As a lawyer, receiving phone calls about a client in police custody is not the sort of welcoming news I like to hear, in fact its bad market. What happened to the Fortune 500 companies, Oil & Gas Firms and Multi-Nationals? Why don’t those Clients call my phone! Now, I am getting calls that Baba Fine-face has been arrested by the Police for staging a protest against the government. Na me send am? However, after listening to the way the poor man was man-handled by security agents, his clothes torn, phones seized and his left eye partially closed from a swollen face, who am I not to come to my brother’s aid.
I am not surprised though as this is not his first time. Baba Fineface is a member of the Native Leadership Congress and a staunch believer in the doctrines of equality, fairness and justice. This time, his protest was against the State Governor for the State’s inability to pay the salaries of workers. For 7 months, state workers had been forced to beg just to survive. Many children had been withdrawn from schools for the inability of their parents to pay school fees and the frustration in many homes was about to erupt like a giant Volcano. The Country’s Misery Index was now above 50% and the foreign exchange rates have successfully crippled many businesses. Who would blame Baba Fineface.
It’s always unsettling for a Lawyer visiting a Police Station, maybe it’s because of the mutual hatred between the Police and Lawyers. While the Police are used to having their way with un-learned members of the society, it is only the Lawyer that can rightfully defend his position confidently. I once heard a Policeman say “Chai, this country don spoil, why would a lawyer have the temerity to talk when being addressed by a Policeman”, the Policeman had been responding to my debate with his colleague over the guilt of my client. So now you understand why though the Policeman and the Lawyer are both ministers in the Temple of Justice, it is very difficult for us to get along. And right now, sitting in the DPO’s office, it’s not difficult to feel the tension in the air.
It is the Officer’s position that my client organized an unlawful protest by not seeking a Police permit before carrying out such and when he was directed to turn back with his cohorts, they refused, so the officers on riot – duty had to teach my client a lesson. I notice his demeanour while saying the words “teach my client a lesson”, you would have thought he was referring to just a mere cautionary warning and not four police officers beating an unarmed man with batons and the soles of their boots. I on the other hand am of the opinion that my client was unlawfully assaulted and arrested because he did not cause any public outburst of violence and the law is trite as decided by the Supreme Court that no one needs a police permit before carrying out a peaceful protest and such person may only inform the Police for the sake of providing security. Furthermore, Sections 39 and 40 of the Constitution guarantees my client’s right to freedom of expression and to assemble and associate freely. It takes threatening to sue the Police for breach of my client’s Rights before he is released on bail with no apology but a warning not to organize such protests again. Chai, the sacrifices some people have made for this country, only God can reward them. In a country where there is Rule of Law, a Policeman will be breaching the rights of citizens with impunity, chai this country has spoilt.
“Ah, D-Law, this country has showed me pepper”, Baba Fineface begins. “See how these policemen beat me like thief today, just because say we want better country for ourselves and our pickin, wetin I do now and nobody go fight for me”. You no wan go court? I respond. “D-Law, no even talk that one, who court don epp na, I go go court now, spend 5 years before judgment commot before we come begin appeal again. I beg who wan dey go court every day na for 5 years, u fit go now make them say court no sit, e don taya person o”. Baba Fineface is just glad to be out of the ordeal and wishes only to return home for a good night rest after vising the hospital for a checkup. We both discuss my fee and he agrees to pay the following morning before I in-turn start driving in the direction of my Office.
However, I continue to ponder on Baba Fineface and his ordeal. I believe it is safe to say there is a huge disconnect between the Government and the governed in this Country. This also has led to distrust on the part of the people towards Government and political office holders. The resulting effect is what I would liken to a No-Win situation for everyone. While most persons believe political office holders are in government to line their pockets with the best part of the Nation’s collective wealth, political office holders on the other hand seem to be overwhelmed by the growing demands of the people for a better standard of living and accountable governance.
So why won’t people like Baba Fineface take to the streets in protest? How do we find a solution to this problem? We engage constructively I believe. The need for proper engagement with all tiers of government cannot be overstated. The advantages are too numerous to count and the benefits are too enormous for us to overlook. Protests and rallies half the time fail to generate results only attention. But na person wey don chop fit engage o, I quickly tell myself.
Join us next time for another episode of “Life of a Lagos Lawyer”. An exclusive Legalnaija series.
PLESE NOTE: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.