These Buhari Times #1: On troublesome tribunals, our Commissioner *coughs* Commander-in-chief and the NPF’s lack of priorities

While the great war may be over in Westeros, some of Nigeria’s premiere politicians are fighting wars of their own. The Nigerian legal system and a hungry opponent can be just as tough an adversary as the Night King. With the level of corruption and mutual distrust amongst Nigerian leaders, it’s almost part and parcel of elections for results to be contested.

“At the last count account 776 petition cases have been filed from the about 1,550 seats that were contested at the just concluded 2019 general elections ,the losers feel they were cheated as always which is common, the Presidential tribunal issue is one that has been the talk of the time but they are other high profile tribunal cases which will be decided within 180 days as stipulated in Section 285 of the Constitution 1999 as amended” – Kunle [Contributor]

Right after the presidential case, the most high profile case is probably that of Senator Adeleke a.k.a the dancing senator, a.k.a Davido’s uncle and the current occupant of the Osun governor’s office Adegboyega Oyetola. Despite Davido’s premature celebrations on social media, this case is far from resolved. The trial court on March 22nd ruled in favour of Senator Adeleke in its majority judgment, this judgment has not gone down well with legal luminaries due to discrepancies between the provisions of the the electoral Act 2010 as amended in Section 140 and Osun State Governorship election guidelines re: Faleke V Bello &Ors (2016). There are a lot of legal issues to be discussed and the matter still has to pass the appeal court.

There’s also the little, and by little I mean very small, matter of the AD’s petition to stop Sanwo Olu’s swearing in. Their candidate Mr. Owolabi Salis doesn’t believe the election was won fairly. It looks funny considering that, with less than 4,000 votes, he wasn’t even the runner up… but hey, that’s what the law is about, equally dispensed justice, that includes the little guys. Hopefully, in the very near future INEC will perfect the election process and also increase transparency to reduce the frequency of these legal battles.

Part 2: Our Commissioner *Coughs* Commander-in-chief

So we all know how it goes; governor kicks off project, project is commissioned by president, people start using said project. Except it didn’t go like that, Ambode kicked off a couple projects, Buhari shut down the economic centre of our country to commission them and construction has since resumed on these projects. As one of my favourite naija twitter sayings goes, “Nigeria which way??”

Let’s put aside the optics for a second here and consider the costs of these performative actions. Buhari going to Lagos costs taxpayers a pretty penny; travel, security and other logistic expenses make it a costly endeavour. Then there’s the Lagos end of things, mobilising police, cost of the commisioning ceremony etc. Last but not least there’s the harder to quantify opportunity cost of his presence; the hours lost for the civilians in traffic, the time lost for the workers who should be on site. In fact, the only benefit to this premature celebration is another feather in Ambode’s cap and I’m guessing in his mind the chance to get in Buhari’s good graces. I imagine the soon to be ex-governor is angling for a juicy position in Bubu’s 2nd term; it remains to be seen how that’ll go.

There’s no shame amongst Nigerian leadership and whenever you think they can’t go any lower, they do. However, they alone aren’t to blame for sideshows like this, there’s a whole ecosystem of people who benefit from the financial outlay. Why stop a potential payday with sound advice? In my opinion, commissioning is an outdated practice, its a massive waste of time and resources and serves no other purpose than for elected officials to show us they’re working, the gag is, if you’re working we will know. What do we say to the god of premature celebrations? Not Today.

“…the gag is, if you’re working we will know.”

Part 3: NPF (No Priority Force)

It seems like the Nigerian Police Force can’t stay out of the news for the wrong reasons. From the vicious SARS operatives, to harassment/extortion, rising kidnapping rates and insecurity, insensitive statements by senior officers and now even gender discrimination then rape, seems the only thing they don’t do is actual police work. To be a youth in Nigeria right now is synonymous with a lack of hope; economic hardship and reckless profiling by the people who should be protecting us has made it so. But for a few bright spots like SEGA L’éveilleur® on twitter, who have made it their mission to fight for the voiceless, the situation would be inconceivably worse.

Just last week, Police raided popular nightclubs in Abuja and for whatever reason specifically targeted women; under the excuse of a crackdown on prostitution. No warrants, no procedure, nothing. As if that wasn’t bad enough, further reports have accused policemen of raping these women and (I hate to say it) using pure water sachets as condoms.

“Kunle : It was also reported the police raided popular Abuja strip club Caramelo and arrested the strippers on grounds of prostitution, the strip club was duly registered at the FCDA and everyone knows it’s a strip club, their activities are not hidden. Our laws clearly say anyone who creates public nuisance is liable to imprisonment but does stripping in an enclosed building amount to public nuisance? Prostitution is illegal but the treatment meted out by the police was wrong, their right to dignity was violated and such acts should not be condoned in our society. I am of the opinion that our laws be amended to meet 21st century standards since a lot of things, like strip clubs, were never envisaged in our laws”

You would expect some modicum of care on releasing a statement regarding such a case, here’s what the Assistant Commissioner of Police, Yomi Shogunle had to say. Joking, I am not. If reports are to be believed he has been demoted and relocated but that won’t be enough to solve the larger problem at hand.

For years now, Nigerians at all levels have called for a restructuring of the Police Force. Different states have different security issues, policing as it’s currently being practiced in Nigeria simply can’t work. First and foremost, they are understaffed, secondly they’re underpaid and last but not least they answer to a central authority distanced from the troubles of the average Nigerian. Restructuring however, carries its own risks; should state police answer to governors? How will that play out when it’s time for elections and incumbent governors have their police force eating out of their pockets? Can we even afford to pay police better and attract better quality recruits to the force? These are the kind of questions concerned Nigerians will have if any changes are to be made to the NPF.

Thanks to social media, the people are being heard, albeit slowly. Last year the Vice President took note of complaints about SARS and ordered immediate action, there has been a reduction in SARS complaints since then, though not a total end to their menace. The Senate has also passed a police reform bill which will be the first major change to the police act in quite some time. There’s also the swift response to Mr. Shogunle’s careless tweet, which suggests that people are listening. The law is the bedrock of any society, and as enforcers of the law the police play an integral part of that. Robert Kennedy once said “Every society gets the kind of criminals it deserves. Equally true is that every community gets the kind of law enforcement it insists on”. I would like to offer encouragement to those who are already demanding better policing in their communities, like the Abuja residents who recently stepped out to protest, they will get the result their courage deserves. As a parting question, I’d like to ask you; what kind of policing does your community deserve, have you demanded it or are you just waiting for it to happen?

Contributor: Kunle Cole

Kunle is a lawyer with an avid interest in politics and a penchant for political discussion on twitter @hitmankunlecole. He is currently a member of the APC.

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