So, yesterday, I was at a Lagos Mobile Court. I was seated quietly; observing, with keen interest and focus, the court proceedings. At the end of the trials, I was left sad and concluded our criminal justice system is the greatest criminal institution on the face of the earth.
You wouldn’t want to believe the level of romance between the magistrate and the prosecutors even before trial commenced. Their offices are even at arm’s length. The “Charge and Bail” lawyers are not spared. Although given tokens by the accused or their relatives, they’ve been corrupted and compromised. They have no client’s interest at heart; their sole business is to take some cash home. But, that is not even the meat of the matter.
I was surprised to see that the Lagos State Task Force still arrest and charged poor people for wandering. Whereas, the vagrancy law has been long abolished in 1989. Poor and innocent Nigerians are being indiscriminately arrested “for conducting themselves in a manner likely to cause the breach of peace”. You know what that means in layman’s English? They were caught jobless, hungry, homeless and poor. So, it is a crime to be poor and jobless in Nigeria
Funnily enough, most of them were almost forced to plead guilty. Believe me! Those who failed to plead guilty were wickedly remanded to prison with harsh bail conditions. But, you see those ones who simply admitted guilt by saying in Yoruba “mo jebi pelu alaye” were discharged and acquitted after a few interrogations by a largely ignorant magistrate with no emotional intelligence. How that kind got to the bench gives me cause to worry. On a lighter note, what “alaye” (explanation) would you make after saying you’re guilty? Well, in this particular court, it appears a crime to plead not guilty.
Some of the accused had no legal representation because they have no relative who would pay for the service of a lawyer. Were they even given the opportunity to reach out to their relatives before arraignment? That will be a story for another day. I became so emotional at that point. I was painfully helpless because I have not been called to the Nigerian bar to appear for the “Nigerian masses”. I nearly cried. Poverty has been criminalized by a useless government. And the masses are completely helpless.
Just reflect on the inhumane treatment that was unleashed on the hungry, poor and unemployed Nigerian people charged for wandering. The roaming about of jobless and hungry poor Nigerians is a crime in Lagos State even when there are no jobs provided by the country’s leadership. They’ve not stolen or committed any crime at all. They were only caught jobless and hungry. Or why should a person hustling for his daily bread be arrested for being likely to breach public peace? Can a rich man seen jogging in the wee hours of the day be so arrested for breaching public peace? That repugnant law must be abolished as quick as possible.
The law in Nigeria is fashioned in the interest of the ruling class and is at the detriment of the masses.
There is no justice in this land.