My brief visit to the village this Easter was as sobering as it was heart-rending.
And that is one of the reasons I’m usually reluctant to visit the countryside theses days. No matter how much cash one goes home with, one soon runs out of funds – not necessarily because one is playing Father Christmas in Easter.
Whatever direction you look, you’re confronted with abject want and life-threatening desperation. This is where you finally put a real face to the word “recession”.
You would be made of stone to see one kinsman hanging between life and death for lack of money to buy as little as N600 anti-malaria drug and do nothing about it. Many go to bed on empty stomachs. Here, a N200 gift could make the difference between life and death, hunger and a full tummy, sound night sleep and a hunger-induced all night vigil.
In our villages, you see poverty walking on two legs. Of course, many of the city dwellers pass through the same thing, but it would appear those ones manage to find a way to get by. Those who can’t are sometimes pushed to the wall so much that they either take a plunge off the Third Mainland bridge or simply waylay us on the road or ‘knock’ on our doors at night.
I don’t know about you, but for me, the biggest torture I’ve ever had to face is that seeing a loved one suffer from the commonest (cheap-to-treat) ailment and not be able to do anything about it, because one has suddenly run out of funds.
Painfully, all these are happening in a country that has more than enough to go round. In a country, where some have stolen and stashed away so much of the national patrimony, in private vaults, in the vain belief that their third and fourth generations would not need to raise a finger to earn a living. In a country where apartments in highbrow and not-too-highbrow areas are bursting at their seams with inexplicable stash of cash. A country where enormous sacks of cash are put on a plane without any escort. A country where market stalls are stocked with dollars and pounds instead of goods.
And the anti-graft agencies want us to believe that they don’t know who owns the money? Tell that to the marines! They would also not give the cash to those of us who are laying claim to it.
One thing I’m very sure of, however, is that if the money belonged to a PDP chieftain, or any functionary of the Jonathan administration, we would have since named and shamed him. For, even now that it does not appear to belong to any of them, we are daily being regaled with tales of how Jonathan signed it, how Stella Oduah warehoused it for Neighbour 2 Neighbour – a project that literally ended with the 2011 presidential election.
I guess that’s why we’ve kept running in circles with this anti graft war – because we’re lying to ourselves.
But my concern today is not really about who owns the money. I’ll oblige them my house address, if they can’t find the owners and do not know what to do with the loot, they could, at least, deliver some to my house. I have a fair idea of what to do with it. There just can’t be so much cash and we won’t have any to spend.
Yes, money, money everywhere, but not a dime to spend – apologies to John Pepper Clark.
Nigeria is sure one huge cocktail of paradoxes. A country where the most stupendous wealth exists side by side the worst forms of poverty.
Every bundle of the dollar notes, totalling $10,000 each, represents, at least, one solid small scale industry that can employ about five people each. Now, imagine how many $10,000 wraps that are in $43 million. Yet, we’re complaining of unemployment and prostrate economy!
These people are wicked!
And to rub insult into our injuries, they insult our collective intelligence with their shambolic investigation of the cases – intentionally messing it up and only pursuing the cases of only those who are not politically correct. And when a totally disgusted judge throws out their wobbly cases, they begin to insinuate judicial gang-up. They get the most inexperienced lawyers and expect them to floor SANs of several years standing. They want you, the accused, to feel sorry for engaging better lawyers than they. They just expect you to roll over and just and plead guilty? Even when they’ve not been able to piece a case together. To make matters worse, they blackmail people who genuinely want to help them.
I remember the case of Chief Niyi Akintola (SAN), who feels just as bad about the corruption in the country as President Muhammadu Buhari himself).
Chief Akintola was said to have sent word to the Attorney-General of the Federation, pointing out a few lapses here and there. He was subsequently invited by the AG to help expatiate on the observations and how to fix the situation.
But immediately he left the AG’s office, news went out that the respectable senior lawyer was among those being investigated for bribing a judge and had gone to beg the government, so that he’ll not be named and shamed. What a shame!
