New Telegraph

Bolanle Raheem: Justice at Last?

The rulling by Justice Ibironke Harrison on October 9, 2023 at the Lagos High Court that sentenced to death, a police officer, Darambi Vandi, who shot dead a Lagos-based lawyer, Mrs Bolanle Raheem, on Christmas Day in 2022 is a proof that justice is possible in Nigeria, where many have lost hope in the judiciary. Family and friends of the late lawyer were not the only ones patiently waiting for the outcome of the verdict as well meaning Nigerians, whom the incident supposedly ruined their Christmas spirit have been on the edge of their seat waiting to see how the battle for justice would pan out between the judiciary and the law enforcement agency.

Though the death sentence will not bring back the late pregnant lawyer, it would relieve some pain that the crime did not go unpunished. However, a young man, who gave his name as Adekunle, while analysing the issue, argued that, though it is good, justice may have came fast for late Bolanle Ra- heem because she was a prestigious lawyer and a member of Nigerian Bar Association, added to the vulnerable condition that she was pregnant. “We have seen many people killed unjustly by law enforcement and nothing ever came out of it.

There are several cases of pregnant women killed by stray bullet or crushed by vehicles running from the law or being chased by the police but justice never came for them. Though I am happy justice came for Bolanle Raheem, I am just musing , that what if it happened to a random citizen, would the justice system be this swift and fast?” He said. Police officer, Darambi Vandi, was on January 16, 2023, arraigned by Lagos State Government on a count charge of murder.

Lagos State Government, which prosecuted the case, had said that Vandi shot dead pregnant Raheem on Decemeber 25, 2022, at Ajah Roundabout on Lekki- Expressway. The follow up reports stated that the court sitting at the Tafawa Balewa Square remanded the defendant after his arraignment and granted accelerated hearing of the case. While delivering judgment, Harrison said that none of the eyewitness actually saw the defendant pull the trigger.

She, however, held that circumstantial evidence was overwhelming to prove that Vandi murdered Raheem. According to the judge, a defendant can be convicted when circumstantial evidence is overwhelming. The judge said: “The question in the mind of the court is: Did the prosecution provide any additional evidence? “The court finds that the ammunition of the other officers, who were on patrol with the defendant remained intact but two of the defendant’s ammunition were missing.” Harrison said that the defendant had alleged that the shortfall in his ammunition was because it was counted in his absence.

The judge also noted that Vandi testified that the bullet tendered in court was not his, saying, however, that Vandi constituted himself as a ballistician pathologist without tendering a certificate to that effect. She, therefore, dismissed the evidence. “The court finds that the forensic expert and the medical doctor’s evidence confirm the circumstantial evidence that the defendant had the opportunity to shoot the victim and that the victim was shot and died from the gunshot. “Every eyewitness heard the loud noise and passers-by shouted in Yoruba Language (oti pa eyan) meaning: you have killed someone,” she said.

Harrison held that the prosecution proved its case beyond every reasonable doubt that it was the convict who shot the gun that killed the deceased. “The death of the deceased was instantaneous. There is no other explanation. It was the gunshot that shattered the side glass and pierced the victim’s chest. “It was the defendant who had an AK-47 riffle whose ammunition was missing after the armourer counted it,” she held.

She also held that the defendant did not say that he pointed the gun to force or scare people in the vehicle to obey order and park the vehicle. She added that the defendant did not say that the shooting was accidental which would have earned him a smaller sentence of manslaughter. “Therefore, the defendant is found guilty of the one count charge and sentenced to death by hanging until he dies,” she held. The prosecution called 11 witnesses, including eight police officers during the trial. Bolanle Raheem is a Christian, born on May 29.

She was married to Gbenga Raheem, and they had children together. She attended Holy Child College in Ikoyi, Lagos State She was a property lawyer and a member of the Nigerian Bar Association, Lagos chapter. She also attended Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago Iwoye, in Ogun State and studied at the Nigerian Law School in Enugu State. Bolanle was driving when a policeman shot her under the Ajah bridge, Lagos, on December 25, 2022. According to Christian rites, Raheem was buried on the 17th of January, 2023. She was killed in front of her kids. There is no allegation by the Lagos Police Command that she provoked the killer.

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