not his duty to follow up. He asked that the complainant should come and see the IPO. What that means, one can only speculate.

Recently, the accused person, Harrison Gwamnishu posted a photograph of himself and the Delta State CP Wale Abass in his Facebook page where he described the CP as ‘a father to me’ and said he ‘appreciate his fatherly love to me’.

The audacity of the Delta Command CP in ignoring the directive of the IGP to handle a petition against Harrison Gwamnishu refered to him to handle, raises concerns and questions about police processes and whether discipline still exists within the service.

What does it say about a Commissioner of Police seen to be cavorting with a crime suspect whom he has been directed by the IGP to investigate? This matter has been in the public space, and he cannot claim that he does not know about it.

The Anambra Police organ harvesting allegations

The silence of the Police high command over the yet to be resolved Anambra State Police organ harvesting allegations brings to focus questions about police transparency, impartiality and integrity in dealing with crime allegations against police officers and the tendency to cover crimes allegedly committed by one of their own.

Nnamdi Daniel Emeh, the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) member who was engaged by the Rapid Response Squad, Awkuzu, Anambra State as an IT consultant had revealed startling allegations of human organ trafficking, kidnapping and killing of suspects after extorting them. He named some top police officers in Anambra State Police Command as allegedly involved in the heinous crimes.

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Following public outrage, the Inspector-General of Police set up a team of police officers headed by an Assistant Commissioner of Police at the IGP Monitoring Unit to investigate. The police, after some dramatic moves, promised to make the outcome of investigation public.

The Nigeria Police Force on February 20, 2023 declared Emeh wanted for allegedly impersonating an Assistant Superintendent of Police in Anambra State.

He was eventually arrested in a joint operation by INTERPOL operatives in Benin Republic and Nigeria on Friday, March 3, 2023. After several weeks in detention, he was charged to court for multiple offenses.

But the Nigeria police are yet to make good their promise to make public the outcome of investigation of the allegations of organ harvesting. This is reminiscent of the same dramatic moves and promises by the Lagos State Police Command to make public the outcome of investigation into the allegations of rape of a female inmate by a DPO in Lagos some years ago. But till date, the only thing we know about the matter is that the accused DPO was redeployed and has been enjoying promotions.

Worthy of note is the efficiency and dispatch with which the police tracked the whistle-blower to Benin Republic, arrested and brought him back, detained him over a long period of time, filed multiple charges against him and he was arraigned and remanded in prison custody while the matter appears to be forgotten. This case underscores the efficiency that the police can exhibit when it suits their purpose and their ability to also cover up, as with the apparent bid to silence the whistle-blower and sweep the case under the carpet.

Covering crime and shielding police officers accused of crime: a ‘familiar spirit’

The Anambra Organ harvesting allegations would not be the first alleged crime that the Nigeria Police would appear to cover up and shield their officers accused of involvement. It is typical.

It is difficult to forget the Otta multiple bank armed robbery incident a few years back, the controversy over the whereabouts of the proceeds of the crime, and the shocking extra-judicial killing of the kingpin of the armed robbery gang, said to be in possession of the money looted from the different banks. This case remains a sore thumb which illustrates the culture of police cover up of crimes. It is yet another case about which the Nigeria Police failed to provide answers to questions. The silence of the Police over questions and calls for explanations speaks volumes.

The continued stay by CP Ahmed Barde as Imo CP despite his indictment and redeployment

The deafening silence of the Police high command over questions as to why CP Ahmed Barde has continued to remain in Imo as the Commissioner of Police despite his redeployment and the yet to be concluded investigation into his ‘disgraceful acts’ during the Adamawa governorship election is yet another albatross hanging on the neck of the Police as an institution that is supposed to be guided by discipline, integrity and accountability.

The following are excerpts from the IGP’s query to Barde dated June 1, 2023:

“These intentional and disgraceful acts of yours were despite prior notifications and warnings by the Deputy Inspector General of Police Operations who called you via GSM on the 15th of April 2023 intimating you of intelligence regarding the plans by the REC to illegally announce results, which he eventually did with your due presence.

“The totality of your actions which were captured in viral videos generated public outcry and condemnation, portrayed the Force in an extremely negative light, and would have occasioned an enormous crisis in the State if not for the prompt deployment of reinforcements.

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“You have therefore undoubtedly debased the exalted rank of Commissioner of Police and brought the image of the Force to an all-time low.”

If after this indictment of Mr. Barde by the police high command, for his disgraceful acts in Adamawa; If, knowing that Barde is a partisan political hatchet man, as has been demonstrated by his roles during the Presidential and State Assembly elections in Imo and later, during the governorship election in Adamawa; if after the PSC had deployed a new CP to Imo State Police Command, Barde is allowed to continue to seat tight as Commissioner of Police in Imo, then discipline has completely broken down in the Nigeria Police and the dire consequences on the entire NPF apparatus is unfathomable.

It is unfathomable why Barde has not been compelled to leave Imo and made to face disciplinary actions for the grave numerous allegations of discreditable conducts unbecoming of a public officer hanging on him.

Incumbent Governor Uzodinma is a candidate in the November governorship election in Imo State. If Barde, his puppet, is allowed to supervise the November 2023 governorship election in Imo State, then it will be safe and logical to conclude that there is an official conspiracy to rig the Imo State gubernatorial election with the police and other security outfits under the control of the governor being the main tools to achieve a coup against democracy and against the will of the people of Imo State. What this will do to the integrity, image and legitimacy of the NPF is not difficult to fathom.
The case of the Ondo Police Officer who demanded bribe on phone with a promise to kill a suspect in custody in order to permanently kill a case.

There is also the recent case of a policeman in Ondo Command who called a Shagamu based businessman on phone, leveled surprising and spurious allegations of buying stollen goods against him, ordered him to report at the Ondo Command- all the way from Shagamu, under Ogun Command, with a threat to invade and liquidate his business if he failed to report, and his subsequent demand of bribe of 10 million Naira on phone with a promise to kill the remaining of two suspects in their custody in order to permanently kill the case.

Although this was Published in the media, and the attention of the Force Headquarters authorities and the Ondo State Police authorities brought to it, yet, there have been no words or known actions from the police against the police officer. What can be more egregious and chilling than the crime of demanding bribe to summarily execute a suspect in custody in order to permanently kill a case?

I believe that the answers to the questions posed at the beginning can be deduced from the different cases used to illustrate a prevailing pattern of egregious abuses that have brought to serious question, the legitimacy of the Nigeria Police.
The Nigeria police are established by law to serve and protect Nigerians. They owe Nigerians answers to these and many other questions. They need to take urgent and deliberate measures to redeem the institution and restore public trust, respect, partnership and support.

*Okechukwu Nwanguma, is a human rights advocate, wrote from Lagos

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