In the midst of the uproar, protests, and loud calls for an investigation into the mysterious death of music star, Ilerioluwa Oladimeji Aloba (aka Mohbad), civil society groups have expressed doubts about the police’s effectiveness in unravelling those linked to his death.
The shocking death and swift burial of Mohbad last week sparked outrage after disturbing videos and a threat-to-life petition to Nigeria Police were leaked on social media, following a series of altercations and assaults he allegedly suffered from former record label, owner and popular musician, Azzez Fashola (aka Naira Marley).
Responding to the frenzied calls for justice by ordinary Nigerians and celebrities, the police unveiled a crack team of detectives to probe the circumstances surrounding Mohbad’s death.
Also, Newspot on Tuesday reported that the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu invited the Department of State Services, DSS, to join in the investigation of the death of the 27-year-old singer.
Already, the police announced on Thursday that an autopsy has been completed on the late artiste. This was confirmed via a post on the Nigeria Police’s official X account on Thursday night. Mohbad’s body was exhumed earlier in the week for that purpose.
However, amid these assurances by the police to carry out diligent investigation, civil society groups have registered doubt on the functionality, capability, and integrity of the Nigeria Police to solve the complexities surrounding Mohbad’s death.
One of the rights activists, Okechukwu Nwanguma, executive director of the Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre (RULAAC) on Tuesday said Mohbad’s case and others reignite 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 possessed of a professional focus, forensic capabilities and the determination and commitment to unravelling 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?”
Nwanguma in a statement sent to Newspot, took a cursory look at some cases that exposed the Nigeria police’s poor judgement and lack of investigative diligence.
“On 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.
“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.
“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 ‘mobilisation’ to enable the police carry out an investigation. This is often excused on the grounds of official neglect, deprivation and unavailability of 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 ‘mobilisation’ 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?”
Nwanguma cited more unsolved cases to register their concerns about the transparency, impartiality, and discipline of the police.
“The Delta State Police Command has taken no known action against allegations of obtaining money by false pretence against Harrison Gwamnishu, a self-proclaimed human rights activist, despite a petition from civil society groups,” he said.
Nwanguma also cited an unresolved case in Anambra State, where the police are yet to reveal the outcome of their investigation into allegations of organ harvesting, kidnapping and killing of suspects after extortion.
The RULAAC director also recounted the unsolved case of the Ondo Police Officer who demanded a bribe of N10 million on the phone with a promise to kill a suspect in custody in order to permanently kill a 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 a bribe to summarily execute a suspect in custody in order to permanently kill a case?” Nwanguma queried.
Also for William Essien, a Community Protection Group (CPG) rights campaigner, the outcry for justice, and assurance by police to solve the controversy surrounding Mohbad’s death should be taken with utmost scepticism.
He said, “I do not expect much from the ongoing police investigations into the death of Mohbad. I say this because the assassination of Dele Giwa serves as a reminder that even when the suspects are known, lack of evidence can hinder legal conviction.
“While emotions cannot convict in criminal trials, the stigma will forever remain with the suspects.
“The biggest lesson is the spotlight that now shines on the seedy underbelly of record labels, where drugs, cultism, and violence often lurk.
“In 2020, the death of George Floyd sparked outrage across the globe and brought the Black Lives Matter campaign to the forefront.
“Similarly, Mohbad’s death has catalysed a movement to expose the sinister dealings within record labels. I pray for a thorough and painstaking investigation by the police.
“From history, sometimes there have been seemingly difficult murder cases that remain unsolved by the police,” Essien told Newspot.
Another rights activist, Peter Attah also shared a pessimistic view of police officers’ capacity to probe Mohbad’s death.
“Nothing will come out of the investigations,” he said.
“This is without prejudice to the ongoing police investigations in respect of the death of Mohbad. The development is such a tragic story, especially considering Mohbad’s humble background, but I am worried that both the NPF and the DSS won’t do much in unravelling the mysteries about the whole issue,” Attah added.
However, even with the pessimism among these CSOs, David Adeneye a human rights lawyer argued that the police should not be written off, but rather be encouraged to do thorough investigation on Mohbad’s death controversy.
“I don’t belong to the group that has lost hope on the Nigeria police because I’ve seen them resolve many criminal cases.
“So, I am sure if the police are allowed to conduct a thorough investigation, a lot will be unravelled about what happened to Mohbad. And I pray perpetrators are brought to justice. The police should also look at the drug link and investigate it thoroughly,” Adeneye said.
In the same vein, Nwanguma urged the police to use Mohbad’s case as an opportunity to launder their image.
“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,” he said.