Friday, August 12, 2011


That some youths in England who have no moral compass, have decided to show what a poor job was done in their upbringing; is no longer news! 

The coverage, like all things British, has occupied the front row in the BBC, and Sky Television coverage!

The British seem not to be making a connection, between this failed experiment at parenting: which treats children as equals with adults, with the scant regard the juvenile terrorists hold them in!

There is a lesson for Nigeria to learn from the shameful incidents we have watched in consternation!

It is not a lesson that is quickly apparent, but one that can be gleaned by those who choose to see! It is not that some Nigerian youths probably participated in the riots: it is not that some Nigerian businesses were affected, or that some Nigerians would become unemployed due to the businesses they work for being destroyed!

In the words of Kahlil Gibran, "the reality of the other person; lies not in what he reveals to you;but what he cannot reveal to you: therefore, if you would understand him, listen not to what he says, but rather to what he does not say"

Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London spoke to the press, and a gathering of concerned citizens on the third day of the riots: and I listened, and understood him! 

He revealed that one of the arrested brigands, had already been sentenced to six months in prison!

I was shocked! 

I was overwhelmed by the efficiency of a system that would deliver justice in less than seventy two hours!

I looked at him through the eyes of someone agonizing over the slow pace of justice in Nigeria! 

A lot of us are wondering why Hamza Al Mustapha has spent twelve years on trial!

Whether through an inefficient judicial system, or from attrition litigation, as a very good friend of mine chose to describe it: it should be unacceptable that a legal matter cannot be disposed of satisfactorily within twelve years! 

We are appalled, because we are aware of his case! 

But, for every Al Mustapha, there are thousands of others currently “awaiting trial”, our euphemism for efficient injustice!

These are the voiceless, and faceless victims of our refusal to bring our legal statutes in line with current best practice in jurisprudence!

Some have been in prison for upwards of fifteen years, and they are still waiting to be tried for offences whose sentences could not be more than two years!

They constitute the emotionally wounded we have unjustly locked away, and it is to our shame!

Their journey usually begins with an arrest for something as innuocous as wandering, or even for a discretionary crime manufactured by a policeman looking for a bribe! 

In extreme cases, it could be a well connected member of the society who wants to show a weaker person, that he can be punished with impunity! 

In the case of the latter, if the big man does not order the release of his victim; that may be the beginning of a fifteen year journey of injustice!

The fellow is thrown into one police cell, and if no one comes to bail him, he falls through the cracks! This is culpably abetted by the inimically insidious bureaucracy of the police force!

When a person is arrested, the case usually has an Investigating Police Officer, IPO. The IPO is the one who handles all matters relating to the case, he has the power of life, and death over the prosecution!

If the accused is taken to court, and the IPO is not available, he is remanded in prison, his case adjourned, and a new date is set for trial! Meanwhile, he goes back to prison! 

Because we do not have a viable legal aid system, justice, and tidy litigation, is still the exclusive preserve of the rich, and highly educated!

Through no fault of the accused, an abominable miscarriage of justice begins! If the IPO is transferred from that division, it becomes more difficult for the case to be prosecuted! Worse still, if the IPO is transferred out of state, the prisoner would now become a judicial orphan!

The IPO, who has now been transferred, would not be given money officially to come and testify during court dates, he also cannot use his negligible salary to pay for his inter-state transportation!
The poor prisoner, through the insidious system, finds himself in hell! 

Subsequently, new arrivals at the station who do not know his story, believe that he must be guilty, if he is in prison! A person is not presumed innocent, until proved guilty!

This is how prisons become congested in Nigeria! 

People who should not be in prison, rotting away because the system that is meant to give them justice has become unjust!

Many of these fellows are actually innocent, and are there because they have no one to speak for them! Eventually, many of them become criminalized because they are thrown in with hardened criminals, and have to become hardened, to survive! 

Our prisons do not reform, they destroy!

Another way the police contributes to prison congestion; is their willingness to become prosecutor, and judge in civil disputes!

When civil matters are brought, instead of the police sending the cases to court, they determine in their own wretched warped wisdom, that a party is guilty; and lock them up! 

They then impose conditions they feel are appropriate to remediate the loss suffered by the “complainant”.

In Nigeria, once you are the first to report a case to the police, they seem to believe that you must be innocent, and that they are working for you!

So they lock up the “accused” until their version of justice is served!

There is a lesson for us to learn from the British model of justice! It is that justice must be swift to deter others from offending! 

I am sure one or two individuals who probably wanted to help themselves to the properties of others through looting, would have had a rethink, when they saw the sentencing!

On the other side of the coin, is our penchant for not bringing genuine offenders to book! 

In doing this, we are inadvertently telling them, that they can go on offending, as long as they are rich, and powerful, because our own version of justice is paralyzed, blind, deaf, and dumb!

We need to evolve a system that does not punish the innocent, and reward the guilty! 

It is when we do this, that we can claim, that we are a truly just, and civilized society!

Until then, the anomie that our prison system has become, accuses us all!

1 comment:

  1. We NEED to do A LOT of things...the question is HOW???

    There aren't very many ills in that nation of ours that we are unaware of. We mostly know what the issues/problems are. What we are lacking, however, are solutions and more important avenues to implement those solutions.

    Nigerians talk and talk and talk but we DO NOTHING!!!!!

    To that effect-Lets see how many solutions are proffered in the forum you just posted this on :)