FeaturesPolicewoman Who Defied Judge, Military Regime

Policewoman Who Defied Judge, Military Regime

May 5, (THEWILL)- There is a common saying in the underworld that while criminals dread the police, the police in turn tremble before judges. Testifying in court as a prosecutor or witness under the withering gaze of a bespectacled, unsmiling judge, some police officers sometimes make a mess of an otherwise iron-cast case. Expectedly, the result of any confrontation between a judge and a police officer in or out of court will most certainly tip the scale in favour of the former.

That was exactly what happened when DCP Stella Obuoforibo Okuyiga had a run-in with a sitting judge of a high court in Nigeria many years ago. Not that she was a witness in a criminal trial in the judge’s court. No! Instead, the magistrate had been hauled in for a traffic offence and was to be prosecuted by the police woman.

Okuyiga was one of the pioneer female recruits into the Nigeria Police Force in 1955. If ever there was a diligent police officer, she was that person, commended by her superiors and respect, loyalty of her subordinates. For her devotion and hard work, she made it to Deputy Commissioner of Police, one of the few female officers at the time. Okuyiga had not yet reached the retirement age of sixty or the required thirty-five years of service when she was abruptly and unceremoniously shooed out of the NPF. What happened?

Glo

A traffic offender was hauled in before her for prosecution. She didn’t know the identity of the offender at first. But when she got to know the man in question was a judge, Okuyiga was all the more determined that justice must be done. Should she let the law breaker suffer for his crime? Or let someone who should be the guardian and protector of the law go scot free? The DCP opted for the former and, thus began her problem with the all-powerful establishment called the Nigerian state.

Last week, a photo-op of the Rivers State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Olatunji Disu, with 94-year-old retired DCP Okuyiga went viral on social media for many reasons. It was a first-of-its-kind photo session in the sense that a serving senior police officer would be seen with another who retired many years ago. It is comparable to a student paying homage to a teacher at his residence. Two, the visit would have made the DCP’s day who would never have imagined that after years of neglect and unmerited punishment, someone will come to reassure her of the rightness of the action she took many years ago. There was also the fellow-feeling in the photo-op, of a sense of belonging, of comradeship, of mutual loyalty, espirit de corps often demonstrated by those in uniform.

Though it happened a long, long time ago, the story of DCP Okuyiga versus a sitting judge of a Nigerian court has been making the rounds these past days, especially after the said photo-op with CP Disu. The unnamed judge was pulled in for a traffic offence. Apparently, he would have bragged that as a judge, he should be let go. The police officer was unimpressed. She would have none of that. As far as she was concerned, the judge should be the last person to disobey any traffic rule. So, judge or no judge, he was going to be prosecuted for it.

Apart from his position in the judiciary, the judge apparently had highly-placed friends in government, up to the Supreme Military Council when General Olusegun Obasanjo was head of state. Prevailed upon to stop the prosecution of the judge, Okuyiga refused, insisting that justice must be served to those who flout the law irrespective of their position in the society.

Here was a clear case of wrongdoing by the judge and DCP Okuyiga insisting on prosecuting him, possibly as a deterrent to others. But then, the judge had the SMC solidly behind him. The military junta not only wanted the prosecution stopped but the woman in question sacked from the police force without her entitlements. The case dragged on, pitting and polarising the rank and file of the military against the police.

Of course, it was blindingly obvious to all who was at fault. But, as they say, life can be unfair. With military fiat, the SMC decided that the prosecution of the judge be stopped. The DCP insisted on seeing the case to a logical conclusion and, possibly, indicting and convicting the magistrate. Feeling slighted by a mere police woman, the male-dominated SMC instructed the Inspector General of Police at the time, Adamu Suleiman, to sack the woman so as to forfeit all her benefits.

Good man that he is Suleiman did not dismiss her subordinate. Rather, he asked her to resign. She did and has been in relative obscurity from then till last week when CP Disu sort of resurrected her.

How or why CP Disu decided on the visit to a forgotten colleague has never been fully explained. But it is a commendable act, commendable beyond measure. Even the woman herself was overwhelmed at the unexpected courtesy call.

“When I called the CP to appreciate him and pray for him,” Okuyiga said after the visit, “I couldn’t control myself but I burst into tears of joy for this unique and singular Godly act of CP Disu that is not known in the recent past in the Force because in the recent past, police officers both high and low treat their retired colleagues like leper.”

CP Disu’s visit has demonstrated that their senior female colleague was never a pariah at any time but was deeply appreciated for her actions that got her into trouble with the military dictatorship of that time. As for the judge, he would certainly be the unhappiest of men reading about CP Disu’s visit to the courageous female officer forced to early resignation because of his transgression. That is if he is not dead!

About the Author

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Michael Jimoh is a Nigerian journalist with many years experience in print media. He is currently a Special Correspondent with THEWILL.

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Michael Jimoh, THEWILLhttps://thewillnews.com
Michael Jimoh is a Nigerian journalist with many years experience in print media. He is currently a Special Correspondent with THEWILL.

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