Despite the high rate of criminality in Nigeria, the lacklustre attitude of the Nigerian police towards investigations and the DPP’s inability to expedite action on cases has continued to hamper criminal justice administration.
Using a distraught young lady whose case has dragged on for over a decade, LUKMAN ABOLADE takes a look at how certain man-made factors delay prosecution, thus fostering citizens’ distrust in the judicial system.
An arduous 10 years has gone by when a mild altercation nearly claimed the life of a budding artist, Temitope Bankole. The wounds inflicted on her during the incident have healed, leaving behind sad reminders in the form of ugly, deep scars on her face, neck and arm.
She is still deeply consumed by sorrow any time images of herself covered with blood and gasping for breath after allegedly being stabbed several times by her landlord’s son, Tobi, flashes through her mind. At the time of the incident, Tobi was 19 years old.
While trying to give voice to her struggles in the face of alleged judicial suppression and victimisation, Temitope, paid a visit to PUNCH Nigeria Limited to tell her story. She claimed her musical career, which she embarked on at the age of 16, ended abruptly because of the incident. Temitope said all she has left is a broken dream and permanent scars, which she tries hard to conceal.
Life altering encounters
Her sad ordeal began in 2007, shortly after she rented a room apartment in a house owned by Ebenezer Obadina, Tobi’s father, in the Iyana-Ipaja area of Lagos. Temitope said a few days after moving in, she saw her landlord’s son mercilessly beat up an elderly female tenant.
“I noticed he has a penchant for threatening women or children and wanted everyone to be scared of him,” she said.
But the young lady never envisaged that a worse fate laid in wait for her. Temitope recollected her first encounter with Tobi in 2012, with great pain.
She recounted, “I met him on the way to the kitchen. He grabbed my wrist and refused to let go. He aggressively grabbed the matchbox I was holding and threw it away. He laughed and said he had been watching me and boasted about how he had beaten every woman in the compound, even those bigger, and threatened to deal with me.”
Temitope’s second encounter, which took place a week later, appeared to be quite disturbing.
She narrated, “On my way back from an interview, I saw a bus driving dangerously towards me. It almost knocked me down, if not that I ran to safety. It was after the vehicle passed that I noticed it was being driven by Tobi. He made a U-turn and drove towards me again. I was in shock. It was when the bus was close that I jumped and he drove past with speed. I thought the vehicle had a brake failure but was shocked when he peeped out of the window to say he thought that I was strong. When I got home, I told my mother who came on a visit what happened and she warned him not to try such with me again.”
Temitope said Tobi was undeterred by the warning, and unbeknown to her, he had hatched a more sinister plan that almost claimed her life.
Stabbed with bottles on the face, neck
Temitope said in July 2012, he came to meet her at the backyard where she was fetching water and hit her on the chest.
She said, “He called me an old, unmarried lady. He insulted my mother and described my family members as nobodies. I left him and went into my room. He came to my doorstep and threatened to inflict injuries on me. My brother wanted to report him to the police, but I begged him to wait till the next day as he was outside fomenting trouble. Tobi later broke the glass on my window, poured a bucket of water into the room and dared me to come outside. After a while, he left.
“Tobi returned at night and banged on my door. He ordered me to come outside that death has come. When I opened the door, he went after my brother and stabbed him with a broken bottle. While trying to prevent him from inflicting more injuries on him, I lost my balance and fell. At that point, he left my brother and began to stab me on the back and neck.”
Temitope said Tobi stabbed her viciously until she became dizzy.
Amid struggling not to slip into unconsciousness and drenched with blood, Temitope said she saw Tobi still trying to stab her brother, but this time, on his chest.
“I told him to run. The thought of my parents losing the two of us was too much to bear,” she sobbed. Temitope said she never knew her torture in the hands of Tobi had just started, as he again, attacked her. He cut my hands, back and face with the bottle. I could only cry faintly for help. No tenant could come to my rescue because he threatened to stab them. There was no adult male in the house that day except his father. The women cried and begged him to stop but he refused. One of them, Mrs. Olusola Ajayi, couldn’t take it anymore and came close to help but ran away after Tobi stabbed her.
“When Tobi left me alone, I managed to crawl to the veranda, where I saw his father and begged him to take me to the hospital. Instead of helping, he just held me down. By then, people on the street were aware of what was happening and some came to my rescue,” she said.
From the pictures made available to PUNCH Investigations, taken immediately after the incident, the woman had a deep cut on her right hand, allegedly inflicted by Tobi.
