In most cases, many of those bereaved do not see autopsy as a necessity. They prefer to collect the corpse and bury it, especially Muslims. But it has been alleged that sometimes some unscrupulous policemen demand bribe as ‘money for autopsy’ from either the family of a suspect or that of the deceased. In some cases, they are said to demand such gratification from both parties. MATTHEW DIKE examines the sharp practice involved in autopsy.
It was Afrobeat maestro, Fela Anikulapo Ransome Kuti (1938 – 1997) that sang a similitude of the title this piece appropriates. His rendition, double wahala for dead body, in the hit song, which is still trending today depicts the double tragedy that a corpse suffer- from dying as a natural phenomenon and the burden that places on the dead person’s relative(s). Although he was notorious for his avid criticism of the police and other security agencies, the late musician didn’t remember to hint that those who are slain by others; and whose death under such circumstances becomes the subject of litigation suffer additional post mortem inconveniences in the name of autopsy.
The use of autopsy to ascertain cause of death is very important during investigation, especially murder cases.
Autopsy report will reveal the real cause of death of somebody. Police can exhume the body of a person who had been buried for several months, and also ensure that autopsy is carried out on the body to know what killed the person.
To a novice, such autopsy is like a mirage. They believe it is not possible to know the cause of death when the corpse is already rotten or only carcass left behind.
So many people, especially the Muslim folks will not allow the corpse to stay up to 48 hours without burial. Unlike some Christians who would keep corpses of their relations for over one year.
But the question now is who is supposed to pay so that autopsy will be carried out? Is it the government? The deceased’s family? or the suspect’s family?
Lawyers, police, deceased family, others react.
Lagos State police command makes case for those that may fall victim of exploitation.
The Lagos State police public relations officer, SP Dolapo Badmos has painted the real picture about who pays the autopsy bill. Her words:”You are a crime reporter, so you should know that it is the government that bears the brunt. You mention whether police that will be responsible, deceased’s family, suspect’s family or government? I want to say the police are part of government. It is the government that pays for autopsy. An autopsy has cost implication and government bears it. So autopsy is not free at all. It is paid for by the government.
“Please nobody should pay for autopsy. Report any policeman or officer that demands for money for autopsy. So both the deceased’s family and the suspect’s family do not pay for autopsy. No policeman will demand money from anybody for autopsy. I am telling you that autopsy is free. Don’t give any policeman money for it. And I’m not sure any policeman has demanded money for that. Any policeman that does that is taking a very big risk because he may be sanctioned. He may lose his job for that. So, autopsy is free. We do autopsy at general hospitals. We don’t use private hospital for autopsy. Government pays for it.”
A legal practitioner wonders why any right thinking policeman would demand for money for autopsy.
Mr Ahmed Musa, a lawyer, philanthropist and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chairmanship aspirant ‘eyeing’ Ajeromi Local Government council, said no policeman should use ignorance of the members of the public as an excuse to exploit them by asking for money to conduct autopsy.
Musa who was said to be one of the lawyers that have offered free services to the poor, especially in Ajeromi- Ifelodun local government area and its environs in Lagos State, had this to say:
“Autopsy have to be part of the expenses the Ministry of Justice must sponsor. It is so because as at the time of death, the suspect still remains constitutionally innocent. Victims family wants to bury their dead one. So in such instance, visiting the bereaved family with additional problem like autopsy expenses. It is like providing salt on the injury. It’s part of the duty of the State to protect life and property. In so doing , it will be easier to get to the root of the cause of death. The State should bear the bill of autopsy . It tends to even give it objectivity as the result cannot be manipulated by either the suspect’s family or the bereaved family to suit their preconceived motive.
“I’ve heard that some policemen request for money for autopsy from some bereaved and suspect’s families. It is wrong to do so. Why should a reasonable policeman demand for money for an autopsy. They only want to grease their palms with money. This attitude characterizes our system as a nation. Just as me and you know that bail is free and constitutionally guaranteed as such, but the reverse is the case in practice. The suspect’s or deceased’s families should seek legal advice from their lawyers If police demand money for bail. Both the suspect and the deceased’s families are entitled to seek legal assistance from legal practitioners.”
Continuing, Musa who was said to have rendered legal and financial assistance to the poor people in the ghetto of Ajegunle, Amukoko, Ajegunle, Orile, Ijora, among others in Lagos State, said, “The police should keep within the tenets of police acy and regulation. If truely they want to realize their time tested saying that ‘Police is your friend”, That’s why you see that every criminal case is against the commissioner of police”.
Businessman also criticizes the system of unnecessary levy
Joseph Onwuamaegbu, a businessman wondered what kind of law we are practicing in Nigeria.
Onwuamaegbu said, “If a muslim is the deceased, police would hurriedly release the corpse for burial. But immediately police know that he is a Christian, they will delay the corpse. They will tell you that they are still investigating, so they will not release the corpse to the family of the deceased. In some cases, the police will frustrate the family by making unnecessary demands like money for autopsy. They will threaten that the body will not be released until the deceased or suspect’s family pay the money for autopsy. Although this happen in some stations, not all. People should be told about autopsy and its importance. The authority should enlighten the members of the public about autopsy. If it is the same free as bail is free but we still pay. “
Incidents in which the police demanded for money from either the deceased’s family or the suspect’s family.
There was a horrible incident at Temidire Street, Tolu, in Ajegunle area of the metropolis in which a husband accused of stabbing his wife 12 times, including the stomach, private part, anus, bottom and hand.
The angry husband who was said to have suspected his wife of infidelity brutally stabbed his wife to death.
The suspect, David Micheal after slaughtering his wife, Onyinyechi, fondly called Nene, like a ram, reported himself at Tolu police station.
Micheal told the police that his friend called him on phone that he saw his wife and another man in a hotel.
Micheal claimed to have loved his wife so much but as a result of her extra-marital affairs slew her.
LEADERSHIP gathered that on the fateful day Micheal called his wife, Onyinyechi on phone and she responded that she was at her father’s residence at Temidire street, Olodi- Apapa.
Micheal was said to have ordered the wife back to his residence at 24, Ojoku street, Olodi -Apapa.
A co-tenant of Onyinyechi’s father, Blessing said Onyinyechi had to leave her son called David with her and rushed to see her husband without the premonition that danger was lurking around the corner.
She said, Onyinyechi, daughter of a blind man stepped into the apartment hale and hearty but was brought out dead same day – She was brutally murdered by her own husband.
A relation of Onyinyechi, Ogadinma told LEADERSHIP that the Tolu police men demanded for money to do autopsy.
When the cause of death is murder the conduct of an autopsy becomes a pre-requisite.