After the supreme judges’ homes were raided in the middle of the night a few weeks ago by the District of State Services (DSS) due of allegations of corruption, initially I thought that was a bit outrageous that people in the highest office of judiciary in the land were rough-handled in that manner.
Maybe thorough investigations should have been done, maybe we should have adopted Anas Aremeyaw Anas of Ghana’s strategy – go undercover to collect evidence that supports arrests. Hindsight is 20/20.
Then I am thinking why is it that whenever anyone in a public office was arrested for alleged fraud/corruption or any offence for that matter people tend to cite democracy? Didn’t we have democratic government when these people acted as if they were above the law?
Often our stories sound like movie scripts, with or without unpredictable ending. The truth is that if all Nigerians who have been hurt by the lack of dependable justiciary system had to give testimonies, I doubt anyone would pity the arrested judges whose houses were raided unannounced.
We all have different stories. Here’s one that affected my family when my uncle was arrested in the mid 80s. My father must find money to bail out his little brother from the police station. He didn’t know why his brother would steal or what he had stolen, all he was told was that my uncle was arrested while he was robbing someone’s house.
Our judiciary is this bad because people who have been entrusted with power have long been compromised, starting from the top to bottom.
When my father made it to the local police station, he was told by the officer on duty that his brother can not be released as his case was a ‘special one’. He was able to talk to his brother briefly, he had been beaten so much that he could barely recognised him.
So he had to find a lawyer, still had no clue as to the offence his brother was arrested for. Luckily a local lawyer at the time was a very good person. He promised to help so my dad went to the village, leased his cocoa and my uncle’s cocoa farms for three years (not big farm at all, but a big deal for him). Lawyer’s fee was secured so made a visit to my uncle to get the truth of the story.
Police officer provided a bag of sand, something about 1kg as what my uncle had stolen to get him in trouble.
Stealing 1kg of sand sounds like a complete absurdity to get one beaten let alone to call police on one, but reality of Nigeria in most cases is that many things that people, ordinary people get killed, or imprisoned for make no logical sense.
This is what formed my opinion about Nigeria justice system – often with cash to dispense, anyone can get away with just about anything, most of our law enforcers have a price they can’t say no to.
Wondered what my uncle’s offence was? Two years prior to this time, my uncle traveled out of town to work on a big construction project. He had a relationship with a lady. When the project finished, they both returned to town, said lady went to her parents’ house where my uncle paid her visits. Unknown to my uncle, the lady’s ex-husband had spotted my uncle and he was furious that his ex-wife left him for a no-name guy in town. The lady was pregnant so it was a bit too late but the ex was determined to lay his anger on my uncle.
On one of the visits, a group of 20-something year olds descended on my uncle, beat him mercilessly, the leader went ahead to call the police to put my uncle away without accepting bail – his intention was to get him to jail.
Although the truth of my uncle’s offence feels like the biggest insult and injustice ever, my father was just really happy his brother was released.
With my uncle’s story, nobody dies, people eventually moved on, and cocoa farm lease eventually expired -after all, really that was a small town area boys causing wahala. Having said that, many people today with means and more serious cases seldom fight injustice anymore as it is often a losing game especially if the defendant is more influential – it is all about money.
Now on the judges’ arrest, the two affected supreme judges were asked to step aside from their official duties while they were being investigated, that was a step forward.
While I am not holding my breath, I do hope to see real people getting behind bars.
When judiciary is compromised, everyone suffers injustice one way or the other.