Change, Politics

#EndSARS: 365 Days from October the Twentieth

French writer Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr declared in 1849 that “the more things change, the more they stay the same”. From a literal interpretation, if things that are changing end up being like the former state, how much more when no attempt is made at creating a change, or when such change, though promised, takes up residence in a large void filled with disclaimed promises. One year after the popular protests tagged #EndSARS, has anything really changed with Nigerian policing?

Continue reading “#EndSARS: 365 Days from October the Twentieth”

Illegal Deaths: Saving Gunshot Victims in Nigeria

A popular social critic, Ayo Sogunro, has argued that “Everything in Nigeria is going to kill you”. Whereas we can debate whether this statement is valid, it is clear to me that many events that are routinely managed in saner climes are effectively death sentences in Nigeria. People die due to preventable causes, such as accident victims or gunshot victims, where speedy transfer to a hospital and immediate start of resuscitation can be the difference between a refurbished body and a formaldehyde-preserved one.

On Friday, 15 January 2021, a budding Nigerian, David Ntekim Rex lost his life in saddening circumstances. Although it is clear that the root cause of his death were the bullets of some mindless robbers, there is dispute as to the role of the Nigerian Police and healthcare facilities in facilitating David’s death. Regardless of whether some police officers refused to help David, or some hospitals denied him care, reading about his death made me realise that anyone in Nigeria could have been David. You go about your business trying to earn an honest keep; unfortunately, you find yourself at the other end of a gun barrel, and your staying alive suddenly depends on whether hospitals would agree to treat you. Why should this be so?

For several decades, many Nigerians lost their lives to gunshot injuries. Thanks to the feared propensity of police officers to ignore the concept of “right to life”, most healthcare facilities refused to treat gunshot victims except a police report was presented. Just think about your sibling bleeding outside a hospital while you run to the nearest police station to get a report from a police officer who may not be on seat, or may not have paper to print, or may not even have electricity to draft a report. You finally get a report authorised after a few hours and run back to the hospital to learn your sibling is dead. Gruesomely murdered not by the gun but by a dysfunctional system that could not care about his life and dreams.

To fix this anomaly, in 2017, the “Compulsory Treatment and Care for Victims of Gunshots Act” was passed by the National Assembly and assented by President Muhammadu Buhari. The very first section in this Act clearly stipulates that:

“As from the commencement of this Act, every hospital in Nigeria whether public or private shall accept or receive, for immediate and adequate treatment with or without police clearance, any person with a gunshot wound.”

Section 11 of the Act, if truly enforced, would have made this article unnecessary. It states that:

“Any Person or authority including any police officer, other security agent or hospital who stands by and fails to perform his duty under this Act which results in the unnecessary [illegal!] death of any person with gunshot wounds commits and offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of ₦500,000.00 or imprisonment for a term of five years or both.”

In my view, there are three reasons why after three years we still have gunshot victims being denied care. Firstly, there is ignorance by the police, healthcare personnel, and the general public. Many persons are unaware that there is actually a law banning any demand for police reports before treatment. Secondly, there is fear among healthcare personnel that they could be harassed by unruly police officers if they were to treat gunshot victims, or they may fall foul of the Act’s requirement to inform “the nearest police station within two hours of commencement of treatment”. Thirdly, there is unenforcement of the Act by the police establishment. If there had been any reports of police officers or hospitals being prosecuted and convicted for illegally killing a gunshot victim, maybe the status quo would have changed.

Lest we become the next David, there are two corrective measures that I believe would make the 2017 Act more relevant for preserving lives in Nigeria. The first measure is to revamp the Act, especially Section 3(1) that requires hospitals to report gunshot cases to the police within two hours. Unless otherwise stated, if we are dealing with a government institution in Nigeria, two hours is too small. Half of that time might even be spent in traffic. I would rather have that timeline increased to something like five hours, with a provision for more time in cases where the entire five hours are spent trying to stabilise a victim. Still on this section, rather than have a hospital try to find a police station, why not have the police setup a toll-free dedicated line (nationwide coverage) that can be reached via text message? A hospital that receives a gunshot victim would only need to send a text message stating that it has a gunshot victim in its facility; then it becomes the duty of the police establishment to identify the nearest police station and dispatch its officers if required. This way, hospitals can focus on what they are actually established for – saving lives!

The second measure concerns the National Orientation Agency (NOA) and the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC). I deem these two agencies responsible for public ignorance regarding the 2017 Act, and therefore guilty of facilitating the deaths of all who could have been saved from gunshot injuries since December 2017. While there is a place for well-meaning individuals and non-governmental organisations to help, if NOA and FCCPC are properly funded and do their jobs correctly, every Nigerian should be aware that police reports are not required before a gunshot victim is treated. This would also give the public confidence to approach hospitals for treatment, especially in cases where the gunshot victim has not committed any crime, and is therefore free of any fear that involving hospitals could lead to future arrest after treatment. The same way we have public campaigns via diverse media for polio eradication and COVID-19 response, there should be nothing keeping NOA and FCCPC from a grassroots drive to get every police officer, healthcare personnel, and the general public aware that hospitals can and should treat gunshot victims without any encumbrances whatsoever.

Image Credit:

Lekki Toll Gate Massacre
Change, Politics

#EndSARS: A Nation in Need of Healing

“It has been said, ‘time heals all wounds.’ I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it is never gone”

Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy

On 1 October 2020, Nigeria marked 60 years of independence from British colonial rule. Unknown to merry makers and observers, barely a week later, a sequence of events would lead to young Nigerians demanding independence from a faux democratic elite symbolised by the infamous police unit, the Special Anti- Robbery Squad (SARS). Within two weeks, events have evolved from peaceful protests led by an educated base to unmatched rioting and looting led by the uneducated thugs we love to fear.

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Change, Randoms

When Humaneness Goes Missing

Charles Darwin’s evolution theory and its upliftment of the doctrine of “survival of the fittest” may have painted a picture of a human race primarily consisting of selfish humans only interested in themselves. However, people have repeatedly showed that humans are not some overtly self-centred species lacking the capacity for compassion, but that in the midst of a fight for survival, many humans would stick out their necks to save others, even if those needing salvation were random strangers. It then becomes sad when we see humans acting like a herd of giraffes that leave the weakest for the stomachs of approaching lions. Continue reading “When Humaneness Goes Missing”

Change, Politics

Seat Fillers or Potential Legacies?

In a hierarchical society, the goal of many persons is to someday get to the top. Whether in the public service or in the private sector, holding the top role in an organization is usually the ultimate aim. Having recognized this drive for the zenith, one wonders whether hierarchy should be treated as sacrosanct, or whether hierarchy should sometimes be ignored in the best interest of an organization. This is not a palatable thought, but in the interest of providing platforms for lasting legacies, it is a thought worth considering. Continue reading “Seat Fillers or Potential Legacies?”

Change, Politics

To Serve and Protect?

The Nigeria Police Force, with the different colours worn by its officers, serves as the most obvious representation of the country’s stand against criminality, and enforcers of law and order. Whereas this noble description serves well on paper, the reality for many Nigerians is disappointingly grim. The NPF surely has a smattering of good officers, but a sizable majority of its officers have no clue what it means to “serve and protect”. The reality for Nigerians is that these bad eggs are not protectors, but purveyors of pain and death, from whom Nigerians deserve to be protected. Continue reading “To Serve and Protect?”