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THE TWO FACES OF THE LAW IN NIGERIA, PART 1

Note: First published on July, 2019. The “published” date on the tab is the date that it was uploaded on this new site. Though some issues in this piece may still be current (depending on…), this is to avoid mistaking the piece as current news.

This is “No Bullshiting,” by Harry Agina.

“If you were not my friend, I would have closed down your shop…”

Those were the words of a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as you will hear in the accompanying video at the end of this blog, which has gone viral. The senator, Elisha Abbo, threatened to close down the business shop of another bona fide citizen. His fucked-up reason was that the “ordinary” citizen had the “audacity” to answer or make a phone call in the presence of the “Almighty Senator.” And, yes, such oppressive acts happen virtually every minute in Nigeria. The senator could actually easily close down the lady’s business with a snap of fingers; just like that…in a so-called democracy!!! I am surprised that the motherfucking senator did not add the common Nigerian “big-man” cliché of “Do you know me…do you know who I am?”

Yes, indeed; if you are not rich in Nigeria, and you are not politically connected; then you had better not allow yourself to tangle with any rich or powerful citizen. You don’t want to be caught in the Nigerian law and justice system, if you know what is good for you. Every Nigerian knows this about Nigeria’s rich-and-famous-men syndrome. The law-and-order system comprising law enforcement agencies and the Nigerian legal system support this madness. Nigerians  know that the nation’s law actually provides for equality; yet, the inequality between the rich and the poor is very glaring. The custodians and enforcers of the law are too corrupt to follow the law. This is what Nigerians need to address in relation to Senator Abbo’s act. We must be serious in the quest for fairness, equity, and justice, as the nation works on the development of true democracy, meeeeeeeeeeen!!!

As you will see in the video at the end of this piece, Senator Abbo was caught on a CCTV camera brutalizing a woman. And, I’m not talking about just a woman, but a nursing mother at that. It happened in a sex toy shop in Abuja, the Federal Capital city. The camera caught him slapping and punched the face of the lady, as he threatened to close down her business shop. She is a bona fide citizen of Nigeria, mind you. But, if not for the viral video, the Almighty senator could actually easily close down her business with a snap of fingers. It’s nothing new in the country of absolute impunity and oppression of citizens by leaders. “If you’re not my friend, I would close down your shop,” the motherfucker shouted several times as he punched the poor lady, meeeeeeeeeen!!!

The lady did not insult the motherfucker in any way. But, even if she rained the worst insult on him, he still would have no right whatsoever to lay a finger on her, period!!! If he felt aggrieved by anything done to him in that shop, his only right was to sue the lady or the owner of the shop to court. Nigerians must begin to understand that not even President Buhari has the right to lay a finger on any citizen, big or small. Damn! I wish the dude did that to my woman! I would be so glad, because I would sue him for everything that he owns, meeeeeeen!!! The bigger they come, the harder they fall, I always say. Nigerian only need to begin to insists and fight for justice. This is what I am challenging every Nigerian to wake up from their human rights slumber and do, for kingdoms sakes!!!

To me, the nation is actually missing the important point in the senator’s episode. Nobody is emphasizing the fact that “There are two faces of the law in Nigeria.” One face is for the poor, & the other face for the rich and powerful!!! I declare that, terrible as the senator’s act was, the worse offender in the entire episode was the idiotic police officer at the site. The motherfucker stood there and watched a citizen brutalize another citizen. The legal description of his primary duty is to protect every citizen who is wronged by another. The nation’s Police Act does not in any form (neither by implication nor words) tell the officer to protect and help the rich and powerful citizens alone. It does not say that he should help one citizen to brutalize and oppress the other. Worst of all, the officer was stupid enough to actually obey the senator, who ordered him to arrest the poor woman, after his brutality. The officer’s constitutional mandate says that he should arrest the senator for brutalizing a woman, not the other way round. Now, that’s what I’m talking about two faces of the law, meeeeeeeeeeen!!!

The zombie officer who obeyed such order from a man that was violating the human rights of a woman definitely broke the law. But the bigger blame is on the Police System that brought him up that way, with poor training and poor supervision. His orientation was/is to worship the rich and powerful, and aid them to oppress the poor. I speak of the failed system that has entrenched the lawlessness of Two Faces of The Law.

The Nigerian Constitution says that all citizens are equal in the eye of the law of the land. It also says that nobody is above the law. This means that everybody in the country must be accorded the same and equal treatment. From the poorest, to the richest citizen, there is no discrimination or special preference to anybody under the law! This goes all the way to the president of the country, In practice, however, Nigerians know that there is no such equality in the Nigerian law-and-order system. The rich and the powerful are virtually above the law, while the rights of the masses are commonly trampled upon by an unjust, justice system. The police officers who arrest accused persons in disputes or on criminal matters, are indicted. And, the court system where the cases are tried is also indicted. Actually, I should simply say that they are guilty, not just indicted. Ultimately, the size of a person’s bank account and political connections determine whether the person receives justice in a case.

However, I also blame ignorance of the law by the masses, and their failure to demand justice for much of the injustice against them. It is true, for instance, that some of the seeming discriminatory powers of the rich in the face of the law are due to their knowledge of their rights. In addition, their financial power can easily influence the nation’s substantially corrupt legal system, as well as accord them easy access to the legal services to demand their rights. For instance, many Nigerians are arrested every day for variety of offences that the rich-and-powerful do not even know to be illegal. This is so because the law officers don’t ever hold them accountable for such violations of the law. A simple, common, but good example is the fact that too many rich-and-powerful can’t ever be bothered to obey traffic laws. They commonly zoom through traffic red lights that demand every citizen to stop. And, guess what; though you have the right of way with green light on your side, you’d better not let your car touch their traffic-law violating vehicles. If you hit them, or they hit you; you may be the one in trouble in the hands of Nigeria police. May God help you if you happen to hit a political leader or a rich-and-powerful man that has a team of police escort with him. They could beat you blue and black for “obstructing” their way. Remember that they are the ones who violated the red light and hit your car!!!

