Tuesday, 13 June 2017 18:47

Can Nigeria Abide By The Rule of Law?

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Nigerian is a fascinating place and Nigerians are a fascinating people. The place and people are fascinating in the sense that they are mesmerizing, enthralling, captivating, and  absorbing all for the wrong reason; there is the absence of the rule of law.  That Nigerians are a lawless bunch is not debatable; no exaggeration or pun is intended. The law of the jungle operates in Naija.  In Nigeria, you can break any law, take the law into your own hands, and dish out judgment  as you see fit.

Breaking the law  is  a tantalizing entertainment.  You can't resist saying "Shit". It appears that lawlessness plays a significant role in a conundrum in reference to a riddle whose answer is a pun, a paradox, in a Nigerian political crisis whose answer is uncertain. For example, a group of rascals, the Arewa boys rose from a meeting and promulgated a jungle law that Anyamirins (the Igbos) residing in the North must vacate the area and return to the South.

Although members  of the Arewa have no legislative, judicial or executive powers , and although they  are an unemployed , uneducated deplorable group  from which riff raffs and Fulani cattle herders are recruited, equipped with incendiary materials, plus some powerful AK-47's, and drawn in a taskforce whose primary function is to create disturbances . The Arewa boys are lawless people whose only aim is violation of rights of persons considered as infidels .

Because they are lawless and lack respectability, Arewaens  could promulgate jungle laws, meaning they do broadcast, propagate, spread, arrogantly disseminate, transmit, or publicize the anti-Igbo statements with a total disregard for the rule of law. To deny Nigeria's lawlessness as most of our corrupt politicians and I-don't- care fellow citizens do or to defiantly ask "what about other countries like US and UK" is to dream that, in the flush of dawn, Nigerian sky glowed with empyreal beauty without a trace of corruption.

In Nigeria, although the law is in the books, it is bent so much that it appears either to be an afterthought, or forgotten at the Government printing shop. It is more likely than not that the rule of law is incomprehensible to the people of Arewa; jungle law has replaced legitimate law in the Arewa kingdom of Nigeria.

In the United States, the law reigns supreme; no one is above the law.  In Nigeria, criminal cowards like the Arewa thrive in connivance with the bellicose Muslims and belligerent  Islamists to turn the Nigerian law upside down in order to have legitimacy. In Nigeria, everyone seems to ride high above the law, including not just The Arewa boys, but also every hoodlums (kidnappers  and highway robbers).

Who can't be above the law when respectable lawmakers and judges have their own Arewa Club. A true Arawe-minded  person flaunt any Nigerian law holding Nigeria together as a nation or does something the Constitution forbids and see what happens to the idiotic Arewean. If nothing happens to the Araweans,, they believe they are above the law, and therefore the law does not apply to Arewa boys. Flaunt the law in Araweland and nothing happens to the flaunterer who is considered a superhero.

On the other hand, try to flaunt an American traffic laws, such that you fail to  yield  right of way, or you speed  through a traffic light, and see what the police would do to your stupid ass. And if you refuse to sign a violation form, you are in trouble.  Telling the police your father is the Oba of Arewaland would land your ass in hot water in America. Dropping the name of your Nigerian family would not only free you from culpability or blameworthiness if you break a Nigerian law but it would earn you some respectability.

Telling  the same stupid story to police in Washington DC or Atlanta, Georgia,  about your lawless Nigerian father being the Emir of Gwagwalada, would not prevent the police from placing metal handcuff on  your hands after beating your head down to the granite road. That is how the law is enforced in America. Nobody is above the American law.

Every one in America, even the former United States President Obama operated under the ambit of established law. Obama could not be above the law or do things the law prohibited. Obama simply  completed his second term as the law dictated and hurriedly left the scene as fast his two Kenyan legs could carry him .

Didn't President Obama swear at his inauguration ceremony to uphold the Constitution, to encourage enforcement of the law, and to see that the law applied to everyone across the land regardless of one's position in life? Every U S President is responsible for ensuring that everyone is respectful of and in obedience to the law.

Considering Nigerian ailing President Buhari, how many Fulani cattle herders beheaders of Christians have you heard have been brought  to the book? If you are a Muslim and you break the jungle law, you are practically unimpeachable; you are above reproach, or y0u are considered faultless, blameless, irreproachable, unassailable, and free  to go.

