Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Imohimi Edgal, has given details into why the state command will prosecute staff of Reddington Specialist Hospital, Ikeja, over the death of Adebayo Akinwunmi, a senior engineer with Information and Communications Technology company, Ericsson.
The deceased was attacked by armed robbers around 1am in his house on Madam Felicia Street, Orimerunmu, Ofada-Mokoloki, in the Obafemi Owode Local Government Area of Ogun State.
He was reportedly rushed to the hospital and was not given treatment for allegedly failing to produce a police report.
In this interview, Edgal also gives insight into the secret behind his ability to reduce violent crime in the state.
On resumption as the CP in Lagos, you organised several town hall meetings. Why such an approach and has it yielded any positive result?
My strategy is community policing and safety partnership, which is anchored heavily on the involvement of members of the community in how their localities are policed. Before now, the police truly had lost the trust and confidence of the people and they were not ready to work with you. Where does the information come from? Lagos is expanding every day, with a population of well over 23 million people. My police staff strength is barely below 28,000 and inside that 28,000, some are specialists. The active ones cannot be more than 18,000.
You can’t cover everywhere. You need partnership with the people so that we have eyes everywhere. Because of that I attended over 14 town hall meetings, where I explained my policing plan to the people and, between September last year and now, you can see the great strides of achievements because there is now in and outflow of information. This is why, across the state, we are eliminating ritual murder in Ikorodu and other parts of the state. Armed robbery of all forms is on the decline. Crimes related to the creeks, riverine areas are on the decline. You hardly hear of car snatching and banditry. It is because the people are now working with the police. We have been able to reassure them that, under my watch, it will not be business as usual.
Any information that is passed freely, we must act on it. Whether it is correct or not, and because we have been doing that, we now make our findings open, so that, whether you send in information as anonymous, you see it clearly that we have taken action.
Another aspect is the response to distress. When I came on board, I had a very robust relationship with the state government. The state government has been assisting in terms of logistics. If you go round Lagos, almost every strategic location, you see a patrol vehicle. These are donations from the state government through the Lagos State Security Trust Fund.
We are also getting a lot of support from the press. Lagos press is a critical press; if you don’t do your job well they will expose you and drag you down. If you want to enjoy good press, you better do your work.
Whatever strategy I am putting in place is working. The reduction in crime rate since when I took over, from the modest statistics at my disposal, is well over 40 per cent. However, that does not mean that we don’t have issues. The major issue we have is that of cultism, cult-related issues and drug abuse. These are the major vices.
We have been making a lot of seizure of drugs, especially Indian hemp, both on land and water. Recently, we intercepted Indian hemp valued way over N20 million in the water. However, it is not enough. I know other agencies are doing their own beat and, collectively, we are fighting this scourge. When I came on board as CP and I started to fight drug dealers in Mushin and Akala, a lot of people asked what my business was, since NDLEA is there. I told them that there was a strong connection between drugs and crime. What fuels crime are drugs and access to firearms. Once there are drugs and firearms, the ingredient for drug is there. We must make it difficult for hoodlums to get firearms. Fortunately, the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, gave clear directives to all those in possession of firearms to voluntarily submit them and I have shown them to the public. Nobody is going to arrest or prosecute you if you return your firearms.
Is bail really free?
We all know that bail is free. However, I cannot sit here and tell you that there are no cases of people extorting money from suspects. There are isolated cases of police seeking money for bail. One thing that is working in my favour is the move I made when I became CP. Immediately after I started the town hall meeting, I constituted an intelligence lab in Alausa, a citizen complaint call centre. Every town hall meeting I went to, I told them this, not to only report crime but also the conduct of our policemen. If any policeman tries to extort money from you for a matter that is bailable just step out and call us. You can call in English, Igbo, Hausa, Yoruba and pidgin and its 24/7.
How did that help me? Immediately we started to receive calls, we were responding to all and arresting policemen. Once people know that there will be punishment for a crime, they will not commit that crime. On the incident of corruption in Lagos, between when I assumed office till date, well over 20 policemen have been dismissed over criminal cases for those that border of disciplinary matters; over 10 have been demoted in rank. It’s no longer a slap on the wrist. The joy I’m having now within the past three, four months, the rate at which they commit the crime has reduced.
Apart from the fact that we are strict with them, we also talk with them regularly. It has begun to sink in.
There is this controversy over a gunshot victim taken to Reddington Hospital who was denied treatment. What is the update?
I must clarify how this matter started. Very early in the morning, as I usually do, I was looking through the dailies and I saw this report in one of the national dailies. Hours later, a former IGP drew my attention to the same story. A gunshot victim was brought to Reddignton Hospital and the doctors refused to touch him on the grounds that they did not bring police report. It has always been a contentious issue and this is one matter that affected police image negatively. You rush a victim of gunshot to the hospital hoping that the person will be saved only to be asked to turn back and get a police report. Naturally, if that person dies, the family places the blame on the doorsteps of the police.
The law relating to the treatment and care of victims of gunshots, 2017, was signed into law by the President. As a bill, it went through extensive debate and deliberation.
