A Nigerian court sentenced Monday a police officer to death for shooting and killing a lawyer in the commercial hub of Lagos. Many applauded the rare sentence as a punitive measure against rampant cases of police abuse.
After nearly a year, Justice Ibironke Harrison of the Lagos High Court found police officer Drambi Vandi guilty of one count of murder of Bolanle Raheem, who was pregnant at the time when she was shot dead Christmas Day last year. Local reports said Raheem was in her early forties.
Vandi shot the lawyer after her vehicle in the town of Ajah in Lagos failed to stop at a checkpoint, local media reported at the time.
He had denied opening fire at Raheem, but one of his colleagues who testified during the hearing confirmed hearing the gunshot. Vandi has a right to appeal the ruling.
“You will be hanged by the neck till you are dead,” the judge told the police officer who had pleaded not guilty.
The death sentence was lauded by many in Africa’s most populous country where allegations of abuse and extrajudicial killings against the police are rife. On social media, people hoped the sentence would send a warning signal to erring police officers who often evade justice.
Death sentences in Nigeria are common but no police officer has received such sentence in the country in many years.
Nigeria has thousands of pending death sentences. Executions rarely go into effect as they require approvals by powerful state governors. Only two warrants for death sentences were carried out since 1999, according to Inibehe Effiong, a Nigerian human rights lawyer.
There were questions about whether the Lagos Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu would approve the police officer’s execution.
Authorities have been under increasing pressure to hold security forces accountable after the deadly nationwide protests against police brutality in 2020.
While many in Nigeria praised the death sentence, some argued it should be abolished.
“The death penalty is inhumane, amounts to vengeance and prone to error. There is no evidence that it has achieved the objective of creating a deterrence to crime,” said Okechukwu Nwanguma, who leads the Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre which advocates for police reforms in Nigeria.