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The trial of a goat

The Vanguard newspaper considered the story so important it had to position it strategically on its front page on Friday, January 23: this is the story of the goat that was paraded, the other day, as a robbery suspect by the Kwara State Command of the Nigerian Police Force. Even the BBC published the story on its website.

We are told that a group of vigilante security men had tried to arrest two men who were trying to steal a Mazda car somewhere in Ilorin, the capital of Kwara state, when suddenly the two suspected robbers took to their heels.

The vigilante men, who in many parts of the country now help to secure life and property, due to the inefficiency of the police, gave the robbers the chase. One of them escaped. The other one rested his back on the wall, and turned into a goat. The local vigilante refused to be outwitted. They promptly arrested the goat (in a bold display of citizen action) and took him(?) to a police station, where the goat was dutifully arrested and detained. The goat has since been paraded before the press, apparently to show how efficient the Kwara Police Command is, and in the words of the State Police PRO, Mr Tunde Mohammed, the goat, ram or sheep (there is an identity crisis here) will not be left off the hook until investigations have been concluded.

If anybody is wondering what is going on here, I urge that person to consider also a similar story that broke a week earlier in the Isokoko area of Agege, Lagos. This other story was also so important, it made the front page of the PM News. It is the story of an Okada, motorcycle passenger who after using the helmet that was provided by the motorcyclist suddenly turned into a tuber of yam. Persons who claimed to have witnessed the miraculous transformation raised an alarm and called in the police. The motorcyclist and the tuber of yam were arrested. Both okada rider and yam tuber are currently being detained at the Isokoko Police Station in Agege, Lagos. The reduction of the Nigerian Police Force to a level where its officials now arrest and detain goats and tubers of yam as criminal suspects is disturbing indeed. It is a strange development in Nigeria’s criminal justice administration system. We have before us a major issue of law and its interpretation. And it is something that should interest our legal experts.

Where is the goat that is now in the custody of the Kwara State Police Command being kept? Behind the counter? in the cell? or in the yard? Will it share the same cell with similar criminals? And how did the Investigating officer take the goat’s statement? In Nigerian law, every one on trial is entitled to fair hearing. Is the Kwara Police Command planning to grant the goat bail? What is the goat being charged for? Attempted theft? Disruption of public peace? Or what? Whatever offence this goat may have committed is bailable. If it is still being kept as at the time of this writing, I insist that the Kwara state Police Command is guilty of a violation of the goat’s rights as a citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The law is that anyone who is arrested should be charged to court within 48 hours, the offence that has been committed should be read to that person in a language that he or she understands, and the person should be allowed to have access to a lawyer of his or her own choice.

Where then, are our human rights and constitutional lawyers? Gani Fawehinmi, Festus Keyamo, Olisa Agbakoba, Femi Falana, Bamidele Aturu, Jiti Ogunye, Mike Ozekhome, Ebun Olu-Adegboruwa… there is some work for you please in Ilorin. A citizen of the Federal Republic is being detained beyond 48 hours by the Kwara State Police Command. He is also being denied bail. His offence has not been communicated to him in a language that he understands. And yet, the Nigerian Police have been parading him on television and maligning his character Yes, he is a goat. But if the police consider him a legal entity worthy of arrest, as a criminal suspect, a hardened armed robber for that matter, then certainly, he deserves to be treated according to the law. The Yar’Adua administration says it is committed to the rule of law. The matter armed robbery suspect turned goat in Ilorin provides a test case for this.

And when you gentlemen of the law, great officers in the temple of justice are through with the Ilorin case, please do not forget to go to the Isokoko police station in Agege, Lagos where a tuber of yam, that was once allegedly a human being is also being detained as useful evidence in a similar case. Both cases should be pursued all the way to the court of law. We need to know, and their Lordships should provide the necessary education in this regard, whether a goat and a tuber of yam, although previously said to be human beings can be put in the dock in a court of law in Nigeria. And to ensure fair hearing, what language would a goat or a tuber of yam speak before the court? Would there be interpreters in court to translate the goat-speak during cross-examination? And will farmers be invited to differentiate between a normal tuber of yam and a human being that turned into a goat? I plead that this is a matter of urgent national importance. And a great test for jurisprudence.