Another common disparity is the practice of Nigeria police and other law enforcement agents to handcuff poor or “ordinary” Nigerians during arrests. On the contrary, the rich and powerful Nigerians are accorded special treatment in the arrest procedure. In fact, they are hardly arrested. Instead, they are “invited” to report to the police at their own convenience. Many of them often do not bother to honor the invitations. Sometime they refuse because they believe that the law officers have violated their rights in one way or another. Regular or “ordinary” citizens are not accorded the option and luxury of “invitation” to appear at the police stations or the courts; they are invaded, often brutalized, and whisked away in handcuffs. And, woe betide the “ordinary” guy that dares to mention any human rights to a recalcitrant police officer. If you do, you are inviting more severe brutality on yourself.

I will cite one landmark case for illustration, with Mr. Olisah Metu, which happened in in 2016. He’s a former Publicity Secretary of the then ruling party of Nigeria, the People’s Democratic Party. On January 5, 2016, he was handcuffed as he was arrested on charges of corruption. Initially, there was less interest in whether Mr. Metu was guilty or innocent of the alleged crime. Many critics were more interested in the handcuffs snapped on Metu during his arrest, and during appearances in court. The law enforcement agents were accused of disrespecting Metu by handcuffing him. This brought up the public question about the provisions of the law. And, indeed, Metu was right to protest the handcuffing. Nigeria’s constitution does say that “A  suspect or defendant may not be handcuffed, bound, or be  subjected  to  restraint, except: (a) there is reasonable  apprehension of violence  or an attempt to escape; (b) the  restraint is  considered  necessary  for  the  safety  of the  suspect   or  defendant;  or (c) by order of a court.” Metu did not pose, or, should not be seen to pose any of the threats stipulated in the law. This also means that the rights of several decent but “ordinary” Nigerians are regularly violated when they are commonly handcuffed during arrests. Olisah Metu’s exalted position in the society called public attention to this unlawful procedure.

Sadly, however, only the rich and powerful have been liberated from such illegalities by this exposition. Non-influential and poor Nigerians are still commonly handcuffed and often brutalized during arrests. This affirms that two faces of the law do exist in Nigeria. And, it is often a result of the ignorance of the law by the masses. Other times, it’s due to the ills of rogue law officers who derive joy or/and rewards from torturing their fellow ‘man.’ The erring law officers have to accord respect to the rich and politically connected persons. They are aware of the any consequences of violating the rights of citizens who know their rights, as well as possess the capacity to resist violation. However, it is also true that financial and political influences do play direct discriminatory roles in the dispensation of justice in Nigeria. Evil rich-and-powerful persons are always ready to capitalize on the greed of the rogue law officers, and the weakness of the masses, to violate the rights of the people, through bribery.

There is no questioning the fact that preferential or discriminatory treatment is accorded the rich and the powerful who breach the law. In 2015, the Senate President of Nigeria’s 8th Assembly (2015 to 2019), Bukola Saraki was arraigned on corruption charges. He was invited to report to the Code of Conduct Tribunal. The senator refused to honor the invitation, for a very long time. He was encouraged to disobey the law by his colleagues in the Senate. They considered his arraignment and trial to be disrespectful to the Distinguished Senate President. Refusal to honor invitation by law enforcement agents is a common phenomenon among the rich and powerful citizens of Nigeria. In such situations, the regular police officers won’t dare to try to arrest the culprit, until they receive a special “order from above.” Very often, police officers lose their jobs or promotions, because they dared to arrest a crime suspect of high political and financial ranking. Oh yes, indeed, meeeeeeeeeeeen!!!

In 2017, some judges in the nation’s court system were arrested on charges of corruption. Again, many Nigerians were not interested in whether the judges were guilty or innocent of the allegations. Some critics condemned the “disrespectful method of the arrests of the accused judges. And, others insisted that the “distinguished” judges should not have been arrested in the first place. This, of course, means that many Nigerians believe that the judges are above the law of the land. It is difficult to debate with some of them that anybody accused of breaching the law is bound by the constitution to go through trial to establish innocence. The president of the country is bound by this provision, just as much as a peasant in a village. Any attempt to circumvent this in favor of any class of persons is an affirmation of my statement that there are two faces of the law in Nigeria, meeeeeeen!!!

I have only addressed the two faces of the law in Nigeria at the level of the law enforcement officers who arrest suspects in criminal matters. This includes the Police, the Secrete Service (DSS), the EFCC, and the rest. What happens when the enforcement officers get the offenders of the law or disputing parties to the law court? And, how about the stage of sentencing of persons found guilty of any charge? You’d better believe that the disparity goes all the way, and I will talk about it in my next blog on the subject…without bullshitting, meeeeeeeeeeeen!!!

Finally, I have two versions of the CCTV video of Senator Abbo brutalizing the lady. One 2-minute is a short video clip uploaded here, and the other is a YouTube link to the source, with a narrative.
First, the short clip:

Then, the YouTube link for full source report: https://youtu.be/ykKT0tU-Qv8

Here’s the link to “Two Faces Of The Law,” part 2. This part 2 will link you to part 3 at the end:

TWO FACES OF THE LAW IN NIGERIA, PART 2

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