The Endless And Tortuous Road To Justice In Nigeria
Last week, Justice Oyejide Falola of the Osun State High Court sitting in Ikirun discharged and acquitted Oba Adebukola Alli, the traditional ruler of Ilowa Ijesa for allegedly raping a National Youth Service Corps member, Ms. Helen Okpara. Justice Falola said the plaintiff failed to prove she was raped as she couldn’t tender enough exhibits. According to him, a case of rape can only be established with evidences such as bed sheets; torn clothes; the victim’s pants; sustained injuries by the victim on her private parts and other parts of the body; and a medical report, indicating forceful penetration. He said the Court was not convinced that Ms. Okpara sustained injuries, and that the Court could only establish that the victim and the accused had a sexual relationship before their quarrel. This sad judgement clearly represents the miscarriage of justice that poor and hapless Nigerians, especially women, children and the vulnerable are subjected to on a daily basis.
There are countless cases and numerous stories that end up like that of Ms. Okpara in this country daily; it is all a reflection of the sorry state of the justice system in Nigeria. Getting justice in this country today for the average individual is very difficult indeed; it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for an average Nigerian to secure his rights and get justice. Now, as before, it is only the super rich that can get justice in Nigerian because justice here goes to the highest bidder. In order to get justice, you must pay for the process, and at all stages of the process, you must pay otherwise you won’t get justice as you would be considered not to be ready by the critical players.
When you go the police station to report a case for instance, you must pay the police to make a statement; you must pay for a pen and paper; you must buy them recharge cards to make calls; you must pay for mobilisation and you must pay for their transportation-if they have a vehicle, you must fuel it, and where they do not, you must pay them for public transportation. And if you do not have money to pay, you won’t get the police to act, and if you do manage to get them to act, you won’t get a fair investigation as the police will switch sympathy to the suspect or oppressor even if they find out that you are innocent, because the suspect or oppressor as the case might be, have the resources to pay, and his money will swing the sympathy of the police to him.
If you are able to successfully walk through the police and your case, whether criminal or civil does eventually gets to the Courts, you must be ready because justice in the Courts, like the police equally goes to the highest bidder. Aside the fees you will pay your counsel, to file a case in the Courts, you must spend heavily; filing papers alone will cost you at least N15,000, that is before you even secure a hearing. If your case involves suing for damages, you must pay a significant percent of the worth of the damages you are suing for to the Court, and you must make the payment before a hearing is fixed. Sometimes, one might be fortunate to have the State take up his or her case, but even that may hit a brick wall if the State Counsel and other vital players become compromised.
The end result of all this is that the poor cannot get justice, and so they often resign to fate, and bear in silence the associated stigmas like the ones from rapes. They give up most of the time because they realise that justice in Nigeria only goes to the highest bidder; nothing more, nothing less.
Eneruvie Enakoko and the Conscience Reports Team.
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