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Crime and punishment Nigerian style

Until recently, Folarin Raufu, 56, was earning his livelihood as a driver in Lagos. He was entrusted with driving his employee and members...

Until recently, Folarin Raufu, 56, was earning his livelihood as a driver in Lagos. He was entrusted with driving his employee and members of his family around Lagos. But Folarin was an unfortunate man; you see and ended up doing something that would cost him everything. One day, he entered his employee’s living room, found the man’s five-year-old granddaughter and proceeded to rape her. 

Not minding that there are a good 51 years between him and the child, Folarin would rape her again, this time in her grandfather’s jeep. For some reason, he thought he would get away with it. 

But it took only a whisper for Folarin to be in trouble. The little girl whispered into her grandfather’s ears what Folarin did to her and the shocked man promptly called in the police. A medical examination was conducted and determined that the girl had indeed been raped. The rapist was arrested, taken to court and prosecuted. The judge, Abiola Soladoye, described Folarin as “an ingrate who should be named and shamed as a disloyal, unreliable and untrustworthy employee.” She sentenced him to life in prison for his crime and ordered that his name be entered in the Lagos State Sexual Offenders Register. 

His name is Folarin Raufu. He is a 56-year-old man who raped a five-year-old girl. In his case, justice was served. 

This incident happened in Lagos as reported by the News Agency of Nigeria. It comes as a relief that in some cases, the justice system does work and provides relief for victims and consequences for offenders. 

It is an interesting outcome, especially when the idea of justice, its temperance with mercy, or consequences and its dismissal with emotional blackmail have dominated conversations over the last couple of weeks because of the forgery escapade of a 19-year-old young woman. 

Is the Nigerian justice system perfect? Far from it. It has brazenly overlooked crimes that should never have been condoned. And if the revelation recently by Senator Adamu Bulkachuwa on the floor of the National Assembly of him coercing his wife, a president of the Court of Appeal at the time, to give favourable rulings to his colleagues and friends is anything to go by, the rot in the system goes from top to bottom. Of course, Bulkachuwa has fled to a court in Abuja to demand that they stopped the ICPC from investigating the claims he made on the floor of the National Assembly. 

My first encounter with judicial corruption was many years ago when I witnessed a magistrate of the Shariah court invite one of the parties to a marriage dispute and demanded a bribe in exchange for a favourable ruling. This rot is deep and endemic. 

It is this rot that those who argue against Mmesoma Ejikeme’s ban for forging her JAMB result have grasped and held as a shield for her.  

Some politicians have forged documents, like Salisu Buhari, like Kemi Adeosun and they did not end up in jail, even if technically Mr Buhari was convicted and slapped with a laughable N2,000 fine and Mrs Adeosun was forced to resign her appointment. Others clasped at even more left-field options like the pardon being handed out to “repentant” Boko Haram members.

My position has always been clear about that. You don’t pardon a person who was caught in a crime and only surrendered when they had no option, especially one who has committed serious crimes like murder and rape. The idea of a pardon for war crimes and terrorism can only be considered when there has been some form of justice or consequence for the perpetrator, a genuine repentance and a willingness to help authorities to arrest key terror leaders to end terrorism. It cannot be a carte blanche pardon but leniency, even a commuted sentence, which means that for their crimes, there must be some kind of consequence. The greatest debasement of social justice is the complete absence of consequences for criminals. 

The same people who questioned the moral consequence for Mmesoma have argued in the past that the pardoning of Niger Delta militants cannot be equated to the pardon granted to Boko Haram members but now they are in a hurry to use this argument to buttress their case for Mmesoma. That if Boko Haram can be pardoned, then what has Mmesoma done to warrant being sanctioned by JAMB?  

First, the crimes of Boko Haram and the militants are one and the same—they took up arms against the state, killed Nigerian soldiers and civilians, and kidnapped and terrorised Nigerians and foreigners alike. The only difference is the motivation, where the militants argue that they have been wronged by the state, their lands have been polluted, and their people left in penury despite their lands being the nation’s cash cow. 

The same grace is now being extended to IPOB who have been terrorising the South East and constituting themselves into a law unto themselves.  

This argument was used to shut down demands for the nascent terrorism of IPOB to be curtailed and the group grew under this umbrella, their crimes being justified and their innocence proclaimed by people who should know better. Now they have become an ungovernable monster to their defenders, a good number of who can no longer visit their villages without fear. This is what happens when we handpick crimes to justify and defend.  

The Niger Delta militants are quiet now because they have been swimming in money for a while. IPOB militants are swimming in the blood of the people they claimed they are fighting for. Yet we still have people denying their crimes or justifying them. 

Mmesoma’s misdeeds should not be encouraged. At least she is not being sent to jail but this proclivity to rationalise and justify her forgery, and rewarding her with a scholarship is dangerous. Because her crime, which she did not need to commit, was premeditated and designed to scam an entire country, as well as steal the glory from a 16-year-old child. Going by the statement from the Anambra State Government, she had demanded the state government intervene and have JAMB declare her as the highest scorer in the country. Yet we blame JAMB for verifying that she is not and proved that she is not when she persisted with her fraudulent claim. How do you reward such dubiousness without encouraging similar crimes? 

If you have doubts about Nigerians’ capacity to copy the living day-light out of trends, you only need to look at the Hilda Bassey Guinness World Record and the number of copycats who have emerged since. 

If we cannot agree for a young woman who forged results and tried to rubbish a national institution to be sanctioned by the institution, and insist on encouraging her, then we will never agree to serve justice on the thieving politicians robbing us blind, or the rampaging Fulani herdsmen massacring in the nights, or the tribes cutting off roads and hacking people to death on account of their faiths either in the name of retaliation on people who did them no harm, or the bandits of the North West who have kidnapped half the country, the same ones we have seen being “pardoned” by state governments one week, only for them to return to the frontline the next, or Boko Haram or IPOB or any other person who murders and rapes and pillages. 

If we insist on finding excuses for criminals on account of their age, tribe, political inclination or otherwise, we may soon find ourselves making arguments for paedophiles like Folarin Raufu. We could present ridiculous claims like well, he might have been lonely, perhaps his wife left him, his father was poor, or perhaps his employee did not pay him, or perhaps even the fact that he did not intend to harm the girl. 

If we can make this argument, we can make arguments for the likes of Godwin Emefiele (which we have already), or Hadi Sirika who bamboozled the entire country with the mythical Nigerian Air, hired an Ethiopian Airline plane, painted it in green, landed it at the Abuja airport two days before his tenure expired and insisted the airline would start operations on May 29.  

This door we insist on holding open, will only lead to a slippery slope. But will we hear word? 

 

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