The drunk killer-soldier in Lagos army barracks

NIGERIANS must have been left shell-shocked last week when news of a non-commissioned officer of the Nigerian Army crushing a General to death surfaced. The nature of the alleged crime, the location and the personalities involved all combined to create a bewildering atmosphere. A corporal, one Abayomi Ebun,  allegedly crushed to death the Director of Finance of the Nigerian Armed Forces Resettlement Centre (NAFRC), Lagos, Brigadier-General Audu Ogbole James, with his car. The incident happened at the NAFRC’s old Barracks in Lagos. Corporal Ebun, who is said to be attached to the Nigerian Army Resource Centre (NARC), knocked down the NAFRC Finance Director while driving out of the barracks. The deceased was reportedly walking to his house within the barracks when tragedy struck.

The General was immediately evacuated to the NAFRC Medical Centre but it was too late. He had bled to death, and the doctors could not save him. Multiple sources have indicated that Ebun was allegedly drunk at the time of the tragedy and was driving rather recklessly. He was promptly detained by the NAFRC provost. Coursemates of the late General at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru, Plateau State, wrote an elegy, paying tributes to his memory. The Welfare Officer of SEC 40, ACM Kayode Olagunju, who confirmed the nature of the incident that claimed the life of the deceased, said the officers had lost “a gem, our indefatigable, humble, friendly bridge builder.”

It is indeed shocking that an army General walking to his home within a barracks could come to such a sad end. While it is a fact that drivers in most parts of the country use alcohol, often with disastrous consequences, there is an unspoken understanding that military barracks present a totally different picture. For instance, civilians who drive rather recklessly in other parts of town will often be seen driving cautiously and conducting themselves with great decorum in military formations. They do so knowing that they are, as it were, on sacred ground, and will face severe consequences if they misbehave. Against this backdrop, it is confounding that a soldier not only had the latitude to get drunk at a military formation but also allegedly went to the extent of crushing an innocent pedestrian, this time a high-ranking military officer, to death. This is, unless the story is controverted, indiscipline writ large.

Besides, if the consensus that a large number of drunk drivers are repeat offenders holds true in this case, then it is highly likely that the suspect in this case had committed the crime of driving under the influence in the past, probably without facing the severest of consequences. And he would not have been the only one guilty of that offence. As we have said time and again, there can be no rescuing of this society from lawlessness until severe consequences for crime are guaranteed.

To be sure, there is nothing strange in a General  walking home within a military formation. He may be doing so conscious of his health and the need to keep fit, and he may also be doing so because the distance to be covered is so short as to make using a car entirely unnecessary. As the General in this case walked home, he would have received compliments and exchanged pleasantries with other officers and men of the force. Alas! He did not reckon with a drunk driver, and the authorities of the NAFRC cannot escape scrutiny in this case. Did they apply traffic rules in the barracks diligently and conscientiously, such that this was an isolated, unprecedented event, or was this tragedy the product of a lax regulatory atmosphere within the barracks? An investigation is definitely called for in this case but in the interim, we would like to think that an allegedly drunk driver speeding in an army barracks is not a pretty picture for a military formation that expects to be taken seriously by members of the public. Being drunk is an offence, and to throw driving under the influence into the mix is surely horrendous.

The fact is not disputed that driving under the influence, that is, with a blood alcohol content of at least 0.08%, is patently dangerous. It exposes the driver, other drivers and pedestrians to severe danger. Like in other parts of the world, impaired driving contributes significantly to motor vehicle fatalities in Nigeria. If a driver is drunk, his/her critical thinking and fine motor skills are impaired.  Alcohol being a sedative, the drunk-driver’s decision-making skills and coordination is often extremely poor.  Drunk drivers make terrible judgments, lose focus and concentration on the road, and readily cause accidents that lead to bodily disfigurement, temporary or permanent brain damage,  and outright death. Drunk drivers are almost always associated with decreased vision and slow response to emergencies. They are effectively in another world. Therefore, given that a military environment ought to be known for discipline, a drunk shouldn’t even be in military service in the first place, let alone indulged to the point of tragedy. Sadly, because Nigeria is a country without consequences, drunk uniformed men have sent many Nigerians to early graves.

We call for a thorough investigation of this incident. The alleged offence of drunk driving betrays a high level of indiscipline for a uniformed personnel. The impression that being within a barracks did not even have any effect on a soldier’s conduct is hard to come to terms with. This is ample evidence of the tragedy that could result in an atmosphere of indiscipline; the public has often been visited with untold hardship and death through the misbehaviour of drunk soldiers. The Army authorities have to critically investigate this tragic occurrence with a view to ensuring that such does not recur. Barracks are known for scrupulous discipline and it is high time to entrench it.



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