Buhari’s Militarized Democracy Allows For Official Impunity And Makes Police And Judges Like Orji And Obot Behave Above The Law -By John Egbeazien Oshodi
People, in their various aspects, from patrolling officers to judicial officers, should bear in mind that humans function best within good law enforcement efforts and an impartial judiciary, which stand as the keys to strengthening democracy and good governance.
In a democratic society, legal and law enforcement officers work toward preventing social disorder and protecting the public.
As a result of the current atmosphere of Nigerian-style dictatorship, a weak and indifferent approach to the rule of law thrives in a militarized democracy.
I am not a lawyer, but in my capacity as a clinical/forensic/legal psychologist, I believe a society that practices public democracy allows for no space for repeated abuse of police and judicial power, unethical conduct by officials, and personalization of official functions as it erodes public trust.
Every day, Nigerians wake up to find the country is slipping into a fake democracy or autocracy.
In addition to the open and in-your-face types of insecurity in Nigeria, some members of the police and the judiciary are fighting against civil rights and liberties.
Autocratic police and judges make all the decisions themselves. They do not consult with the law. That is why a judge can accuse a supposed wrongdoer of a contempt of court type offense, instantly prosecute the offender without his lawyer and due legal procedure, and then order sentencing and incarceration.
Such was the case of barrister Inibehe Effiong, who was instantly sent to one-month in prison by Chief Justice of Akwa Ibom State, Justice Ekaette Obot, without trial. Effiong who was defending a client before the judge accused her of the likelihood of bias in the ongoing libel suit which came up for trial.
The judge had determined that Effiong was showing unruly behaviours in court towards her, and then instantly and apparently conclude that “You are sentenced for being confrontational and contemptuous, now remove your wig. You are no longer in a position to address me. You are hereby sentenced to one-month imprisonment to purge yourself of contempt. Take him away.” Obot during this case, reportedly ordered a police officer to search a reporter, Saviour Imukudo, who was covering the case, and confiscate his phone.
This is a mark of judicial impunity and autocracy, which reads well with military-style democracy and a dictatorial environment.
The same type of judicial impunity occurred when Justice Chizoba Orji of the Abuja High Court of the Federal Capital Territory ordered six judicial correspondents to be detained for hours over coverage of her court proceedings.
Orji reportedly ordered the court police officer to seize a phone belonging to a reporter attending her court and delete all the pictures and videos on it.
If not for the despotic type of political environment that currently exists in Nigeria, Orji would have thought twice about the reported harassment of six judiciary journalists at her court, temporarily detaining them within the court’s facility, with their phones seized and photos and videos deleted by her police guard.
It did not matter to Orji when the victimized reporter responded to her question, “Why were you taking pictures and videos in my court? Who gave you the permission to do that? “My lord, I am an accredited judiciary reporter. It is a normal practice for us to take pictures and videos when the court is not sitting, even up to the Supreme Court. “
Judge Orji went on to say angrily, “You don’t have such a right! If there is such permission, it must be in writing. Who gave you the permission?” “Show me the authorization?” I don’t want to hear from any of you. Now, where is the device you used to take the pictures and videos? ” This type of act is judicial despotism at play in Nigeria.
The police, known for their record of attacking journalists, recently raided Peoples Gazette newspaper and arrested John Adenekan, the paper’s assistant managing editor, and four other staff members. For a story which was published by the media linking the former Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Buratai (retd.), to a case of suspected money laundering. Accusing the journalists of defamation, which in many democracies has long been decriminalized.
By way of the same form of harassment, Umaru Maradun, a correspondent of the Leadership Newspapers, was arrested in his hometown for an undisclosed reason in Zamfara state. Maradun, who has been temporarily released, said that there was no advanced and open explanation from the police for his early hours arrest.
Nigeria has become a place where the police, the court, or the judges now show they lack true independence in their approach to the rule of law as they appear to be subservient to despotic executive rulers under an authoritarian political space.
No matter how fragile the Nigerian constitution is, we need law enforcement and judicial officers to yield to the rule of law, believe in non-politization of the judiciary, and play a crucial role in ensuring that civil rights and civil liberties are safe for all.
The Nigerian police and judicial officers must learn that the rule of law helps to predict and govern human conduct as it helps limit the rule of men and women, as noted here. If erroneous police officers and inaccurate judges like Obot and orji continue to act repressively and disregard legal and societal principles based on the rule of law, they will reinforce weak policing and a pathetic judiciary, escalating conflicts across the country and fueling insecurity in a young and troubled democracy.
John Egbeazien Oshodi, who was born in Uromi, Edo State in Nigeria to a father who served in the Nigeria police for 37 years, is an American based Police/Prison Scientist and Forensic/Clinical/Legal Psychologist. A government consultant on matters of forensic-clinical adult and child psychological services in the USA; Chief Educator and Clinician at the Transatlantic Enrichment and Refresher Institute, an Online Lifelong Center for Personal, Professional, and Career Development.
He is a former Interim Associate Dean/Assistant Professor at Broward College, Florida. The Founder of the Dr. John Egbeazien Oshodi Foundation, Center for Psychological Health and Behavioral Change in African Settings In 2011, he introduced State-of-the-Art Forensic Psychology into Nigeria through N.U.C and Nasarawa State University, where he served in the Department of Psychology as an Associate Professor.
He is currently a Virtual Behavioral Leadership Professor at ISCOM University, Republic of Benin. Founder of the proposed Transatlantic Egbeazien Open University (TEU) of Values and Ethics, a digital project of Truth, Ethics, and Openness. Over forty academic publications and creations, at least 200 public opinion pieces on African issues, and various books have been written by him. He specializes in psycho-prescriptive writings regarding African institutional and governance issues.