By Kunle Uthman
The Federal Republic of Nigeria is a Constitutional Democracy and Chapter IV of her constitution copiously stipulates in clear and unambiguous terms the Fundamental Human Rights of the citizens. It is within this context that it is imperative to periscope the conduct of Chief of Police in Lagos State, Hakeem Odumosu and his security team in respect of the recent “Magodo invasion”. The arrest of the Estate security men was wrong, lawless, abrasive, uncouth and displayed no respect whatsoever for the ordinary residents of that Estate. The Commissioner of Police ought to know that he ought to conduct himself with restraint, decorum and respect, no matter the circumstances, because of his exalted office and primary responsibility: to protect.
Therefore, his order to arrest and detain the security details and a member of the executive committee of that Estate in those circumstances was unacceptable, misuse of power and at variance with his constitutional powers and may not be justifiable in those circumstances.
Apparently, he was en route to a private event, and the explanation by the Police Public Relations Officer. that he went there to meet someone in relation to security will not under any circumstances justify the serial events that took place.
It is most relevant to emphasise that in the recent past, residents of Magodo Estate have been traumatised by an invasion of ‘Omo oniles’ (landowners) who held them captive and “imprisoned” under the pretext of a court order.
It is convoluting and mind boggling that he, Odumosu deemed it obligatory to arrive a private estate with a retinue of policemen, including riders to usher in “The Emperor and Royal Majesty”. That was wrong and a clear manifestation of abuse of power. I like most others (of like minds) commend the security details of that estate – what is “sauce for the goose ought to be sauce for the gander” is a lexicon taught in secondary school (Lacombe), which encapsulate the maxim: all citizens are equal before the law, irrespective of social status. This is a fundamental ingredient and prerequisite of the Rule of Law, the basis of democratic governance everywhere in democracies.
As a (seasoned) policeman, Hakeem Odumosu ought to be familiar with this legal maxim and under no circumstances whatsoever will he be excused or exonerated that he behaved wrongly and wittingly treated the citizens Federal Republic of Nigeria with odium, disdain and disrespect.
As a responsible citizen and senior police officer, he ought to apologise (as a gentleman) in unequivocal terms to the residents of that Estate for the infringement of the right to privacy and security of lives and properties.
Recall, the one year anniversary of #EndSARS, Odumosu was the one that constituted himself into a one-man riot outfit, instructing his “boys” to “Chase them!!!” and ordered the firing of tear gas to disperse the people on that day. Earlier, he had taken charge by ordering the nature, character and mode of the protest instructing, as it were, that the protesters must remain in their vehicles and not disembark. Not even His Excellency, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the Executive Governor of Lagos State displayed such brash arrogant behaviour in a democratic government. The conditions precedent to protests are clear and there are legion of litigations on this issue. It is not a matter for the discretion of one person no matter his office as a policeman.
The residents of Magodo Estate should consider the veritable legal options available to them if he fails, neglects or refuses to do the needful in these circumstances.
In actual fact and in truth, prominent citizens and officials of the Lagos State Government in the bureaucracy, judges of the High Court of Lagos State, senior lawyers and respectable citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria reside in Magodo Estate. They deserve to be treated with utmost respect, being good taxpayers.
Furthermore, It is important to do this to serve as a deterrence to his successor as Commissioner of Police in Lagos State or any other officer in the Nigerian Police Force, who may be contemplating following in Odumosu’s footsteps. Ours is a Constitutional democracy and not a “Banana Republic”. The Inspector General of Police is obliged to instruct all policemen everywhere in the Federal Republic of Nigeria to conduct themselves with decorum and decency.
With his retirement and exit from the Nigerian Police Force, we pray that our dear Lagos State may not have the misfortune to have such a cocky, lawless, abrasive character who runs foul of the fundamental human rights of the Nigerians under the constitution and other extant laws as its No. 1 police officer. It is good riddance…
Our security forces at all levels must understand that their primary responsibility is protecting and safeguarding the lives of people and not attack, arrest or detain for unjustifiable reasons. We must necessarily be guarded by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. A “Stitch In Time Saves Nine.”
Chief ‘Kunle Uthman is a Legal Practitioner and member, Body of Benchers.