By Godwin Onyeacholem
There is no question that in Nigeria, the poor, the less privileged and the largely dispossessed majority who find themselves in that demeaning class of human categorization have been condemned to a life of perpetual oppression. Forget what is in the law books. Under this rightly described prevailing order of fascist democracy, it has been the lot of the masses to be tormented, denied, and subjugated, except something revolutionary happens. And indeed as this phenomenon seems to have been ingrained in the system, the only way out, at the risk of being labelled an anarchist, is a revolution.
When you happen to live in this abnormal society and be so cursed as to be in that lower rung of the ladder – social, political or economic – without “connections,” just resign yourself to the reality that in the circumstance, unless in some strange way, you will never get justice if you ever turn up against an affluent and seemingly more powerful compatriot or a foreigner in our courts and/or at the offices of the law enforcement agencies.
No, you will not get justice because your low, inconsequential status does not endorse you as a beneficiary of that globally acknowledged ennobling act of rectitude. And more importantly, because the rich and powerfully “connected” will deploy the wherewithal to effect a miscarriage of the justice that easily ought to have been served you in a fair and an uncorrupted system.
Yet, the real tragedy in Nigeria is the bitter irony embedded in this subject. In most cases, those who have the mandate to facilitate the attainment of justice by ensuring public order and doing their work in accordance with the law regardless of who is involved, are themselves the real perpetrators of crime and abettors of criminals. Here, one has in mind the Nigerian Army, Nigerian Navy Nigerian Air Force, the police, other paramilitary forces and, in short, all the other coercive institutions existing under the Nigerian law.
They are all implicated in the despicable act of committing unforgiveable crimes, working with criminals to achieve selfish ends and, wait for it, openly playing very strategic but shameful roles in impeding justice of which the poor and those who don’t have influential people in the society to “fight’ for them are mostly the victims.
In fact, it can be safely argued that the frequency and intensity of crime in the Nigerian society is proportional to the level of co-operation between law enforcement agents and criminals. Of course crimes will be committed when perpetrators are aware that enforcement agents will co-operate.
On this score, the police are the worst culprits. In a cheeky negation of their own popular catchphrase (The Police is your friend) affirming friendship with the public, the police will rather choose to befriend criminals than be “your friend.” There is a legion of stories over the years to validate this claim, and the one trending now is just as ugly, stomach-churning and damaging to the unflattering image of the police as its antecedents. It’s the alleged murder in Karmo, a surburb of Abuja, just a little over six months ago of Joy Odama, a 200 Level Mass Communication student of Cross River State University.
The suspect, Alhaji Usman Adamu, is without doubt currently enjoying the full protection of the police who seem bent on ensuring that the Odama family, who obviously belong to the aforementioned class of the less privileged, does not get justice no matter how hard they try.
Sadly, in this tragic drama that evokes a mixture of anger and hopelessness, the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, who has a golden opportunity to prove for once that the police under his watch will not toe the rotten conspiratorial line of the past, has himself shown, from utterances and actions, to be the chief conductor in the sordid orchestra of injustice.
From the beginning, the role of the police has been geared toward making sure Alhaji Adamu, who obviously counts the top hierarchy of the police as friends, does not answer to his crime. Suspecting foul play on sighting the lady’s corpse when Adamu sought to deposit it in the mortuary at the Federal Medical Centre, Jabi, Abuja, the management had asked for a police report before the corpse could be kept in the mortuary.
Adamu rushed out and returned with Raph Nkem, a Chief Superintendent of Police and Divisional Police Officer of Karmo Police Station who ordered the mortuary staff to embalm the body and admit it. According to one of the witness, the DPO had been a regular visitor to Adamu’s house where he was usually entertained with fried meat and wine.
Nkem it was who dished out a cocktail of lies to the Odama family in defence of his evil-minded friend, Adamu. He it was who started the harassment and intimidation of the family, while declaring to them with shameless bold face that Adamu was not culpable in Joy’s murder. Instead of arresting Adamu and working towards getting him to have his day in court, see how a police officer at that level has put everything on the line to cover up a suspected criminal. Who will now say Adamu and Nkem are not working together?
That circle of despicable characters in the police has since widened to the Force Headquarters in Abuja where top officers have tried without success to force the Odamas to collect money from the suspect and permanently shut up. In response to public outcry over the failure to arrest the suspect, the police declared Adamu wanted. But it turned out the declaration had no sincerity behind it. It was the usual farce and mendacity to which the police are richly accustomed. The police never told the public that the man whom they declared wanted had been arrested at any point.
Meanwhile, the deceased’s family had obtained an autopsy report at the National Hospital Abuja which puts the cause of Joy’s death as “cardiogenic shock secondary to diffuse myocardial infection secondary to possible acute cocaine poisoning.”
At a meeting between the police and the Odamas at the headquarters, Adamu, the suspect, suddenly showed up flanked by officers, pumping hands and back-slapping cheerfully with people who supposedly had declared him wanted as he took his seat in the room. The Odamas were shocked to the bones. Faced with that perplexing spectacle, who will now say the police and Adamu are not working together?
It was at the end of the so-called meeting that the police, realizing that Adamu had been nailed by the autopsy report, delivered yet another shocker to the grieving family and the public: Police boss, Idris, directed that a fresh autopsy be conducted.
Predictably, this is done for no other reason than to, by all means, create a window of escape for the suspect. At the moment, the police are working hard to come up with the claim that the probable cause of Joy’s death was generator fumes. Really?
And rightly so, members of the Odama family and their lawyer have responded point-blank with the charge that the police want to manipulate the result with the claim of generator fumes to contradict the first autopsy report. Thankfully, the Odamas have the lead pathologist at the National Hospital on their side. The pathologist insists he stands by his report that the lady died from a heavy dose of cocaine.
The world is watching how the police are scheming to pervert justice in this case. It is one case that will more than determine the professionalism of the current IGP in the history of policing in Nigeria. If Idris and his men eventually succeed in undercutting the Odamas by freeing the man who allegedly murdered their daughter, he will surely be listed on the negative side of history as far as police work is concerned in Nigeria.
Let it be told in this country and beyond that the Odamas, who are from Cross Rivers State, are crying for justice. To be poor does not make anyone less human. Whoever is responsible for their daughter’s needless death must be punished. It is gratifying that the Cross River State Government under the leadership of Ben Ayade and Senator Rose Oko, also from the State, have both shown more than casual interest in this case. They should keep an eye on it to its logical end. So should all well-meaning Nigerians.
Godwin Onyeacholem is a journalist. He can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org