President Obama could be impeached and removed from office as assuredly as President-elect Hillary Clinton if she had won. So could the newly minted Republican President and  billionaire Donald Trump. Any American can be arrested and hauled away to jail if he/she willfully contravenes the law.

Can we say the same thing about Buhari? Obasanjo? Obiano? Surely, the same American law applies to any Nigerian American  as well as to the U S members of Congress and judiciary. Can we say the same thing about Nigerian laws and their application to all Nigerians, including the politicians, judges, or employees manning our ports and oil refineries?

The U S law is absolute, superlative, extreme, and placed on the highest pedal of honor. For example, Bill Clinton, former United States President, was faced with investigation and possible indictment for trespassing against certain ethical standards.

Wrong application of rules has consequences far more reaching and devastating than we can imagine. The effect of the American law is regarded as being dire, portentous, terrible, or horrible, isn't it ? The American law is expected to protect and safeguard life and property.

If you are a Nigerian governor known to steal and stash 2 billion dollars of public money in Swiss account, what punitive consequences would follow  you  in Naija, America, Europe or Britain? In Nigeria, what follows you is absolute nothing, zilch, naught, or nonentity in order to encourage more corruption. In countries outside Nigeria, a criminal stealing Nigeria's wealth and bringing the same overseas receives a slap in the palm to send the message "it is alright to rob your nation, but it is wrong to rob us the Britons, Germans,  or Americans."

Nothing would happen to a big-time Nigerian governor carrying millions in a Ghana-must-go  sack to overseas because the world knows that the rule of law does not exist in the neck of wood the governor comes from,  in the jungle known as wild Ni geria.

The sitting Nigerian  President's Government would look the other way when a jungle law is broken. Townspeople may come to the house of the law breaking/robber governor to congratulate him and dance owambe and sweet Mother. They would eat bowls of fried rice and drink Heinekens. Breaking jungle laws is like eating foo-foo with ofe manu and ofe onugbu (oily soup and bitterleaf  soup); the food is sweet and has sweet consequences.

What prevents a secondary school principal from embezzling the entire school fees the students have paid? Managers of the Ports Authority would overcharge customers in addition to seizing property of those refusing to pay the overcharge.

Police manning our Nigerian checkpoints would demand bribes from conductors and kill those who refuse to pay. Prices of garri at Ogbete, Lagos, or Port Harcourt  market would rise sharply when merchants conclude that "government is eating all out money, and we're getting nothing."

You are a Nigerian legislator and you have joined the syndicate of celebrated thieves raiding your country's treasury and looting pension  funds . Aren't you aware that the money you are stealing is beautifying other people's land while the local constituency you are elected to represent in Koji or Enugu State is decaying and riddled  with ndi ori (armed robbers)?

There is ukpa ( extreme poverty), ugani ( severe starvation),   and  oyia (infectious diseases?  In many Nigerian communities, since we are sure no one is there  to enforce the law. No one cares where there is no enforcement of the law. No law means jungle law.

Everyone knows the feeling of  guilty conscience, a sense of right and wrong, or the fear of being penalized for transgressing against a code of conduct. The American  law is said to have matchless supremacy. Words used to describe good, equitable laws include: without equal, beyond  compare, unparalleled,  unrivaled, incomparable, perfect, unique, inimitable.

Does the rule of law exist in Nigeria? Yes, it absolutely does exist.  Is the Nigerian law enforced and applied evenly across the board? The answer is emphatic no. The stark tragedy in the Nigerian context is in the application of the law.

You could wager or gamble all the dollars you have in the Bank Of America, including the Naira you have been saving at Equatorial Bank, Lagos,  that most citizens  in Naija know when they contravene or are in breach of laws criminalizing  certain behaviors, such as, bribery, stealing by the taking of property of another or killing by the taking of life of a neighbor, for example.

Unfortunately, very regrettably, most Nigerians refuse to acknowledge the rules of law, We Nigerians have not been indoctrinated for we refuse to be indoctrinated into obeying rules. To be indoctrinated is to be trained, coached, instructed, made aware of, or programmed to do certain acts.

