The expression ”wetin lawyers dey do sef’ may sound ridiculous and funny but when you try to critically analyze the statement it begins to make sense most especially when we look at the way innocent helpless Nigerians continue to encounter unnecessary oppression, intimidation, harassment, brutality and disrespectful treatment in the hands of security personnel.
The intent of this piece is not to point accusing fingers at anyone but try to strike a balance.
Security officials in Nigeria today rather than being a safe haven to Nigerian citizens have collectively become terror unleashing machinery. Any Dick and Harry who finds himself wearing a uniform tends to use it to intimidate innocent citizens. The most annoying is even the baby paramilitary that call themselves Civil Defence.
One wonders if in their training the design was just to intimidate the same people they were employed to protect.
Initially it was the Army that was notorious for mercilessly violating the rights of citizens but these days it cuts across all security personnel, the only criterion for intimidation is wearing khaki. Very soon if care is not taken youth corps members might start using their NYSC khaki to unleash terror on the timid.
Even as a lawyer I had my own share of the terror only that unlike the ordinary Nigerian who will say I leave everything to God, I took recourse to the court room for justice to be done. My friend Abubakar Al-Amin said “Suleiman wallahi ba za mu bar su ba” meaning “we are not going to allow this “ it was as if we were acting a movie scene with myself as the actor as they say “actor never die”- I didn’t die. The defendant is the boss who eventually died at the end. The point am trying to make is as Nigerians we have inalienable rights protected by the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (lying lifeless between sections 33-45 because Nigerians don’t care to utilize them). If anyone tramples on any of the rights do not hesitate to enforce it. The doors of the courts and the judges are ever ready to give you justice:
Section 46. (1) Any person who alleges that any of the provisions of this Chapter has been is being or likely to be contravened in any State in relation to him may apply to a High Court in that State for redress.
(2) Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, a High Court shall have original jurisdiction to hear and determine any application made to it in pursuance of this section and may make such orders, issue such writs and give such directions as it may consider appropriate for the purpose of enforcement or securing the enforcing within that State of any right to which the person who makes the application may be entitled under this Chapter.
Security personnel have taken the rights of Nigerians for granted. Talking with some of my friends who were lamenting on a terror squad they said are the most feared in town and are called ‘SARS’ Special Anti- Robbery Squad’(smh at this) only in Nigeria will you find such squad which will deviate from the main reason of their existence and Nigerians will not do anything about but just lament. God cannot come down and fight for you, I keep giving people this example ‘ you see a very hungry lion you just stand and pray to God without making any effort of cutting out, (wallahi na for Ovation we go hear the rest of your story or Omojuwa will tweet it for us).
SARS are now the terror squad, violating rights of people with impunity, while Nigerians are happy to say so, (disgusting!) . I was amazed and perplexed that even graduates who I expected to know their right sit to lament about how security personnel unleash terror upon them without thinking of going to court.
My earlier question ‘wetin lawyers dey do sef’ you will agree makes sense here, my fellow colleagues we all took oath to defend and represent the oppressed. An ugly disheartening incident I witnessed at zone 1 Mega-station here in Abuja is a perfect example and many more which if I am to narrate will enable me write a book on this issue. It is my usual habit (considering the sharp practice other filing stations do by criminally adjusting their pumps) that I buy fuel at a Mega-station. As I was waiting to be served, I saw a police officer inhumanly beating a helpless old woman, the woman was running for safety but he went after her and kept whipping her, it was unbearable for me, I walked up to him, held the cane he was using and he turned in surprise and I simply introduce myself. “This is not right” I explained. Instead of the idiot showing remorse, he roared like a Lion. I said to him “that’s the worst you can do, but if you doubt, touch me”. He retorted “I was sent here by the IG to do my duty” and I said to him ‘“so you are telling me the IG gave you strict instruction to violate the right of Nigerians who are only here to buy kerosene?”( IG Abubakar if you get to read this I will want to know if you gave these instructions) I threatened to take the issue up since I had the whole thing videotaped but a superior officer appealed, using d usual naija mentality on me “oga please if you do the man will lose his job and him get family”, other people begged too and I let go of the issue. All I am trying to say here is as lawyers we can try and change things the little way we can.
Another annoying thing is the indiscriminate and unscrupulous abuse of the sirens by elected government officials. Today even a local government counsellor moves with a siren, breaking all sorts of traffic rules, intimidating and harassing people in hold ups. This are individuals we stood in the sun, fought for and some even lost their lives in the process of voting them into office to be our representatives as servants answerable to us at anytime. Personally I don’t give any siren way each time I encounter them, instead I tell them ‘come drive over me if they can’, Nigerians can do that as well, they are not gods, they are just servants we sent to represent us. Why then should we allow our servants intimidate or oppress us in any form, we are their masters and a master never budges for his servant, you have same right on the highway, if they harass you in any way you are not comfortable with the courts are there for you. We need to let them know that we can strip them of the power they feel they possess because ultimate sovereignty belongs to the people (section 14 (2) It is hereby, accordingly, declared that:
(a) Sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from whom government through this Constitution derives all its powers and authority
and they are there because we want them to be there.
Nigerians will have to wake up from their slumber and learn to enforce their rights by beginning to question the actions and inaction of their servants. Whoever assaults you, molests, intimidates or makes you go through undignified treatment for unjust and frivolous reasons do not think twice, approach any lawyer of your choice immediately, our doors are always open for you. I know many will say they cannot bear the prolonged nature of litigation in Nigeria. It may however, interest you to know that right enforcement is the easiest case you can prosecute within a blink of an eye. Lawyers please do not scare them away with outrageous legal fees when they eventually come, we need to encourage them.
May God continue to bless Nigeria and may He give Nigerians the Liver to want to start questioning and challenging their servant who the way I am seeing it have now become the Masters.
Written by: Babawo M
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