BY: First Baba Isa
Few days ago the Governor of Rivers State was in the news for demolishing a hotel for flouting the lockdown rules.
Yesterday, Eric Anderson, a Commissioner in Cross River State was also in the news for flogging a young man for flouting the no-mask-no-movement order of the government.
In both cases I read tons of argument for and against the actions of the government. But there is something that struck me in the argument of those who supported both Wike and Anderson’s actions; they attempted furiously to paint those who kicked against these actions as enablers of lawlessness.
It is funny because I don’t even believe they mean this. It is a tactless deployment of obscurantism. How can a call for an observance of the dictates of the rule of law be misconstrued as an enablement of criminality? Are we animals? Is jungle justice the order of the day?
A few days ago, veteran writer and ace journalist, Richard Akinnola II, told us the gripping story of THANKGOD EBHOS:
“Sometime in June 2013, Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo state signed the execution warrant of some convicts on death row at Oko prison, Benin.
Five of them were to be hanged.
Four of the convicts were hanged. Then came the turn of THANKGOD Ebhos, who had by then been on the death row for 17 years for armed robbery.
He got to the gallows and as it was the usual procedure, the offence was read to him before execution.
Just at that point, the Sheriff discovered that the execution warrant indicated that the convict was to be executed by firing squad, having been convicted by the Armed robbery and firearms Tribunal in a military government, unlike normal courts where execution is by hanging.
The Sheriff asked the convict to step down from the gallows. An argument ensued among the officials. He told his colleagues that if they went ahead to execute him by hanging, that would be illegal as the execution warrant stated that he had to die by the firing squad and not by hanging.
Providence intervened. The convict was asked to go back to his cell. Execution called off.”
Did you see that?
Everybody has rights, even the condemned criminal. If the court says “die by hanging” you can’t just kill him by firing squad or poisoning. Killing is not killing. Death is not death. A society that doesn’t respect the rights of accused persons and criminals won’t also respect your rights.
This attitude of whenever someone is accused of a crime you want him destroyed immediately is actually very primitive. “He raped me. He defrauded me. He lied about me.” And you will start shouting “Kill! Kill!! Kill!!!” Come on… Would you want to be treated like that?
The system doesn’t work that way and its because those who designed the system know that people can be wrongly accused, they know that A is not always for Apple and B is not always for Ball. They know that public opinion can be wrong.
What of in cases where the accused was caught in the act? The laid down procedure must be followed, lest everything becomes illegal.
Take the Cross River State case for example: if there is a law or regulation that says people must wear mask outside. They must. Citizens are not doing the Governor a favour by wearing those face masks. The government should also enforce such a law or regulation for the benefit of all of us.
But does the law empower a Commissioner to enforce it? Does the law empower a Commissioner to flog citizens publicly? Even if there is a law that empowers a Commissioner to flog people who fail to wear masks, it will be unconstitutional, therefore null and void.
I heard that the Commissioner, Eric Anderson, has apologized to the young man he flogged yesterday. That’s commendable. It is only a foolish government official that will be too proud to make amends when he is wrong. The Commissioner has shown that he is not foolish. He is wise. The truth is that that young man can sue him successfully for the infringement of his right to dignity of human person and sundry other issues.
I will also implore the young man to also forgive the Commissioner and move on. Let’s wear our masks, please. All hands must be on deck to defeat this deadly disease in our dear state, country and the world at large.
ERROR QUI NON RESISTITUR APPROBATUR: An error not resisted is approved.
First Baba Isa (FBI) is a Legal Practitioner and Principal Partner of FBI LEGAL.