Where The Law Is Blind by Muh’d Bonga Ibrahim
In every country, it is vital that all citizens – irrespective of class or social status abide by a predetermined set of rules and regulations; rules which are usually derived from such a country’s constitution.
Democracy is often tagged as a system of government in which individuals elect their leaders based on the possession of distinctive qualities which they seek in a leader; qualities which give them an assurance of uniform social progress and meaningful leadership. Ironically, a democratic nation such as Nigeria with a relatively comprehensive constitution is held in the tight grip of lawlessness, as Nigerians seldom obey laws, and the leaders in particular seem to have a penchant for totally disregarding same.
There have been uncountable high-profile cases in which our laws were sidelined and grossly violated. One would recall the unlawful annulment of the June 1993 elections by General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, then Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. Shortly after, while he was on a trip to Egypt, the interim president, Ernest Shonekan, was overthrown by General Sani Abacha and Nigeria was plunged into one of the darkest moments in her history.
It was during the regime of this same self-proclaimed Evil Genius that corruption was virtually established as a norm. General Babangida’s regime failed to give an account of the Gulf War windfall which was estimated at a whopping $12 billion! Today, he resides in a hilltop mansion and has never been brought to book, or even investigated for all the crimes he allegedly committed while he was at the helm of affairs.
Another curious and highly sensational case is that of James Onanefe Ibori, who became governor of Delta state despite having a criminal record in the United Kingdom. After his tenure had elapsed, he was investigated by the EFCC for embezzling billions of Naira, but discharged and acquitted by a Nigerian court. Shortly after, he was again re-arrested in Britain and Nigeria received a global embarrassment when he was found guilty of money laundering and sentenced to years in prison.
Also, in 2012, Nigerians were ushered into the New Year with a substantial increase in the pump price of PMS from N65 to prices ranging between N120 and N180. The Nigerian Labour Congress embarked upon a nationwide strike, and after series of negotiations and a display of brutal force, the strike was called off and protests were quelled. The pump price of petrol was set at N97 and the Federal Government promised to set up a panel to investigate those oil marketers who had taken undue advantage of the subsidy on petrol.
From the side of the House of Representatives, Hon. Farouk Lawan was given the mantle of leadership of this committee, and Nigerians were shocked when evidence came forth that this member of the Integrity Group had indeed requested for a $3million bribe, $620,000 of which had already been paid. As is to be expected, he denied ever having the intention of collecting a bribe, but insisted that he had simply planned to expose Femi Otedola with the money – this was after he had defended Mr. Otedola’s company and absolved it of all complicity. The housed removed him as the head of the House Committee on Education and Subsidy respectively and was later charged to court, where he was remanded in custody for a week and asked to post a bail of 10 million Naira to regain his freedom, at least temporarily. Today, Hon. Farouk Lawan is still a member of the House, and also of the Ecowas parliament. Femi Otedola was also never charged to court for the crime of offering a bribe.
Recently, another High Court judge made a highly debatable decision of granting someone a bail of just N250,000 after he had siphoned N23 billion meant for pensioners. This judgment sparked a number of reactions, such that even Hon Dino Melaya – a former member of the Federal House of Representatives – had to organize a protest against the judge who presided over the case. The Chief Justice of the Federation also promised to look into the matter.
Since the onset of the Boko Haram menace, where many people have lost their lives and so many properties have been destroyed, no concrete explanations have been offered and virtually no criminals have been brought to book. All we hear is news of arrests, and the seemingly supernatural feat of constant resurrection by a particular figure called Abu Qaqa.
All these and numerous other cases prove one thing – that law in Nigeria is consciously blind. In saner climes, being caught in any type of scandal would result in immediate dismissal or a forced resignation. Depending on the gravity of the offence, a heavy fine or jail term could also be imposed. Taksin Shinawatra, the former President of Thailand – who was once the owner of Manchester City football club of England was arrested years after he had left office when evidence surfaced that he had been involved in corrupt practices.
Former Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi resigned from his post after a series of controversies including an alleged report that he slept with an under-age girl. In Nigeria, all those against whom different allegations have been leveled are still part and parcel of Nigerian politics- in fact, they form a large chunk of those who are empowered to make our laws.
The million dollar question is – when will Nigerian leaders resign when evidence of corruption or improper conduct is brought against them and when will they ever be brought to book for the many crimes which they committed, and are obviously quite set to continue to commit?
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