Nigerians have not been encouraged to assert their legal rights under the law after being intimidated by brutal leaders under military and so-called democratic administrations from the Day One that the law has escape routes and therefore can be subverted.

We Nigerian are awash in Jungle Law. Very regrettably, most Nigerians often notice that the laws promulgated precisely to govern them do not apply equally to each and every citizen just the same.

The Nigerian law has incomparable futility or ineffectuality, meaning it is regarded as being inconsequential. It can be stomped under feet  in the dust with shameless impunity and reckless abandon. The law can be battered with the fists of bribery and unabashed feet of  effrontery or impudence, meaning rudeness, disrespect, or audacity.

My country Nigeria has all the good laws on the book, and Nigerian law schools produce o good number of men and women wearing brown mops on their heads as lawyers, judges, and legislators.

Alas, unfortunately, just regrettably, it takes more than being on the book and marching around with dark suits and mops on head to have a stable civil society. We need obedience to and respect for our laws to escape being called "jungle people."

Was Chief Obasanjo under the law? Is he was, why did he attempt to seek (nay, usurp) the 3rd term? Is Buhari under the law? If he is, why does he look the other way when Christians are being slaughtered by bad Boko boys? Didn't the boko boys gain ascendancy or pre-eminence and notoriety after General Buhari lost the elections to the Ijaw man?

Were Igbo governors, such as  Peter Obi and Chris Ngige, acting  under the rule of law when giving out "dash" to promote church schools to the detriment of public education?  Haven't Muslim governors of far North been lawless when they use government monies to establish sharia law systems  where women are stoned to death for alleged, self-styled adultery.

Quoranic schools are such that secondary school students have continuously scored at the  bottom of every West African School Certificate Examinations because education is considered to be evil (hence boko harram).

Why must anyone, such as  Nnamdi Kalu, be arrested , detained, and denied  constitutional rights without a speedy trial? Why do some Muslims arrogate to themselves the vicious temerity to attempt to convert Nigeria to a Sharia Law state when the country is 50 percent Christians and 50 percent Muslims? Their attempt to intimidate Nigeria into becoming a member of the Islamic League without holding  a referendum is the worst demonstration of utmost disregard of the rule of law.

Is Babangida hiding from the law and did he respect the law while he was a leader? Did Jonathan get up from sleep one morning and decided to sign an edict instituting a laissez faire attitude toward national insecurity or whatever sentiment he dreamed of the night before? Do members of the Nigerian Senate and House of Representatives pass laws that apply to Nigerians with the exception of their own persons?

The current Nigerian law seems to be what the individual negotiates. What law enabled a Nigerian policeman to order a lorry conductor who refused to give a N100 bribery to alight from the bus and then proceeded to shoot the hapless soul to death in full view of terrified passengers? We can safely say that Nigeria operates under the Law of the Jungle.

A few years ago, while this writer was teaching graduate programs at a state university in a southeastern American city, he came face to face with what most, if not all Nigerians in the United States can understand to be the interplay of running and being pursued.

A Nigerian male had committed a crime involving drugs and shootout with police, and was being sought by law enforcement. He ran to our city in southeast United States to hide from the law. He sought refuge or sanctuary and was harbored in the house of another Nigerian friend.

The alleged criminal was not just running away; he was doing more than the Olympic hop-step-and-jump. He galloped  out of sight in no small fear, refusing to venture out even to purchase his favorite beer.

He was dreadful, terrified, petrified, and scared stiff.  He was nervous whenever his friend drove in front of, beside, or behind a police vehicle. Looking behind or sideways at the approaching police vehicle, that criminally minded Nigerian would complain:"  Why are these ndi uwe oji (police in black uniforms)  following us?"

His complaints were insistent and  consistent with behavior of one who knew one had done a bad thing and was evading punishment. That Nigerian criminal's complaints were adamant and persevering even when the U S police officers were obviously busy minding their mundane or humdrum business of maintaining law and order. This proves that Nigerians fear the U S American laws but trash the laws of their country.  What a tragedy!

Living in the United States brings every citizen, including every Nigerian-American, within the ambit  of the law. Ambit of the law is the realm, domain, field, territory, or influence of the law.  Good citizenship implies awareness of the sphere of influence the law has on citizens' lives  and what lessons are to be learned  from awesomeness of the concept of law.

