RIP Mohbad…How Can The Law Help?

RIP Mohbad…How Can The Law Help?


We review the Lagos Law that covers the investigation of suspicious deaths

By now everyone who watches the news or is active on social media would have heard of the tragic and untimely death of the popular Nigerian singer, Ilerioluwa Aloba, popularly known as MohBad.

As is our custom in this newsletter, we try not to get involved in rumours and speculation about trending social issues until all the facts emerge. We do however like to take a step back and try to draw out the things to consider from a legal perspective, and then try to educate our members about what they should know.

So that is what we are going to attempt to do today.

Known Facts about Mohbad’s death

As you know, there is very little by way of information about his death. All we know is that an otherwise healthy 27-year-old was rushed to the hospital and he died and was buried within 24 hours. So, the circumstances of his death are suspicious.

What should happen when there is a suspicious death?

There is a certain law in Lagos State (and indeed all other Nigerian States) called the Coroners’ Law. The Coroners Law essentially is the legal framework for investigating the circumstances around a suspicious death. The legal process is something referred to as a Coroner’s inquest.

Key terms to know

Inquest – this means a judicial inquiry to determine the cause of an unexpected death

Exhumation – this means to dig up a body that has been previously buried.

Post-mortem examination – this means the examination of both the external and internal organs of a body after death in order to determine the cause of death

Key people involved

Chief Coroner – this is a Judge of the High Court appointed as the administrative head of the Coroner system in the State

Coroner – this is a Magistrate or any other person appointed under the Coroner law to inquire by way of inquest into the cause of death. The minimum qualification for a Coroner is to either be a Magistrate Grade I or a legal practitioner with not less than 5 year post qualification experience.

Chief Medical Examiner – the most Senior Medical Examiner in the State appointed by the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice

Medical Examiner – medical personnel trained in forensic pathology and appointed to perform autopsies on the bodies of dead persons with a view to determining the cause of death

The Legal Process

How does the Law come in?

When there has been a report of death and there is reasonable cause to believe that the cause of death was unknown, sudden or unexpected, unnatural or suspicious, due to self-neglect or negligence by others etc.; then the Coroner law of Lagos State mandates that an inquest must be held.

How does an Inquest start in Lagos?

There are broadly three ways that a coroner’s inquest can be started –

when there has been a report of a death by a relevant agency (like the Police);

when an inquest has been ordered by the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice of a State; and…

when any aggrieved person who identifies himself or herself as a ‘party interested’ has written to the Chief Coroner requesting an inquest.

In Mohbad’s case we heard the Commissioner of Police announce that the Police now intends to request an inquest. We have also seen at least 2 Nigerian lawyers write petitions/requests to the authorities demanding an inquest. We have seen this request sent to the AG of Lagos State; and this request to the Chief Coroner of Lagos also requesting an inquest.

What happens when the body has already been buried?

When it appears to the Coroner that the body of a person who has died in circumstances requiring the holding of an inquest has been buried without a post-mortem examination, the Coroner may order the exhumation of such body.

What does the Coroner do?

The coroner’s role is to do all that is necessary to determine the cause of death and direct the re-interment of the body. This involves firstly obtaining a medical report on the cause and manner of death as stated in the death certificate. This medical report is provided by the Chief Medical Examiner who is ordered to perform a post-mortem examination of the body.

The next stage after receiving the medical report is the actual inquest, and in the inquest the coroner may summon and compel the attendance of witnesses and require them to give evidence, and produce any document that may help the coroner in the investigation of the suspicious death. Any witness who fails to appear or fails to answer any questions may have a fine imposed on him/her or be charged and punished with contempt of court.

After the inquest is completed, the coroner is to give a verdict which must show how, when and where the deceased person met his death. The verdict is to be forwarded to the Commissioner of Police, the Chief Coroner, the Chief Medical Examiner, and the Divisional Police Officer for the district.

Where during the course of an inquest or at the close of an inquest, the coroner is of the opinion that sufficient grounds exist for making a charge against any person in connection with the death, the coroner shall make an order for the arrest of the suspect for investigation by the appropriate authority.

What does this all mean for the Mohbad case?

As we have seen now the Commissioner of Police in Lagos State has ordered an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of Mohbad, the Commissioner also stated that an exhumation would be ordered – as you have seen from this newsletter, the police doesn’t have the power to order an exhumation – they need to report the death to the Chief Coroner as suspicious, and it is then the coroner who will order the exhumation.

Once the post-mortem examination is completed the Police will then use the findings in the medical report to continue the investigation into the circumstances of his death to determine if there is any criminal liability for any parties, and then determine who those parties should be and whether they should be arrested and prosecuted.

We hope that the facts emerge in this case in due course, and if there was indeed foul play involved in the death of this promising young man, we pray that the responsible individuals are caught, prosecuted, and punished.

Once again – RIP MohBad.



Culled from LawPadi

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