Long, murky road to finding justice
Tobi was arrested days later by policemen from the Moshalashi Divisional Police Station, Iyana-Ipaja and charged to court.
Based on the charge sheet dated December 14, 2012, prepared by the Investigating Police Officer, Daniel Omale, and obtained by PUNCH Investigations, he was charged with assault leading to bodily injuries.
Temitope revealed that after the case came up for its first hearing at the Magistrates Court on December 14, 2012, an Assistant Superintendent of Police advised her to have it transferred to the Federal High Court because it was attempted murder and not just an assault.
PUNCH Investigations learnt that since the first hearing took place, slow court processes and delay in issuing advice by the Department of Public Prosecutions, among others, have prevented Temitope from getting the justice she desired.
This development, to a great extent, has added her to the growing list of frustrated victims struggling to get justice from the country’s justice system, which has variously been described as flawed and riddled with avoidable man-made delays.
Based on the annual ranking of countries by the World Justice Project, a non-governmental Organisation that promotes the administration of justice, Nigeria ranks 118 out of 140 countries on its index on the rule of law.
The judiciary is regarded as the last hope of the common man, going by the huge responsibility of justice dispensation assigned to it by society. However, with justice dispensation known to painstakingly drag on forever, many Nigerians have lost confidence in it as a means to getting equitable justice.
This worrisome phenomenon has always been seen to be inimical to the attainment of substantial justice and in some instances, linked to miscarriage of justice.
In 2018, during the inaugural annual lecture series of the Adedokun Adebayo Adeyemi Foundation, titled ‘Criminal Justice Administration in Nigeria: Past, Present and Future’, a former judge of the Court of Appeal, Mojeed Owoade, said indiscriminate transfer of Police prosecutors, inability of prosecutors to produce witnesses, frequent adjournments, uncompleted investigation and inadequacy of courts and judicial personnel, were among factors responsible for the slow process of criminal justice in the country.
Legalpedia, a website that provides relevant, cutting-edge technology to the Nigerian legal profession, noted that delays in trials constitute grave impediments to the right to fair hearing and due process, stressing that justice delayed is justice denied. It noted that the problem of delay in trial is a direct outcome of many other problems confronting the agencies involved in criminal justice administration.
It listed factors responsible for delays in trials to include adjournment, police delayed investigation, delay by the Ministry of Justice in filling information and proofs of evidence shortage of personnel, underutilisation of staff; personnel transfer, delay tactics, indifference and laziness of lawyers, inadequate funding, poor conditions of service; shortage and outdated equipment.
Legalpedia added, “Delay in concluding a case is not in furtherance of justice. It is inimical and scandalous to the administration of justice. Trial courts should do their best and enhance the dispensation of justice by expeditious conclusion of cases”
Others of her ilk
Temitope is not alone in this quagmire. Jessica James is among several Nigerians that have faced delays in the administration of criminal justice, which has stalled their quick access to justice. Born in 2001, Jessica’s mother and father, Emmanuel, separated when she was a toddler.
After years of being hounded with questions about her father’s whereabouts, Jessica’s mother bowed to pressure in 2010, and sent her to reunite with him in Abuja.
In Abuja, she discovered that her father was living with one of his many wives, but they later separated in 2018. Jessica told our correspondent that she never knew the development would change the course of her life forever.
“Shortly after the separation, my father began to sexually abuse me. He started asking me questions about my menstrual circle. One day, he came to my room with a cutlass and forcefully inserted his fingers inside my private parts,” she said amid sobs.
Jessica said after the incident, she tried to contact her mother, only to discover that she had died. Luckily, she was able to locate her stepmother and reported the abominable act to her.
“My stepmother confronted him and he beat her up. He also beat me mercilessly for telling her.” She added. Jessica alleged that the abuse did not stop, noting that her father made another attempt to molest her, but she resisted. “He beat me until I ran outside naked. I was rescued by neighbours,” she said.
PUNCH Investigations learnt that a neighbour filed a report at the Mabushi Police Station and James was arrested. He was granted bail when the Eket community in Abuja offered to resolve the matter internally.
Three months after the matter was resolved and Jessica made to return to her father’s house, he allegedly raped and impregnated her. She revealed that he procured an abortion for her after the pills he gave to her failed to force out the foetus.
PUNCH Investigations learnt that while still recovering from the medical procedure, her father resumed his sexual assault. She said, “Two weeks after, he raped and got me pregnant again. He continued to rape me while I was pregnant. One day, when I resisted, he beat me to the point that I had a miscarriage. I had to run to my pastor.”