Let me remind the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) that the processes that led to the passing of that law included public hearings, submission of memoranda and other processes. That was sufficient time for them to make their own input to enrich the law. Let me also educate them that it is now a law that must be obeyed to the letter.
Now, drawing on some of the weaknesses of the law by asking question of who pays the bill is a bit shallow. The fact of this matter is straightforward. The brother and wife of the deceased rushed into the hospital from Ogun State. When they got there, he was inside the private car and the hospital was notified. A nurse came out and after a while a doctor was brought in. The doctor, according to the family, did not even examine the victim.
This particular deceased is not a victim shot somewhere and had no relationship with Reddington. This is gunshot victim whose company has a retainership with the hospital. Secondly, I have been informed, he came to open a card for himself. Therefore, he is a known patient. What is expected is that, once your patient manages to get to the confines of the hospital, you owe such patient a duty of care.
I called the management of the hospital and the family of the deceased to a meeting to do a pre-investigative session. In the presence of the hospital management, the brother of the deceased stated very clearly that the doctor came out looked at his brother and directed that they leave. When I asked the doctor, he said the victim had a gunshot injury to the chest. This is at variance with the findings at LASUTH, where the man was later taken. Medical examination showed that the gunshot was to his abdomen, which goes to show that there was no preliminary examination.
The argument of the hospital that they are a secondary facility, that they don’t have what is needed to carry out a cardio operation, was noted. However, the basic action of care that is expected from the hospital to give their patient includes a brief examination, their ambulance to convey him to the hospital in the company of a doctor. In this case it was not done. The doctor has denied asking for a police report. However, the totality of the evidence before us points that he must have requested for that report.
If there is no evidence of doctor’s report, like the doctor is claiming, we should have seen some other action to support that claim. Some little care for their patient. That patient was dismissed at the gate and for this reason, based on the investigation report forwarded to me, I ordered the officer in charge of the legal department to look through the report. There is need to take further action, which is to duplicate the case file and forward to the DPP for legal advice. This will determine whether or not we should prepare charges against the hospital in line with the provision of the treatment and care of victims of gunshot law. The law is very clear. Section 1 of the law states clearly that ‘as from commencement of this act, every hospital in Nigeria, whether public or private, shall accept for immediate and adequate treatment with or without police clearance any person with a gunshot wound.’
Section 3 also states that no person with gunshot wound shall be refused adequate treatment by any hospital in Nigeria, whether or not initial monetary deposit is paid.
In both cases, the issue of money does not come in. It is your responsibility as a doctor or hospital to do whatever you can to save that patient. If you fail in the process, it’s a different thing entirely. If you refuse, this law says that you are criminally liable.
Section 13 states clearly that any person or authority, including any police officer or security agent or hospital who stands by or omits to do his bit, which results in the unnecessary death of anyone with bullet wound, commits an offence and shall, on conviction, be liable to five years imprisonment, a fine of N50,000 or both.
Are you likely going to arrest the doctor and nurse on duty?
That is the ideal thing to do. However, because for one reason or the other, this law has not been tested, I don’t have any record where a hospital has been charged. This is why I want to forward the file to the DPP for legal advice. We don’t take it upon ourselves to submit charges only for the DPP to say, no. To show you the seriousness of this matter, it can only be tried in a High Court. The magistrate’s court does not have jurisdiction. It has been equated with serious heinous crime like kidnapping and armed robbery. This is why we are taking the file to the DPP. Lagos State (ministry of justice) will be the ones to prosecute. As long as I remain the CP of Lagos, I will follow this matter to a logical conclusion.
Pre-election activities are here with us. What are the strategies in place to stop the influx of weapons into the state?
We have been proactive. I am sure this is one of the reasons that informed the IGP giving that directive nationwide that we must go all out to mop up arms. It is also in realisation of the fact that this is an election year and we are moving closer to the main election year, which is starting early next year. Even before the heat of the election, you can see that we have started to mop up arms; we are not only mopping up firearms but also getting credible information from members of the public and we are moving into locations and making recoveries of firearms.
Our strategies are paying off. All over the state, on a weekly basis, I parade people. During our routine stop-and-search across the state, we always recover firearms. It has become more difficult now to move firearms from one location to the other in Lagos without being apprehended. Moving forward in the election, we don’t expect any increase in proliferation of firearms because part of my policing strategy is to crime map Lagos. I have targets; there are entry points into Lagos and they have regular static police guard and surveillance duties in all targets. The essence of target is to be sure of what enters your state, in terms of arms and ammunition or stolen items, and to prevent hoodlums from leaving your state with stolen property.
I agree with you that, as the election gets closer, some politicians who don’t have integrity might truly want to bring in arms, so we are not taking anything for granted. We will continue to be vigilant. I have told all the area commanders to be vigilant. Anything they see, they should report. They should not trivialise anything. They must report to their superior officer, who will make sense out of it. Lagos has a stable political class; their politics is not known for the thuggery that is associated with politics in some other parts of the country. Lagos will be peaceful.