That we respect the law, fear the law, live in conformity with applicable rules, is evident in the daily lives of our law-abiding neighbors from Nigeria, living in America  and other foreign lands. Why can't they have the same respect for our country's laws?

The fear that this writer could be stopped by the police and taken to jail for driving under the influence of alcohol, for example,  should strike fear into the heart of this writer and the hearts of  most law-abiding citizens to observe  DDAAD ("don't drink alcohol and drive".

Yet, the fear of police and laws of the land should teach us about our own rights. Fear of the almighty law invariably confers or bestows certain advantages on law-abiding citizens. For example, you can sue and win monetary damages for false imprisonment.

Recently, a traffic policeman issued this writer a ticket for allegedly exceeding the posted speed limit of 65mph. The ticket alleged the writer was travelling at 81mph, in a 65mph zone. In Nigeria, the police would arrest the writer and extract a bribe that would set him free to go after payment.  In America,  the writer can elect to pay a fine at the court before court date in lieu of appearing in person. This writer chose to go to traffic court to challenge the traffic citation and argue his case.

There are a few possible lines of argument this writer could proffer in his culpability defense.  First, Officer was mistaken in his determination of the writer's speed. Checking speed by radar is not faultless since the radar might be inaccurately calibrated. The radar can malfunction without warning while being used.

Next argument is that exceeding speed limit was justified during the morning writer was ticketed for speeding because motorists were rushing to the work on that pleasant mid-morning sunlight, and writer was driving following the flow of traffic. Slowing down was risky and could cause a ghastly accident. Finally, Officer mistook writer's car for another after spotting a vehicle that looked like writer's. He could be spotting a man who looked my age or who was driving in a manner that resembled mine.

It is up to the Judge to make impartial determination of my guilt or innocence. I would submit to the punishment an impartial judge recommends. In Nigeria, I would have as much chance as a snowball in hell to defend myself before a Judge who may not be uncontaminated by untoward influences (such as tribe, money, politics, etc).

Almost every US citizen, including any Nigerian-American, knows his/her rights under the law. We constantly talk about suing someone for infringing upon our rights under the law, and we are apt to fight to defend those rights. The American law applies equally to you and me. Neither of us is above the law. We pay a fine or go to jail if we break the law.

We are encouraged to assert our rights and defend them in the courts of competent jurisdiction in the United States to the fullest extent o the law. The most bothersome aspect of most Nigerian laws is their ambiguity or vagueness.  The laws in Nigeria are not clear.

The Nigerian laws can be and are often circumvented with the impunity of a one-eyed bandit. That one belongs to a certain Nigerian tribe or has a certain amount of Naira at FCMB does influence the outcome of  a trial. Success at trial in Nigerian courts can be sold to the highest bidder.

We don't fear good laws nowadays in America because a good law is our friend  when we comply with its terms. It gives us courage. Let the police stop you on the highway. You will almost shove your driver's license and insurance card in his face. Then, you would almost stab a warning finger at the police's chest  and sneer: "Officer, why are you now stopping me?  What probable cause? What law have I broken now?"

Perhaps, you have made an illegal u-turn, fail to change lanes properly, or forget to buckle up. The penalty is a fine which you would promptly pay before the court date, or you could go before the Judge. Breaking the law wastes valuable time. It takes money from your pockets. It inconveniences you and takes you away from attending to other more pressing tasks. Therefore, it is to our advantage and peace of mind to obey the law no matter how unfair we deem it to be.

The situation is different in my dear country Nigeria, isn't it? I hear Nigerians with money or powerful political connections do feel or see themselves as being untouchable. They seem to live above the law with peculiar aggrandizement.

That's why a man can go to his village,  and pay a policeman the sum of N50,000 (the equivalent  of 110 dollars)  to place a man he consider s to be a  threat in a slammer house for a few weeks until the briber is able to leave the village.

Unfortunately, a man caught red handed in the very act of killing his wife with a machete or taking someone else's land will talk back at accusers. "So, what will you do about it?"

He has no remorse or guilt because, according to him  (1) "The law does not apply to me since it doesn't apply to the police or the president;" and (2)  "I can bribe the police or judge and be declared guiltless." The Nigerian criminal can even stand before omnipotent  God and declare in his right mind: " Heavenly Judge, I'm not guilty of breaking this law like other law beakers."

