A coroner’s inquest into the circumstances surrounding the death of Jumoke Oyeleke, a lady reportedly killed by a stray bullet during a Yoruba Nation rally in Lagos state, has returned a verdict indicting the police.
The coroner, Magistrate Mukaila Fadeyi, who sat at the magistrate court in the Ogba area of Lagos, said the police shot the deceased and caused her untimely death.
On July 3, 2021, Yoruba Nation agitators converged at the Gani Fawehinmi Freedom Park in Ojota area of Lagos to demand an independent state for the southwest region.
It was alleged that police shot into the air and used teargas canisters to disperse the crowd and Jumoke, a 25-year-old salesgirl, was shot dead.
In his findings, the coroner said, “The only logical conclusion is that the deceased died from a weapon by the Nigerian police” and noted that “the deceased deserves our sympathy.”
The coroner went on to make the following recommendations:
“(1) it is strongly recommended that the state govt encourages the FG on the training, retraining and reorientation of police officers on the right to hold protest in a democratic setting.
“(2) Payment of compensation should be effected to the family of the deceased by the FG.
“(3) The IGP shd ensure a total overhaul of the police force to fish out the bag eggs and ensure that they are brought to book to forestall further accidental killings.
“(4) Mental & medical checkups are recommended for police officers to determine suitability to bear arms
“(5) Access to Freedom Park should never be locked or cordoned off in future
“(6) No police officer detailed to protest grounds shd be issued live bullets
“(7) The AG Lagos should be mandated to pass on these recommendations to the relevant authorities for implementation
“(8) There is also the need of the state to fund the activities of the coroner act 2015, in order to stem unwarranted and unlawful killings in the state.”
In his reaction to the coroner’s findings, counsel for the the Oyeleke family, Taiwo Olawanle from the law firm of Falana & Falana said, “The verdict means that there is hope for the ordinary masses. The police should however go further and fish out the culprit so they can recommend his prosecution.”
After the unfortunate incident, the police denied firing live bullets at the protesters and claimed that an examination of her body revealed stab wounds as the likely cause of her death.
However, an autopsy report from the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) showed that Jumoke died from “hemopericardium”, that is, disruption to the heart and lungs and missile injury to the chest.
Following the controversy surrounding the death, and the public outcry, the state government in a bid to get to the root of the incident set up an inquest, a fact-finding tribunal to undermine the circumstances surrounding her death.
The coroner inquest had the mandate to establish the identity of the deceased, how, when and where she died. And to provide recommendations to forestall a reoccurrence.
The inquest which started in August 2021, heard from six witnesses including the mother of the deceased; Ifeoluwa Oyeleke, an assistant commissioner of police; Tunde Adeniran and Sunday Soyemi, a pathologist with LASUTH.
Also, a trader, David Okebe, told the coroner that when he visited the scene of the incident, he saw some unidentified police officers ransacking the deceased after she was shot and left her for dead.