It has been said to my hearing that the Criminal Code forbids sorcery, and witchcraft, and that such unscientific occurrences as a human being turning into a goat or a tuber of yam, and the police arresting a goat and parading it as a criminal suspect is unknown to Nigerian law. It was a goat that was taken to the Ilorin police station and a yam to the Isokoko police station in Lagos and the police men on duty believed those who brought the reports, so much, that they quickly took action against the goat and the yam. These are law enforcement officers at work. I don’t want to condemn any police man. I believe that the courts should be allowed to pronounce n this matter once and for all.

Two years ago, one woman was said to have turned from a bird into a human being somewhere in Lagos and she was lynched to death. Before then, one boy called Samuel was burnt alive on the streets of Lagos, after he had been accused of witchcraft. Soldiers and policemen watched the execution and joined the mob in the act. Television stations recorded it all and played the footage later in the day. In Akwa Ibom, most recently, many children were accused of witchcraft and they were tortured , killed, burnt alive and so on. The belief in the supernatural, indeed in metaphysical possibilities is so rife in our land.

Nigerians are animists at heart. They believe that every living being has a dual spirit. A goat can turn into a human being and vice versa, and a tuber of yam could be human. Local folktales are full of such references and in more contemporary times, the churches and local movie producers have turned the myth into reality. The only place where the metaphysical is treated with utter non-chalance is in the statutes. The law and the Nigerian people are at different ends in this regard. One of the issues that the court of law can address is whether or not the time has come to accommodate this social reality in our laws. We have to take serious precaution lest all criminals adopt the tactics of turning into cats, goats, cockroaches etc. And the police would do no other job than to go about arresting animals.

While all that is being considered, the courageous lawyers who choose to take on these human rights cases, (pro bono of course) should insist that the goat in particular should not be subjected to any form of torture. The Vanguard and the BBC have different photographs of the goat that was involved in the matter of failed theft. It is needless to reiterate that it is the right goat that should be charged to court. No man can be tried for an offence that has been committed by another. As it is with men, so it should be with goats. And where are the animal rights activists in Nigeria? By now, they should have been on the streets defending the rights of a member of their family who is obviously under stress in Ilorin. They must insist that the Kwara Police Command must respect all international conventions and treaties on the rights of detained persons to which Nigeria is signatory.

Now that this matter has become a matter of public interest, the Inspector General of Police must ensure that his men produce the detained goat upon request and that the yam that is being kept as evidence in Isokoko is carefully protected. On no account should it be said that the goat is a victim of accidental discharge or that it attempted to escape from custody and got shot in the process. The proper weight and size of the tuber of yam in Isokoko must also be properly documented. And may the Lord be with the Nigerian Police Command as it tries to reduce the number of criminals on Nigerian streets by putting an end to the nuisance of the goat in Ilorin police custody. Let someone shout alleluyah please.

If I were A Governor…

If I were a state Governor in Nigeria today, I would hurry up and quickly find a way to get close to any of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s daughters. There is such a big scramble for the President’s daughters today. It is not a good thing for an able-bodied, young man like me to be left out of the race. But yours sincerely can’t even make any attempt because he is not a Governor. Only Governors are acceptable as Presidential daughters’ suitors please. UMYA and Mama Turai are not even looking at people like us. Two daughters have already been taken by state Governors. Well, God dey.

If I were a Governor, walahi, I won’t waste time to get my own Presidential daughter too. Imagine the benefits: direct access to the President whenever and wherever, a full taste of Presidential anointing in my own bedroom whenever, well when able, and forever. It is also a powerful talisman against any threat of impeachment. Who will dare threaten to impeach the President’s own son-in-law? And of course, I will get a second term. Who will dare challenge the President’s son-in-law? And if any body tries it, I could always fall back on the good sense of the INEC Chairman and his men.

How about love? I am in love with the President’s daughters already without even meeting anyone of them. Love, that is the simplest part of it. And I would prove it. Look, to show that I love the President’s daughter, once she agrees to marry me, I would invite musicians from Congo, South Africa, China and the United States. I assure you Beyonce will be invited too. And Rihanna. And Shakira. And I will invite that boy, what is his name?, the one that sang: as you dey do me, do me, do me… give it to me someone. Nobody has declared a public holiday yet to mark his wedding to the President’s daughter. If I were a state Governor, I would add that extra dimension and declare a public holiday. Why hasn’t someone thought of that? Come to think of it, it is a good idea you know?

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