The pastor contacted an NGO, which petitioned the FCT Police Command in June 2020. James was arrested and charged to court in December 2021, but the case has suffered a series of adjournments.
Lured and sodomised
Similarly, the case of seven-year-old, Nasir, an almajiri (street child) lured and raped by a 53-year-old fish seller, Mai Kifi, in Maraban-Jos, Kaduna State, leaves a sour aftertaste in the mouth.
It was gathered that the sexual assault, which weakened the boy’s anal muscle, leading to health complications, had been going on for a long before it was discovered and reported in June 2017. But the long wait to have the case transferred to the High Court, made his parents to abandon the pursuit for justice.
A former National Coordinator of Arridah Relief Foundation, Rabi Ibrahim, who took up the case, told our correspondent that the boy could not speak about the assault until he became sick.
She said the suspect was arraigned before a Magistrates Court in Kaduna, from where the case was transferred to a High Court. Salisu said subsequently, the foundation was not notified of further developments on the case by the court, and that after some time, the suspect was granted bail. “Mai Kifi is back to his fish business and walking around a free man. They said he was sick while awaiting trial and was released without our knowledge. Delayed prosecution has stalled the case,” she lamented.
Alleged sexual demand
Like the two outlined cases, Temitope also had similar factors highlighted by Legalpedia as being responsible for delayed justice.
She particularly accused the Nigerian Police and lawyers handling her case of deliberately trying to pervert justice by refusing to present and admit credible evidence against her assailant. She alleged that she was introduced to a lawyer, Goke Olakunlehin, who promised to help her file a petition and get the case transferred to a High Court. She, however, alleged that after filing the petition, he made sexual advances at her, but she declined.
She is a disgruntled individual – lawyer
Confronted with the allegation levelled against him by Temitope, the lawyer denied ever making such a demand. “Me? I did no such thing,” he spluttered, looking shocked. He stated, “She came to me only once after she was introduced by someone. I just tried to help her, and after filing the petition, she just stopped contacting me. She even stopped coming to court. I have never met with her privately.” Olakunlehin claimed to no longer remember details of the petition, recalling that it created problems for him at the Magistrates court.
He said, “It has been about 10 to 12 years since it happened. I didn’t take a dime from her. It was a pro bono case (without payment). It almost ruined a settlement for me. She is a disgruntled individual looking for something to defame me with.”
When Temitope was told about the lawyer’s defence, she claimed to have sent several text messages to him, but got no response, adding that his action prompted her to start going to court by herself.
The endless wait for DPP’s advice
She alleged that after she was assigned a lawyer by the Ministry of Justice in 2013, the DPP’s delayed advice stalled the case for two years.
“I lost hope and almost abandoned the case. I waited till 2015 before the DPP advised that the case be heard at the Magistrates Court because there was not enough evidence to support the claim that Tobi wanted to kill me,” she said.
The DPP is a department under a state’s Ministry of Justice headed by an Attorney General or Commissioner of Justice appointed by the Governor, constitutionally empowered to institute criminal proceedings against any person.
One of the functions of the DPP includes determining if a case can be tried in a Magistrates or High Court after evaluating the evidence gathered and presented by the police.
A human rights lawyer, Liborous Oshoma, noted that delays by DPP and police prosecutors have significantly contributed to the high number of awaiting trial inmates at correctional facilities.
He said due to the slow processes usually witnessed, awaiting trial inmates are kept indefinitely in poorly maintained and overcrowded correctional facilities for several years, before their fate is decided.
According to data from the NCS, as of October 10, 2022, a total of 76, 031 inmates are in custody, out of which only 22,968 are convicted inmates, while 53,063 are awaiting trials.
DPP lawyer refused to enter evidence
Temitope further alleged that the DPP lawyer assigned to her case, Mubin Anamo, refused to enter two significant pieces of evidence as exhibits before the court. She said though the IPO submitted the evidence, it was not presented.
She nurses deep fears that if the pieces of evidence are excluded, she might eventually be denied justice.
“They were not in my file. When I confronted the lawyer, he said there were other cases waiting for his attention and that he needed to wrap up and move to them. The evidence would have gone a long way in proving my case, but he said presenting them would make the case stay longer in court,” she added tearfully.
When our correspondent reached out to Anamo, he claimed to have submitted enough evidence to get justice for his client. He, however, admitted not submitting those she later presented. Anamo denied telling her that presenting them to the court would stall the case.
“How can a client tell a lawyer which document is right or wrong? Could she be more knowledgeable than the lawyer?” he asked rhetorically.
