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Will Offa Victims Get Justice?

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On Sunday 3rd June , 2018, the Nigeria Police Force paraded the arrested and detained suspects in the Offa Bank Robbery or butchery in which at least 33 innocents Nigerians perished. In doing so, the Police did not only release the ” interim ” investigation report on the robbery, the confessional statements of the suspects , but also the list of the synoptic particulars of the armed robbery suspects. Journalists were also allowed to interview one of the suspects ( described as the gang leader). To cap it all , the Police announced that the Senate President, Bukola Saraki was being summoned to appear at a police station in Abuja FCT to be interrogated on his alleged involvement and links with the Offa Bank Robbery suspects.

Generally in our country, political violence and corruption are the two things that shape and determine acquisition, retention and deployment of political power. Politicians use money stolen from state coffers to contest elections and win power. Every ruling party uses government money to run election. It was done in the past. It is being done now.

Politicians of all shades, when they are not in control of the lever of law enforcement, security and intelligence powers of the State or in control of the armed forces , privately acquire and deploy illicit violence against their political rivals and opponents. When they come into power and take control of these state security and law enforcement resources, politicians still use the state organized instrumentality of violence against their opponents. Thus, what the suspects allegedly have confessed to doing in Kwara ( outside the Offa Robbery) occurs now and then all over our country: Ekiti, Rivers, Ondo, Kogi, Borno ( before the BH metamorphosis) , Kaduna, Kano, etc, etc.

In Kaduna, in 2016 , the military and the adherents of the Shiite movement were involved in a bloody clash over the right of way Over 300 Nigerians reportedly were killed in that encounter. No military personnel died in the mayhem, a fact which underscores the disproportionality in the use of military force , against an unarmed civil population. On top of that, the Sect Leader and his wife were arrested and detained in what the Federal Government called a protective custody. The Court ordered their release . No compliance . And now after two years in detention, they are being charged before a high court for murder ! The Court of Justice will determine their fate.

The takeaway from the Saraki summons saga is that the ordinary people of our country need to be circumspect when nembers of the ruling class are at daggers drawn before pitching camps.

Next time you need to be more careful before jumping into a claim being made by the Police regarding any criminal investigations. Saraki was summoned to appear before the Police regarding any role he might have played in sponsoring ,funding , arming, using , offering protection to and shielding from justice the Offa Banks robbers.

Regardless of the motive, the Police have the statutory powers to summon him , and upon being so summoned he was under a duty to heed the summons. He is not clothed with immunity; hence he cannot justifiably say that the Police lack the powers to summon him or investigate him.

But the summons had not even be delivered when protagonists and antagonists engaged themselves in a needless ” cyber warfare ” , tearing down one another on whether Saraki was not being framed up; whether it was plausible for him to be a robber or not ; whether the allegations or charge of conspiracy could be sustained against him under the criminal law; whether even if it was conceded that he was the godfather of the robbers, using them as his private armies to deal with his political adversaries during and in between elections he should be held ‘ vicariously’ liable for the acts of the Offa robbers, not being the only politician who is guilty of this; whether like an armourer, protector or spiritual fortifier of armed robbers , he could not be held liable for the actual criminality of the robbers , especially when under the robbery and firearms portions of our criminal law, culpability or liability is strict , be one a mere conspirator or actual participant ; whether President Buhari is not unfurling a brazen militarism in Nigeria by allowing the Police to assail the office of the No. 3 citizen in Nigeria , etc, etc.

All over the social media , there emerged many prosecution and defence counsel. Many argued that the Senate President could never be involved in armed robbery, while many countered by arguing that whether he was involved or not , he should heed the summons and clear his name.

The vicious arguments and contestation were not necessary. There was no need to hastily eliminate certain categories of crimes. A corrupt politician can be a murderer, hiring people to kill political opponents, and a murderer can be an armed robber. In many cases, rapists kill their victims, in the course of ravishment , suffocating them , or after the crime of rape is committed. And in the era of yahoo plus, “harmless and nonviolent ” fraudsters have become murderers and ritualists. The boundaries and demarcation being drawn between decent crimes and indecent crimes were not necessary at that stage. We ought to have awaited the outcome of police investigations.

Within 24 hours of declaring the intention to issue and serve the summons , however, the Police reversed itself. Obviously due to the outcry from a section of the public alleging persecution against Saraki, a security meeting was hurriedly put up at the presidency to deliberate on the issue. After the meeting, the Police issued a statement stating that the Senate President would no longer be summoned; that in lieu of the summons, he would now be made to write his reactions or responses to the allegations made against him within 48 hours .

What a shameful management and trivialisation of the law enforcement process! Why do we say so ?

First, that reactive meeting ought to have taken place before the announcement by the Police on Sunday, that the SP was being summoned. If that meeting had been held before the announcement, the matter would have been previewed and all the challenges, including the hoopla and public outcry that followed the announcement would have been put in perspective. If this had been done and the meeting had resolved that the summons should be issued, and that the law should take its course, it is unlikely that the summons would have been “arrested” or cancelled by the outcry of the ” persecution crusaders” or that the IGP or the NPF would have been dissuaded from issuing , serving and ensuring compliance with its summons.The Presidency was obviously in a disarray . It was tailing the event instead of shaping it. There was a lack of coordination.

A police summons duly issued without malice and in good faith , and arising from a probable cause for arrest or investigation ought not to be hastily withdrawn for reason of public disapproval. If a law is broken, the breaker of the law must be brought to justice regardless of whether public perception endorses the measure or not, and regardless of whether the breaker of the law is an ” opponent ” of government alleging political persecution. Nobody, should , by default, be permitted to cloth himself practical immunity by a resort to blackmail. By the way, the Senate President is not an opponent of the government. He is in government.

Second, the decision to demand a written statement from the SP , without his visiting the Police station to be interviewed and investigated is laughable. It has ridiculed governance and trivialized law enforcement.

A police investigation cannot be conducted by requesting a suspect to submit, from his home, a letter or a written narrative of his own side of the story. This is ridiculous. When a statement is to be taken from a suspect or a proposed witness in a criminal investigation, the suspect or witness is made to appear before a police officer , given a police statement form , wherein there are inscriptions and logo of the Police force, and made to write a statement under caution. The statement is signed, dated and witnessed.

The statement forms are not supposed to be given to a VIP as a gesture of courtesy to take home to write on, without doing so in the presence of a police officer. The question that now arises is , will the Police give its blank statement forms to the SP to write on as he pleases or will police officers go to the SP home to assist him in writing his statement? In what format will the requested statement be ? Typewritten or handwritten? Will the Police accept a typewritten or handwritten statement on sheets of papers different from the Police statement forms used during investigations? Is the request for a written statement therefore not a tactical withdrawal by the Police from bringing the SP into the investigation net ? Has a political deal been struck between Sunday ‘ s announcement of the summons issuance and yesterday’ s resolution? Has the plea for the intervention of the President, which led to a Senate Delegation visiting the President, yielded fruits ? There are more questions than there are answers .

From our experience and observations, criminals escape justice not because they have not committed a crime, deserve punishment, or because they are too smart to be caught , but because those charged with law enforcement and criminal investigations are sloppy, whimsical and capricious. They lack diligence and hard thinking.

Police investigation ought not be used for political brinkmanship. It should be a serious exercise.

The Offa 33 and the other persons murdered by political thugs in Kwara State and in other parts of our Country deserve justice .

Will they get it ?

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