…Real reason EFCC is losing cases
But if you’re still in doubt as to why the anti-graft war is in tatters, here is a little piece sent by another Senior Advocate of Nigeria to the Frank talk of last Wednesday…
“What a pity. Some Nigerians speak before thinking. When you have government officials who run government of the illiterates, by the illiterates, for the enlightened, what do you expect. It is a pity that most commentators on the issue of corruption are legal illiterates, including some of those saddled with the responsibility of fighting the monster to a stand still.
It is also a pity that some of them, though trained, as lawyers, never practise in the court rooms but on the pages of newspapers, electronic media and social media, expanding the scope of media trial of suspects and prejudicing the mind of the gullible public.
Judicial system in all common law countries is acquisitorial in nature. It is justice according to the law and not justice according to how anyone feels or moral persuasion, for morality is an unruly horse. You get astride the horse of morality and it takes you to an unexpected destination.
Now come to the crux of the matter, many often forget that Nigeria is a federation with component parts that have no synergy with the centre. Most often, the centre behaves like an overbearing principal, ever too eager to bully the component parts to submission.
Contrary to the pedestrian thoughts of some commentators, very many senior lawyers had offered, and are still offering, legal advice, making suggestions to the decision makers on how to ensure that the fight against corruption is not derailed, but are they willing to listen or act on the suggestions. Femi Falana and I had on several occasions rubbed minds on the issue, and have written several memos to the supervisory authorities, drawing attention to the lacuna in the system, had one-on-one meetings with some stakeholders on the issue, but the impression being created is that the fight is the baby of PMB when it should be every body’s fight. Good intention is certainly not enough in achieving a particular goal. Good intention but bad approach would not yield the desired goals.
Legal profession is a conservative calling not synonymous with loudness. No judge would convict a suspect over an offence that does not exist, no matter the public sentiment to the contrary.
The prosecution of corrupt cases should not be a training ground for a rookie lawyer, who has no trial experience, knows no court procedures, bereft of capacity to handle pressure of courtroom advocacy, have no pupillage experience and have never had practical forensic advocacy training. As pointed out by Chris Uche, SAN, at one of the stake holders meetings, such incompetent prosecutors rely more on media trial of their victims and, in fact, encourage same in order to cover up their incompetency, so that when the accused is set free, he would resort to name calling, allegation of bias or corruption against the judges, etc.
Not every academic Lawyer is a forensic advocate like Profs Osinbajo, Osipitan or Awa Kalu, SANs, who made their silks in the court rooms. Not every human right lawyer is of Femi Falana, SAN, standing. Appearing on Channels or AIT every day should not be the standard for appointment of prosecutors. Falana, SAN, has demonstrated forensic advocacy competency over a period of 30 years. Get the likes of Osipitan, SAN, Awa Kalu, SAN, Jide Candido, SAN, Sabastine Hon, SAN, Livy Nwosu, SAN to compliment the efforts of Rotimi Jacob, SAN, fund the anti graft agencies properly, place the appointed prosecutors on yearly retainership and pay them reasonably to prevent conflict of interests and you will see a much more robust prosecuting team. Some charges pending in some courts have no business being in court. The Advisory committee should take a closer look at all the charges pending in court and drop those or amend those that are bereft of facts that can sustain conviction, apologise to the suspects concerned in line with the tradition of the anti-graft agencies in the western world. De-emphasise media trial and resist the practice of arrest before investigation or commencement of trial before looking for evidence. The trials of suspects as it is now is too media-driven.
EFCC is the most guilty of media hype on issue of corruption fight of all the agencies. It is very painful to see a notorious corrupt fellow, escaping justice due to case mismanagement.
As for the disco critics of the senior lawyers in the country, they should know that no serious lawyer worth his calling can afford to be flippant or engage in AGM. We add more value to the fight against corruption with constructive suggestions, positive and sound legal advice devoid of sentiments and emotions, which is the trademark of the lazy and ignorant.