The DPP lawyer explained that the pieces of evidence were not in the file as of the time he made his presentation, adding, “It was later that she came to my office with them. If she needed me to present them, she should have brought them earlier, not when I was done with my case. This is serious ingratitude because I made efforts to get witnesses, and she knows. We presented the victim, her brother and the IPO to the court. They gave verbal and detailed information about what happened. I already told her that the evidence before the court was sufficient to prove her case.”
Case file returned to DPP
The lawyer claimed Temitope stood up in court to accuse him of not allowing her to tender pieces of evidence before the magistrate, noting that this got him angry and he returned the case file to the DPP’s office to be reassigned.
PUNCH Investigations learnt that consequently, Anamo did not make an appearance on the next date of adjournment. As it stands, Temitope has no DPP lawyer to represent her in court on January 23, 2023, which was earmarked for closing remarks.
When PUNCH Investigations contacted the IPO, Omale, assigned to Temitope’s case, he said, “I can’t say anything about that case again. I have already submitted my findings. So if you need anything, you can go to the court to find out.”
I don’t know if my son did it, Tobi’s father
When our correspondent met with Obadina, Tobi’s father, at his residence in Iyana-Ipaja, two girls, who referred to him as Baba Obadina, acted as intermediaries.
Frail by age, the elderly man had developed hearing impairment and greatly depended on them to re-echo questions, before he could respond appropriately. Obadina said he could not tell if it was his son that attacked Temitope.
“On the day of the incident, there were many tenants there, and there was no light. So, I can’t say if it was my son that injured her or not,” Obadina said feebly.
When our correspondent requested Tobi’s phone number and address, the elderly man reeled out an address but claimed not to have the former.
Our correspondent’s search for Tobi in the same area turned out to be a wild goose chase, as it turned out that the address given by his father was non-existent.
‘Delayed justice breeds distrust in the justice system’
Speaking on temitope’s case including others, the human rights lawyer, Oshoma, warned that unnecessary delays in justice dispensation could lead to loss of interest in seeking redress in the court by Nigerians.
He said, “When a matter is delayed unnecessarily while waiting for the DPP’s advice, a complainant might become frustrated. Most complainants are not well-to-do and will feel cheated by the lackadaisical attitude and sluggishness of the justice system. Finally, they will say since they can’t get justice from man, they will leave it to God.”
Oshoma noted that another consequence of delayed DPP’s advice is that a complainant and witnesses might experience memory loss.
“Memory might fail those meant to testify. Also, the IPO might be transferred, and if there is no funds for him to appear before the court, it might be said that there is not enough evidence to charge an accused. That could be devastating for those involved,” he said.
Delays can engender self-help
The lawyer further noted that delayed prosecution could make people take the law into their own hands. “We should not forget that justice delayed is justice denied. Once advice is delayed on cases, what it means is that you have delayed the cause of justice, and people would suffer unnecessarily for it,” he added.
Oshoma averred that DPP’s advice remained an excellent way to foster justice administration, urging the government to make process efficient.
“It is a beautiful practice because some police officials are not trained in the act of law. If not for DPP’s advice, innocent people would have been convicted and punished for a crime they didn’t commit. We should work towards making sure that the process is fast-tracked. More funds should be budgeted for this aspect of the dispensation of justice.” he advised.
Situation may breed lack of trust – CLEEN Foundation
The Communication Officer of CLEEN Foundation, an NGO that promotes access to justice, Anna White, warned that delay in getting justice might breed distrust in the judiciary.
White said, “People will continue to lose trust in the judicial process, thereby, making the system redundant. People need to get justice for wrongs done to them and in time too. Until the wheels of justice administration are serviced and accelerated, many Nigerians seeking justice will continue to abandon their cases and injustice will prevail.’’
Delay detrimental to investigations, say police
The spokesperson for the Nigerian Police Force, Muyiwa Adejobi, said delayed DPP’s advice can adversely affect police investigations and prosecution.
“DPP’s advice is critical to police investigations and prosecution of cases, especially capital offences and those that by law require such advice. The criminal justice system is complex and the actors must be active and perfect. It is a known fact that delays in getting DPP’s advice will definitely have an adverse effect on our prosecution, even on further investigations into some cases.”
Adejobi urged DPPs across the states to put measures in place to fast-track the process.
Contacted to speak on Temitope’s case and also to know why it takes the DPP a long time to give appropriate advice on cases, the Director of Public Affairs, Lagos State Ministry of Justice, Grace Alo, said a text message should be sent to her mobile. However, no response has been received from her at the time this report was filed. ,
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