Nigeria’s Point-and-Kill Prosecution
Gradually but gratingly, Nigeria has become a crime-infested country where crimes rage and criminals go on the rampage unchecked. Terrorism only recently joined the maelstrom which had armed robbery and rape among its most pressing concerns. The rise of militancy in the Niger-Delta saw the first seeds of abduction for ransom sown.
If the oil-related militancy in the Niger-Delta sowed the seeds of abduction for ransom in Nigeria, banditry watered it, weeded it, and is now reaping a bountiful harvest from it. Every day in Nigeria, especially in the restive Northeast, Northwest and Northcentral regions, innocent Nigerians, some as poor as church rats, are picked up by ruthless criminals. Once picked up a price is put on their heads like wares in the market place. To, fail to pay is to sign one`s death warrant.
This nightmare has been experienced by nonagenarians as well as children as young as four. Now, with the bandits gaining territory and temerity every day, the grim forecast is that business will continue to boom for those involved and their sponsors.
There is Boko Haram. Some of their most ruthless fighters have supposedly surrendered and are undergoing rehabilitation and de-radicalization at the instance of the Nigerian army in rather comfortable circumstances. The war against Boko Haram inclusive of the prosecution of suspects and their sponsors has more often than not thumbed its nose at transparency.
Then, there is corruption. Like a sack cloth, corruption clouds Nigeria`s finest features, leaving unmistakable signs of grief across many aspects of life in the country. Contracts are awarded and the contract sums embezzled even before the ink dries on the award letters; public officers siphon humongous amounts of money that should go into improving public services. When budgeting is done either at the national level or at the level of MDAs, they are padded with arrangements made to line greedy private pockets.
The result of Nigeria`s rampant corruption is a chilling dichotomy between the corrupt cast of crabs ripping the country apart and Nigeria`s poorest who struggle with everything from adequate housing, to adequate nutrition to payment of even the cheapest bills. Nigeria`s many criminals and crimes leave the agencies which prosecute such crimes and criminals with a steep dilemma: to prosecute or not to prosecute and whom to prosecute.
Because prosecutorial resources are stretched thin and the rule of law strained by the dark politics of nepotism, many of Nigeria`s prosecutorial agencies resort to a point-and-kill kind of prosecution. Because many criminals abound, targets for prosecution are randomly chosen not necessarily because they are the worst known offenders but because many other factors dictate that they be chosen. The results of this selective approach to prosecution which many times come disturbingly close to witch hunts are sobering.
In the highly charged waters of Nigeria`s corruption, because the prosecutorial agencies are afraid of the shiver of sharks that has for many years swallowed up funds that should have made life better for Nigerians, they go after the family of sardines.
So, the man who cannot explain the receipt of N50,000 is dragged all over the place while the one who has embezzled billions of public funds jets off to Dubai to negotiate the purchase of exotic houses and cars.
It would appear that when confronted by the lavish banquet laid out by master criminals, the eagle`s otherwise piercing eyesight conveniently falters. The law is an equalizer and equality before the law which is the central feature of the rule of law prescribes what is sauce for the goose as sauce for the gander.
To apportion different strokes to different folks is to pay abominable lip service to the rule of law. Those who oversee it are as complicit as those whose heinous crimes they choose to ignore.