Just consider former governor James Ibori 's innocence in Nigerian courts and guilt on every count in a London court. This gives me a sinister idea: if you do me wrong overseas and if I catch you at home, I will bribe a policeman/kotma/ndi uwe oji to lock you up on trumped-up charges until I am ready to release you or after I have  kicked you hard many times on your ass. Sometimes, I think the law of the jungle has some sinister benefits. Call them the JA's, the  Jungle Advantages.

But the rule of law facilitates my peace of mind. When the law rules I sleep better, drive better, move around better, and talk to my friends better. I'll have no need to build my house in Nigeria  and enclose it within the protection of high walls fortified with broken bottles or pointed jagged metals.

There would be no need to pay a dibia (witch doctor) a lot of money to provide me with some magical concoctions or drinks that would enable me to avoid being poisoned or taken hostage. There would be no need to seek a witch doctor to inject a mixture of water and powdered roots into my veins to protect me against gun shots.

When laws are good and evenly applied across the board, I will not have to give N100 to every thug that throws old tire and dirt across the road inside the Lagos market to prevent my exit  until I give a bribe to avoid being kidnapped . Why must I pay the official N200 road toll at a Lagos checkpoint at the mouth of the market and then illegal N100 illegal bribe to the head of a hideous robbery team inside the dusty market, who claims to be a market security?

The market has Mr. Barawo, the dusty checkpoint man! But, when I poked my face out of the window into the dusty air and bellow at that Barawo Checkpoint thief: "Oya, I wan make I go. I beg-o take those stupid dirt out of my way. Driver, make we go." The barawo would smile, pointing a dirty finger at his mouth and stomach and saying: "Oga, I wan make I chop small."  He was  the perfect picture of a hungry/starving thief seeking food. God, forgive me for being uncharitable.

My heart would melt out of pity for that man, one of God's wretched sons. "Driver, here, give-am  N100 and make we go." Then , I wanted to slap the driver who kept reminding me, "Oga, dis no be America. Na Naija  you de. You go give this people something." He is encouraging me to give bribes to a self-appointed traffic control thief. I am still upset about giving too many backhanders/bribes already.

I am still angry with my friend named Felix who is attempting to convince me that "In Nigeria, you have to give this people some bribes if you want anyone to work for you." Shiege! So giving bribes and breaking the law are rights de passage demanded  by force? The role of lawlessness in Nigerian crisis is obvious. Everyone expects  breaking the law through bribery.

Bad laws make me lose sleep and hard-earned money as you can see. I had given N500 gratuity to a bank teller in Lagos to look up my bank number and account balance. I became impatient at a roundabout delay as night was falling. I beckoned the starving officer to approach the taxi I was riding in. I then slapped his hand and left dirty N100 in his clammy, greasy palm so my taxi would be allowed  to move on.

I had accompanied my friend Felix to NEPA office to pay for his overdue 2-or-3 months electric bill of N7,000. Felix and I walked behind the NEPA building to say a few words to a famished/hungry clerk. Felix handed the clerk N200 bribe, and Felix was issued a N2,000 receipt. We used the N5000 left over from the original N7,000 bill to purchase a quantity of fuel  for our Toyota and kerosene for the generator.  Felix also bought a few bottles of Heinekens. Shit!

The Jungle Law in my ancestral home can be so overpowering and frustrating particularly when you are dealing with a lawless people like Nigerians who know how to take undue advantage of the law meant to protect. My home in lawless society where citizens are always ignoring, bending, or circumventing the law promulgated to protect them.

Breaking the law  is  a tantalizing entertainment.  You can't resist saying "Shit". It appears that lawlessness plays a significant role in a conundrum in reference to a riddle whose answer is a pun, a paradox, in a Nigerian crisis whose answer is uncertain.


Submited by Dr. James C. Agazie, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ; jamesagazies.blogpot.com

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James Agazie Ed D

A retired college Professor  with educational backgrounds in law (JD) education (Ed.D, MA) counseling,( MS) and and mathematics.  Write on topics dealing with Nigerian families, marriages, education, and employment.