By Gabriel Agbo
Are there situations where mercy should be allowed to override regulations? Two of the three suspects held for mistakenly killing their friend and Nigeria’s first female fighter helicopter pilot, Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile were discharged recently by a magistrate court in Kaduna, but the driver of the car Nehemiah Adejor is to be charged for culpable homicide and criminal conspiracy in the State High Court.
Their car ran over the young celebrated air force officer as they pulled up to exchange pleasantries with her at the Air Force base in Kaduna. They were school mates at Air force Secondary school. The incident generated so much reaction from Nigerians as many suspected foul play and called for thorough investigation. Now, the authorities have come out with the report that Tolulope was mistakenly ran over by her friends and that there was no premeditated plan to kill her.
Though, some have refused to buy into that, insisting that she was murdered since she was very active in the on-going war against terrorists and insurgents. For now, we want to accept that conclusion, unless somebody comes up with another fact on the incident. Law and regulations are for the good of the society. Without them there will be total chaos and the system will collapse.
But there are also exceptions where the law must be slightly bent to ensure true justice, lasting peace, quick and less litigation costs, etc. And that is why you have concepts like out of court settlement, plea bargains, voluntary withdrawal of cases, etc. All these instruments are often used to encourage the parties to informally settle their disputes away from protracted litigation processes. I think this is what needs to be done in the on-going trial of the friend/killer of our dear Tolulope. This will save time, costs, emotions, pains and regrets, etc.
When I read that the driver will still go to the high court to stand trial after his friends were discharged, I felt bad and quickly put myself in the place of the young man – from the pleasure of strolling with friends to have a good time, to the excitement of seeing an old school mate, to the shock of running over her with their car, to trying everything to resuscitate her and finally, the painful watching her pass out.
My God! This would be like a horror film or a terrible bad dream that had just refused to go away for him – all happening in just few minutes. I want you to imagine what this young man must be going through by now – an expression of excitement that is about truncating his life dreams and leaving all the parties in sorrow, pain and tears. Yes, that is exactly what the whole thing is turning into now. We have already lost that very bright, promising star Tolu, but must we also destroy the future of her friend? We can cut short the pain this innocent young man and his family might be going through now by immediately releasing him to join his friends in mourning their departed school mate. It is enough pain to lose a friend and worse when you were involved in her death. Please, all the parties involved can agree to withdraw this case, especially now that it has been established that the officer was not killed intentionally. And luckily also the suspects came out negative to toxicology text.
Here, the family of Tolulope will have to play a prominent role to realise this. They must accept what happened in good faith, forgive and move on. Yes, it can be very painful (I feel them), but that the whole nation stood by them and that their great daughter was celebrated and given a national burial should be comforting. Very few are celebrated in life and death life like our dear sister.
They must lead the move to persuade the prosecuting authorities to withdraw the charges against Tolu’s friend. Yes, they can. We see so many families and relations doing this. They forgive the suspects and ask the prosecutors to drop the charges. And where the prosecutors continue or obtain judgement, they immediately disassociate themselves from it. The relations of the victims of the 2015 Charleston church massacre in South Carolina, United States did it. The stormed the court to offer their forgiveness to the murderer Dylann Roof. I remember fighting back tears when one of them said to Dylann, “You took something very precious from me, but I forgive you,” My God! Recently, the family of the victims of a murderous white supremacist gang did the same. The gang killed the man, the wife and their daughter. But their relations disassociated themselves from the verdict on one of suspects who kept claiming innocence even after a death sentence. They washed their hands off the outcome. Tolu’s family and all those involved in this trial should emulate these people. We have also seen godly judges encourage and even instigate these settlements. Let this unfortunate incident be settled out of the court.
Laws are for the good of the society as we have earlier admitted and one cannot even imagine a society without them, but the innocent must also not be punished or sacrificed on the altar of technicalities or to please some people. Mercy must rise about the law in this situation. I remember the woman that was about being stoned to death for adultery. Her accusers caught her right in the act and the penalty was instant death. But Jesus used wisdom to place mercy over the law and thus saved the woman. He simply asked anybody without sin to cast the first stone and before he could raise his head all of the accusers had disappeared one after the other. We all sin and often ask for mercy, but the master always reminded us that it is only those who show mercy that will also obtain mercy. Also look at the place of that Mercy Seat on top of the Ark of the Covenant in the Temple. The Ark had amongst other things the tablet of the covenant; that stringent divine law, the regulations, but the Mercy Seat was deliberately placed on top, above it. This is simply to show that mercy is higher than the law, its technicalities and verdicts. The ultimate judge was there making room for mercy in the midst of his regulations! We cannot pretend to be more sagacious, holier or better than him. We must learn how to mix mercy with our judgement and actions without compromising the orderliness of the society or encouraging lawlessness. We plead with the authorities and the family of our amiable late Flight Officer – Tolulope Arotile to mercifully forgive and withdraw the charges against Nehemiah Adejor, so that there will be total healing for the families and the friends and also a peaceful rest for the departed.
Rev Gabriel Agbo is of the Assemblies of God Nigeria and the author of the books/audiobooks Power of Midnight Prayer, Never Again! Move Forward. Tel: 08037113283 E-mail: [email protected]